One of the main objectives of a Living Lab is to use knowledge for further innovation. Knowledge by itself is useless unless one applies it in context. The general objective of a Living Lab is to be a real life collaborative development platform.

2.1 Essential elements of good knowledge management

2.1.1 Knowledge objects

Knowledge objects (KOs) are any artefacts that knowledge seekers could use to learn, or expand their current knowledge, about a topic. Knowledge objects can be defined as sets of appropriate components of knowledge that users require for particular needs. The components of knowledge objects include various entities and properties of the entities as well as the various activities that one could associate with the processes of the entities to describe the knowledge they represent.

KOs can have a variety of formats, ranging from digital media to WEB 2.0 mashed objects. A Knowledge Object Repository (KOR) stores and manages used KOs. A KOR is a semantic web cataloguing and tagging system.

The current web dominated by unstructured and semi-structured documents. Some researchers believe that introducing semantic tagging to applicable documents will help to overcome this problem. Tagging ontologies and techniques tag KO objects semantically. They store and manage the subsequent metadata as part of the semantic knowledge bases and KORs.

Organisations, by themselves, cannot use corporate KM fully without using the correct tools (see above) to contribute, collaborate and integrate. The Internet provides social media tools for optimal knowledge management functionality.

Organisations should manage their knowledge assets so that they can achieve their objectives. This is the first and most important rule when organisations treat knowledge as assets.

“Organizational memory aims to deliver the right knowledge to the right person at the right time in the right format to enable the right action” (Dieng 2002:14–17). To apply this concept, organisations must use the correct tools. The Internet provides all the necessary tools and using it makes such an operational platform possible. The Internet allows organisations to integrate knowledge and creates working systems within the cloud. Nabil (2010) defines cloud computing as ‘clusters of distributed computers (largely vast data centres and server farms) which provide on-demand resources and services over a networked medium (usually the internet)’.

Doyle (2012) defines social media by stating that: Social media includes the various online technology tools that enable people to communicate easily via the internet to share information and resources. Social media can include text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia communications.

Social networks are social media sites through which people connect to businesses or people with similar interests.

Figure 1: Web-enabled Living Lab Framework

2.1.2 The intranet, Internet and Living Labs

An intranet can use internal corporate memory whereas external memory relies on extranets that connect companies and their selected partners. These partners can include customers, suppliers and subcontractors.

A number of employees in organisations use the Internet to create and reuse corporate memories. Organisations can create corporate memories, allow them to evolve and then distribute or centralise them. Distributed corporate memories support cooperation and knowledge sharing between numerous people in organisations even if they are geographically dispersed.

Over 50% of the world’s population was under the age of 30 in 2009. Therefore, social media is increasing because of the growth and addition of younger generations of users. In the United States of America (USA), 75% of the current generation uses social media.

The social media allow Living Labs to work. Therefore, integration, collaboration and full participation can occur. Living Labs for knowledge management allow end users to share and bank knowledge. Living Labs allow end users to see the bigger picture and provide insight into strategic and behavioural knowledge management efforts. The knowledge management drivers slot in perfectly with social media platforms and allow seamless operation in a Living Lab.

2.2 Living Labs, thinking processes and knowledge management labs

The Living lab is just a tool organisations use within a cloud. However, they make integration, collaboration and optimisation possible. Living Lab is an “innovation platform” that engages all stakeholders, like end users, researchers, industrialists and policy makers at an earlier stage of the innovation process.

In the knowledge economy, knowledge became the most valuable resource for maintaining competitiveness and advantage for people or organisations. The value of knowledge management systems is the way organisations acquire knowledge and apply it after they have captured it. Living Labs also help organisations to transfer knowledge to various role players or groups.

The social media emphasise the principle of social networking. The Web is the platform for the most creative minds in the world, where the concepts of open innovation and co-creation emerge. Open innovation refers to opening the innovation process to improve the users’ and other stakeholders’ knowledge, creativity and skills. The idea of open innovation and co-creation are core activities and processes of a Living Lab environment.

A Living Lab turns environmental knowledge into assets and gives inherent value to the knowledge that organisations generate. From this perspective, knowledge, as an asset, also does not depreciate. Instead, it increases in value over the years because organisations can only build onto their existing assets. Knowledge cannot become outdated but organisations can improve it by adding newer knowledge. Generating knowledge and artefacts are core activities in a Living Lab to stimulate innovation, amongst others, because it is the main reason that Living Labs exist. Without knowledge, there is no business and organisations will be unable to generate solutions. Living Lab stakeholders learn to apply knowledge themselves. Knowledge management, generation and dissemination are the core of Living Lab activities, as cooking is core to restaurants. Without food, there will be no restaurants. Simply put, without knowledge and sound knowledge management, there will be no innovation and no Living Labs.

Applying knowledge means turning knowledge into action. No knowledge becomes dormant, but organisations share it so that others can capture the newer knowledge on the shared aspect. Organisations constantly reintegrate and classify earlier knowledge objects as parts of newer solutions. In turn, they speed up the process of acquiring knowledge.

Knowledge management involves connecting people with people and people with information. Technology can speed up strategic decision-making by making knowledge available through databases, intranets, virtual video conferencing, knowledge repositories and collaborative tools for sharing knowledge. Knowledge management offers a framework for balancing the numerous approaches and technologies that add value and integrating them into seamless wholes. The primary focus of knowledge management is to use information technology and tools, business processes, best practices and culture to develop and share knowledge in organisations as well as to connect those who hold the knowledge with those who need it.

2.2.1 Thinking processes as parts of a Living Labs environment

The main objective of any community-orientated Living lab is to create prosperous communities. The purpose of a Living Lab is to support core research capabilities and shared understanding in order to learn and understand the thinking processes.

Thinking is a process of working things out, knowing why and how things work or do not work. A Living Lab is a thinking and rethinking support environment, connected to generic decision-making (intelligence, design, choice and implementation) and action research (sense, learn and act) processes. Simply put, a Living Lab framework that uses thinking as its basis can function as a springboard for prosperous communities to build their entrepreneurial capacities and achieve sustainable continuous improvement.

The Living Lab approach uses systems thinking as its basis.

Systems thinking is a mindset for understanding how things work. It is a way of going beyond events, looking for patterns of behaviour or seeking underlying systemic interrelationships that are responsible for behavioural patterns and events. Systems thinking embodies a worldview. On the other hand, innovative thinking links to creative thinking and to solving problems. It generates new things or finds new ways to solve them. Explorative thinking stimulates innovation by finding patterns in data, events, design processes, research processes and decision-making. These patterns transform into knowledge and best practices in order to improve human cognition and derive fundamental insights into complex problems and systems. Analytical and critical thinking research processes support the process of discovering.

Critical thinking is the means and ends of learning. Critical thinkers should:

  • remain open to new ideas and think like scientists,
  • be sceptical about ways of doing things,
  • use and create their own information and reject information that is irrelevant and faulty,
  • state their own arguments,
  • come to their own conclusions,
  • listen to other people and tolerate their ways of thinking.

Strategic thinking is a way of thinking about changes and preparing for them. It is a process of helping organisations to confront changes, analyse their effects and look for new opportunities.

Simply put, performance thinking helps organisations to achieve their strategic goals. Performance thinking is the process of assessing progress toward achieving predetermined goals. Performance management builds on that process and adds the relevant communication and action to the progress organisations make in achieving their predetermined goals.

The main purpose of performance thinking is to link performance objectives with organisational strategies to increase profit. A performance problem is any gap between desired and actual results. Performance improvement is any effort targeted at closing the gap between actual results and desired results.

Process thinking focuses on identifying, understanding, designing and managing processes. Activities and related activities from workflows lead to the completion of work – objective integrated systems manage it. Workflow, architectural, real time, risk, effectiveness, maturity and intelligent services thinking support process thinking.

It is clear that, in a Living Lab environment, one needs to control the various thinking processes and to manage the subsequent processes in order to ensure that the various thinking processes result in manageable deliverables in the form of Knowledge Object as well as other knowledge artefacts and solutions.

2.2.2 The social media and knowledge management

Organisations are becoming extremely interested in the benefits of applying Web 2.0 technologies to their work practices. They include social media tools like blogs, wikis, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds, sharing content, tagging and social networking. Online or Web 2.0 communities are people who share a common purpose and organisations use them to improve their business. Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are “the big three” in social networking. The researchers believe that organisations should follow a targeted approach when using social media websites based on demographics.

These social spaces play significant roles as sources and enablers of the network and knowledge factories. Tools, like blogging tools, social media tools and content sharing tools (such as Flickr and YouTube) are freely available and the only expenses they incur are Internet up-time and website maintenance. The tools have worldwide recognition and are the most popular Web 2.0 platforms because they are easy to use and support knowledge distribution between organisations and various community of practice members, both internally and externally. Community social websites intend to design a common platform for an intended purpose. It is also possible to customise websites in order to share and capture knowledge as well as to communicate with various audiences.

Figure 2: Examples of social media tools and technologies as part of a Living Lab.

Organisations want to benefit by engaging with a large group of people who provide knowledge. Organisations can then use this knowledge to assist them with their strategies and to improve their products and services.

The success of the social media depends on meeting the right online users in the right settings with the right messages. Knowledge management is the identification, retention, effective use and retirement of institutional insight. However, it has been an elusive goal for most organisations.

The emergence and effect of the social media on organisations forces them to rethink knowledge management and creates completely new challenges for them.

Today, one can categorise some of the core issues with existing knowledge management approaches as behavioural and technical in nature. In order for a knowledge management system to have value, employees must contribute knowledge regularly. Some researchers believe that a knowledge management system that uses Living Lab tools will achieve the best results. In a Living Lab setting, organisations achieve optimisation by transferring knowledge between experts and knowledge seekers and vice versa. Living Labs improve collaboration between many entities. This ensures that they capture up to date knowledge and more thinking can go into a subject. Involving more experts leads to specialist knowledge in the knowledge management system.

A knowledge management system, which uses Living Lab tools, is especially important for communities of practice because many experts reside outside the geographical boundaries of the Living Lab. Collaboration links with knowledge transfer and technologies. From the point of view of Living Lab tools, large groups, internal and external to communities of practice, can use many technologies in order to share and capture knowledge that is wider than the communities of practice themselves are. In a Living Lab, organisations capture data and information and then convert them into knowledge. The collaborative environment supports problem solving by applying the knowledge in the knowledge bank.

Some reasons why one should use social media are that one can use them for:

  • research,
  • learning from others,
  • community building,
  • sharing expertise,
  • collaborating in real time.

2.2.3 Grounded theory

In collaborative organisational and research environments, the grounded theory process could apply in virtual teams. Therefore, it has an effect on the validity of the knowledge because groups of experts and entities in the networked domain could validate it. This process promotes the concept of “e-collaboration”. E-collaboration can be described as a new approach to forming and maintaining cooperative enterprises that involve introducing electronic communication tools to facilitate collaboration.

The grounded theory research methodology is one of the primary research activities in the Living Lab domain for discovering knowledge. The grounded theory method gives guidelines for collecting data, analysis and building inductive theory. Researchers collect data and conduct analyses in successive steps. Interpreting the data they collect in one step helps them to focus on collecting the data in the next one.

Grounded theory is described as a research method in which the theory is developed from the data, instead of the other way around. In doing so makes it an inductive approach, meaning that it moves from the specific to the more general. The study method is fundamentally based on three elements: concepts, categories and propositions, initially called ’hypotheses’. Concepts are the key elements of analysis since the theory is developed from the data conceptualization instead of the actual data.

The grounded theory process is good for explorative research, which lead to the disciplined development of new and innovative ideas, and in developing a theory and structure in areas where there is no a prior guidance, whilst working with both qualitative and quantitative data.

2.3 Knowledge interchange and management processes

The network and knowledge factories are parts of the framework. They provide tools for communicating and disseminating information, called knowledge interchange (KI).

Knowledge interchange activities and processes correlate closely with knowledge management processes and knowledge sharing. Knowledge interchange is the process of classifying, verifying and storing information and knowledge from various sources (like other users, experts and the semantic web) in a data store like a data mart, semantic knowledge base or digital library. In other words, KI activities refer to services the portal provides to facilitate the exchange of relevant information to groups in the portal with the same interests. The knowledge and information becomes available for future retrieval to help users or communities of practice to solve their problems.

Figure 3 shows the knowledge interchange process, as part of the knowledge factory, in the living lab framework. It emphasises that organisations receive continuous feedback, verify information and knowledge throughout the knowledge interchange phases by using knowledge workers. As organisations complete adaptations and new classifications of current knowledge objects, they also keep the various knowledge factory data stores up to date.

Figure 3: Knowledge interchange

One additional solution that organisations could use in conjunction with the standard knowledge interchange practices is using tools and services, which combine lexical, structural and knowledge-based techniques to exploit or generate web documents.

Organisations take advantage of the most popular Internet services. Knowledge flow relies on populating knowledge elements on the Web. Users can access all types of knowledge, information and news archives over the Internet.

Possible techniques and technologies for discovering knowledge, which use the various research activities, include:

  • data and text mining,
  • question and answer services,
  • semantic search techniques,
  • memorandums,
  • sharing knowledge via social web spaces like wikis and blogs.

Organisations should remember that several knowledge servers and services, in the form of web services, might cause problems in retrieving available knowledge if they have not arranged and managed the information and knowledge they have stored properly. Furthermore, using sophisticated IT does not always guarantee successful knowledge management.

The role of knowledge is to enable users to choose rational actions so that they become vital components of competitiveness. Organisations should ensure that they receive important knowledge that many others can use and that these contributions improve their processes or outputs. Organisations can use valuable knowledge to create differential advantage and it can affect their ability to stay ahead of their competitors.

In a Living Lab, critical operational and strategic managers are often more concerned with generating reports because they support good decision-making. Therefore, the strategies of managers will determine what the IT system should be capable of and user input will define the system further according to their needs. IT infrastructure is essential to support the implementation of knowledge creation.

2.4 Knowledge management, collaboration and the Internet

Internet social tools allow people to access, share and reuse knowledge. The Internet offers remarkable possibilities to access information and knowledge.

The Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP), mark-up technologies like the Hyper Text Mark-up Language (HTML) and Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) are key technologies for exchanging information and knowledge. Resource Description Frameworks (RDFs) are the key technologies for presenting ontologies.

XML and RDFs are two web technologies that allow for significant changes to information interchange worldwide. Many technologies, like the semantic web, have still to realise their potential. Intranets, which rely on Internet technologies, facilitate internal communication and information sharing in organisations. Multidimensional collective organisations, like Living Labs and multinational corporations, can benefit from the Internet and Intranet to gather, manage, distribute and share knowledge, internally as well as externally.

The roles of the Internet and the social media in creating the correct technological platforms for knowledge management have wide recognition. Knowledge by itself has little value unless organisations can acquire, identify, apply, manipulate and store it for later use. Technology can speed up strategic decisions by making knowledge available through databases, Intranets, virtual video conferencing, knowledge repositories and collaborative tools for sharing knowledge.

Correct technological platforms ensure that organisations capture, archive and group knowledge correctly. Knowledge management allows organisations to integrate and consolidate Intranet platforms. Organisations can benefit from knowledge management by creating and maintaining relevant knowledge repositories, improving access to knowledge, improving the knowledge environment and valuing knowledge.

Figure 4 shows the role of the Internet and includes the cloud and Intranets in the Living Lab as part of the knowledge factory. The knowledge factory allows for a general memory management cycle.

Figure 4: Position of the Internet and Intranet as knowledge sources in a Living Lab

Organisations must make human knowledge sources – like experts, normal end users and single workers from within the Living Lab environment – explicit and available in their memories. Knowledge bases, also called corporate memory bases, store and manage the knowledge. These memory bases contain KORs, which refer to artefacts of knowledge that organisations can apply in Living Lab domains and the semantic knowledge bases that include semantic references to external and internal data sources.

Knowledge objects or artefacts that organisations have referenced and catalogued in the knowledge object repository and used, as part of previous knowledge and information enquiries and searches, are available for subsequent searches. Therefore, subsequent searches could become faster because organisations can link previous knowledge to current needs.

External knowledge watchers and workers use external web sources and apply semantic tagging processes that use standard ontologies like the Dublin Core (DC) ontology ( 2012) for metadata descriptions. Internal and external expert groups and developers develop, organise and maintain corporate memories. Experts validate knowledge elements before inserting them in the semantic knowledge base or knowledge object repository.

Normal users, which include knowledge seekers, must have easy access to the various memory elements and knowledge objects and they must be able to reuse these elements and objects in order to meet their knowledge requirements. Organisations supervise and manage their Living Lab memory environments or knowledge bases in collaborative processes to ensure that they continually verify the various knowledge stores.

2.4.1 Collaboration software on the Internet

The rise of the Internet has helped to propel collaboration. E.g. Microsoft’s SharePoint software (a new generation of Internet-inspired collaboration software) provides alerts, discussion boards, document libraries, categorisation, shared workspaces and the ability to pull in and display information from data sources outside of SharePoint itself, including the Internet, amongst others.

The social media improve organisations’ knowledge management by promoting ease of use, practical results and emotional gratification through collaboration systems. The social media make it easy for people to connect with other people, who have posted specific items, with a single click. The social media could improve organisations’ collaborative performance without reengineering their current knowledge management systems. For example, organisations can preserve how they store and structure information as well as integrations like workflows. Therefore, they can reduce migration costs.

The social media allow organisations to get connected and knowledge management cannot survive without connecting to groups with the same areas of interest. Being connected is all about people, knowledge and opportunities.

Quality of content on social network sites has major effects on sharing business knowledge and the subsequent value of customer relationships. However, the question of whether knowledge management and collaboration have increased in proportion to the volume of information available, and whether this information would be useful if more people could get their hands on it, remains.

If you list of world populations, which include social media platforms according to country ratings, makes for interesting reading. Facebook as the third largest “country” on the world map beating the USA. MySpace, Twitter and Orkut (as well as mobile platforms like Facebook mobile) are all in the top 20. The success of the social media lies in them being people-centred.

2.5 The Living Lab Knowledge Management framework

Figure 5 shows that various users and tools, like Web 2.0, are all possible sources of data and knowledge. The knowledge factory consists of three key systems. They comprise various services its intended user community needs to meet its knowledge support needs and requirements. The services include a KM system, a learning system and a knowledge support service. The primary objective of a KM system is to ensure the validity of the knowledge or solutions that users post. It uses the standard knowledge sharing practices that industry has adopted.

Figure 5: The Living Lab Knowledge Management Framework

A learning system (LS) means implementing the Knowledge Support Portal (KSP). It comprises many sub-portals like a Question and Answer (Q&A) portlet. The learning system acts as the physical interface for acquiring and sharing knowledge. It also supports and enables collaboration between the various user groups. The knowledge support service orchestrates the process of acquiring information and knowledge and manages a possible reverse auction service for supplying knowledge.

The researchers’ proposed framework for knowledge management within a Living Lab environment (see Figure 5) uses a layered approach. It highlights the position of the various knowledge factory systems and shows that KM activities are part of the services layer.

The application layer provides the interface that allows different users to access the various tools and the Living Lab environment. The services layer contains the various subsystems, as single or embedded tools to allow learning, and knowledge interchange in various formats. Some activities that web services could provide include sharing and clustering knowledge, generating services, providing access to smart tools, automatic tracking and tracing knowledge objects, mobile support and expert interlinking. The cloud, as web services, could render many of these services. The semantic layer provides the technical functionality and embedded process logic of the knowledge support and knowledge interchange activities. The process of classifying the question domain, which is part of the semantic layer, is a stepwise one. It processes and disseminates questions that users post via the Q&A interface and the knowledge interchange. The processes of the semantic layer follow.

They dissect and break down a posted question or request into common sentence units, like verbs, adjectives and nouns. The text mining service uses the sentence parts and performs an initial matching activity with earlier questions stored in the questions and answer repository. They apply and match similarities and artificial intelligence (AI) matching methods and return matching result-sets from the Q&A repository. They then analyse the returned result-set and original question further by using natural language processing tools and services. The ontology wrapping service uses service ontology for a Q&A web service based on OWL-S.

They write a knowledge object, that simple knowledge ontology describes, to the KOR, the repository stores, amongst others, and the metadata of stored artefacts in an external data warehouse. They also gather additional web sources using semantic processes from the Web itself. This may include links to other WEB 2.0 sites and extracting other potential KO metadata. The semantic extrapolation process generates tags that it compares to existing metadata by using semantic pattern clustering in the semantic knowledge repository. The repository matches existing classes, relations, axioms, functions and instances of earlier searches and results. The KOR contains metadata descriptions of KOs that apply to the current LL domain, whilst the semantic knowledge repository contains repository references and semantic knowledge from external domains.

The web service or semantic integrator incorporates web services with bus architecture. It uses the Web Services Description Language (WSDL) and Web Ontology Language (OWL) for retrieving and discovering possible data sources that are not part of the current Semantic Knowledge Repository (SKR). It applies this process to external web content and to external domain knowledge bases. Various knowledge officers then evaluate the results retrieved from external sources, as part of the knowledge-seeking process, as part of the research process. They tag the subsequent new knowledge or discoveries, describe them semantically and store them as part of the KOR for future use.