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Knowledge Angels: fostering innovation in knowledge-intensive business services through creative individuals - Observations from Canada, China, France Published on: 17/01/2014

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Emmanuel Muller, Andrea Zenker, Jean-Alain Héraud.

Knowledge angels are individuals who are not only very innovative themselves, but who also infect others with their creativity and can often "sense" developments before others are aware of them. They work in knowledge-intensive service sectors in an advisory and influential position and are able to use their skills to shape the innovation process as efficiently as possible.

The team around Emmanuel Muller, Andrea Zenker and Jean-Alain Héraud have been researching how to find and support knowledge angels for about five years. They  have examined the working environments of potential knowledge angels in Germany, Spain, France, China and Canada.

In general, the researchers found that knowledge angels liaise between the different departments in companies by redistributing existing knowledge, adapting and "translating" this for the different groups. This enables a better utilization of the company’s existing knowledge in different contexts.

In a series of interviews in Germany, Spain, France, China and Canada, the researchers discovered that knowledge angels have different functions in different countries: While they tend to act as knowledge brokers conveying information in Germany, they are idea givers in France, act as facilitators easing work processes in Spain, as business pushers in Canada and solution providers in China. In all the countries, however, they are distinguished by the fact that they are active in more than one field, for example are involved in committee work alongside their actual profession. They are very communicative and committed and are constantly searching for new challenges.

To promote the skills of these knowledge angels and help companies to keep them, the researchers recommend allowing them to work in interdisciplinary teams and to give them as much freedom as possible – this enables them to best develop their abilities. A good working atmosphere and varied tasks are equally important.