Journal of Knowledge Management Practice, May 2004

Knowledge, Entertainment, Networking

Kunal Sinha, Ogilvy & Mather India


Ogilvy & Mather India is a full-service communications agency employing nearly 800 people. Its knowledge management initiative was born out of a realization, by its executive chairman, that its enormous knowledge pool and expertise was unavailable to most employees. Little or no sharing was the norm, employee turnover resulted in acquired knowledge being lost. In a span of one year, a team of knowledge managers convinced senior management about the need to share rather than hoard knowledge, devised a KM solution ‘Ogyani’ that drew upon the agency’s highly charged creative culture, mapped individual expertise as well as the agency’s diverse knowledge products, and created both online and offline platforms for the sharing of knowledge. By offering incentives and rewarding knowledge contributors, they were able to create a buzz that encouraged usage and participation. The value of the KM initiative was seen in terms of increased speed of response to client demands, new business and strategic presentations, and in terms of employees’ own perception of the company as a learning organization.

1.         Introduction

"Satyam Jnaanam Anantam Brahma"… Only truth and knowledge can result in creation. – The Rig Veda

Long before the information technology community made it fashionable to talk of knowledge as a currency, long before it was announced by the tech gurus and futurologists that we were entering the knowledge era, there was one industry where knowledge was everything – our industry, the marketing communications industry. Account managers needed to know not only everything about the client’s business, but also what and who s/he liked and hated. Planners were and are required to know everything about a diverse set of consumers – from their intimate lives, to how they haggled over the price of vegetables, to the stars they worshipped and followed. Creatives had to be familiar with the latest and the oldest styles of illustration, know everything from street language to techspeak, have the ability to communicate in them, and had to probably memorize enormous advertising archives so that they did not repeat executions that someone had in some remote corner of the world had done.

But, in a typical, madcap sort of advertising agency way, none, or little of this knowledge was ever codified, catalogued or disseminated. It was shared, but only among a few, during a brainstorm or over a beer. The sum of the parts was never greater than the whole. Only recently, maybe in the last decade, did computers really begin to make a difference in our ability to warehouse some of our knowledge. Our executive chairman Ranjan Kapur often wondered aloud, “If only Ogilvy knew how much it knows!”

When Ranjan began talking about the need for a knowledge management (KM) system within Ogilvy, three skeptical thoughts appeared in the minds of some. The first, did he have a super-efficient library in mind? The second, since KM as a discipline had emerged in the information technology domain, would the system be based on a lot of technology, and therefore investments? The third, would an emphasis on organized knowledge take away from the highly left-brained, creative atmosphere that prevailed and was delivering results in Ogilvy?

This paper describes Ogilvy India’s knowledge journey, from need identification, to strategic conceptualization, to implementation, and subsequent course-correction. It is a piece on organizational strategy and holds lessons for companies with similar offerings, philosophies, even work environments and organization culture – simply because we think that the solution is relevant to all the above.

2.         Why Ogilvy India Felt The Need For A KM System

To put things in context, it may be worthwhile to define what we mean by knowledge management at the very outset. The Gartner Group (Oracle Magazine, 1998) provides a workable definition :

“Knowledge Management promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, retrieving, sharing and evaluating an enterprise’s information assets. These information assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, as well as the uncaptured tacit expertise and experience stored in individuals’ heads”

The starting point therefore, had to be a deep understanding of our organization and its finer ways of operation. Ogilvy & Mather India can be characterized as a large, decentralized organization. It comprises eight divisions and one subsidiary agency, it has offices in six cities. In spite of a rigorous 360-degree philosophy, we do not handle more than four or five truly multidisciplinary brands or businesses, which means that most division operate pretty much as silos, with their own operating systems.

2.1.      Dispersion And Turnover

There are some eight hundred employees working in the company, but an individual at best works with not more than twenty at a time, and would be hard pressed to actually know more than a hundred colleagues. The communications industry has high turnover – every month, on an average between twenty and twenty-five employees leave the company – which translates to a 30% turnover. With each employee, the company loses a knowledge resource. On the flipside, every employee who joins brings valuable knowledge with him or her, gained through past experience. The first should not be lost once the employee leaves; the second must be captured soon after the new employee joins. 

2.2.            Knowledge Only On Demand

We already had an information centre – a group of people who scanned the media, compiled reports on the businesses we handled, and provided updates. But the information centre operated on the principle of demand – only when someone asks for it do they get the information; only when one thought that he or she needed to know something did they approach the information centre. But more regrettably than that, account managers served as mere conduits – taking the information provided and passing it on to clients.

2.3.            A System For Tacit & Explicit Knowledge

Knowledge, as we knew it, existed in three forms – tacit, explicit and embedded (Holsapple, 2002). While explicit knowledge, in the form of powerpoint presentations, documents, creatives, industry reports was being stored in some form or the other – on people’s computers, in hard copy form in storage cabinets, in the creative archives, it wasn’t, as mentioned before, being necessarily shared. And when best work and best practices are not shared, we know we have a problem. The second, tacit knowledge, represents a more unique challenge. It refers to the knowledge that resides in people’s heads; it refers to the expertise that individuals have which the team does not always know about. And if the larger team is not even aware of the expertise, how can they ever tap into it when the need arises? Then, not everyone is adept, or interested in codifying – in documents or presentation – what they know, even if they are happy to talk about it. Also, in a competitive scenario, people hoard what they know. We felt we needed a system that could map the expertise of the entire employee base, so that when the need arose, that knowledge could be referred to. Embedded knowledge, which is the core understanding of the organisation, as represented in its processes, services and products, existed in different forms in different places within the company. Our platform would have the ability to bring it all together at one place. 

2.4.      Knowledge Re-Use And Creation

The danger in designing a KM system lay in it falling into the trap of becoming a very efficient database. In order to avoid that, we had to devise means by which the use of knowledge resulted in the creation of new knowledge; as much as the system would be refreshed by the addition of interesting new content which employees generated, and everyone was informed about. More importantly, they needed to be informed about only that knowledge which was of relevance to them, and not loads of junk. This required motivating individuals who were creating new knowledge, such as the Discovery team and account managers leading business pitches, to be prime contributors to the knowledge system. We had to enable customization of the knowledge output – in a manner that employees would be able to choose the domains that were relevant to them.

2.5.      Global And Local

In the Ogilvy worldwide system, there already existed an intranet that showcased the best work from every office, and profiled most employees – Truffles. The question arose – do we really need a new system? Can we not ensure that everything that we want to share can be done on the Truffles platform? We grappled with the question, and realized that this was a global vs local question. The client base of Ogilvy India is skewed towards local businesses for one. There was a lot of knowledge that would be used only in the Indian context. Then, there was the issue of an entry barrier. All contributions to Truffles had to be in a set of given formats, and conversations with Truffles contributors made us understand that one contribution took a fair bit of rewriting, to-and-froing with the database managers, before it actually appeared on the portal. Since our effort was directed towards a larger issue of creating a knowledge culture, we did not want to put filters or checks right at the beginning. The question of a quality standard remained, but we answered it differently – as you will find out later.

3.         Getting Off The Starting Block

Ogilvy India’s knowledge management program was unambiguously a top management initiative, born not only out of the needs enumerated, but also out of foresight – Ranjan’s belief that, in addition to creative excellence and business dominance, we had to be a knowledge powerhouse in the new millennium. He demonstrated his seriousness of intent by setting up the Discovery unit (responsible for strategic planning, consumer insight and KM) and moving Madhukar Sabnavis, CEO of Ogilvy’s second agency, rmg david to head it. I was hired with the specific mandate of setting up and managing the entire KM function. Along with Kalpana Rao, Talent Director for the company, we formed the core team that would spearhead the knowledge initiative. We were given a fair budget to, as I would see, play around with.

As we laid out the task before us, we realized we needed an external consultant to develop the system, and suggest ways in which we could influence the organization’s culture. We invited several IT companies and briefed them on the task. Out of them, we chose Nexstep Infotech Pvt Ltd as our partners, simply because they demonstrated the need to handle the softer issues of organizational change management in addition to providing a software platform that could be integrated into the existing shareware in Ogilvy – Lotus Notes. Together, the core team and the consultant developed the roadmap by which our objectives could be met.

4.         Putting Together The KM Solution

4.1.      First Level Buy-In

At the very outset, we knew that the solution had to be designed keeping in mind the unique and different needs of the user-contributors. We also knew that they would be of three kinds – the enthusiasts, the skeptics and the ‘we’ll see what we can do when it’s up and running’ types. But we needed a deeper understanding of what motivated and deterred people towards sharing knowledge. To do that, we decided on having conversations with nearly 100 employees across offices, divisions and functions. We began with business heads, who were quite enthusiastic with the idea. Some asked – how will it be different from Truffles? There were others who were quite concerned about the issue of confidentiality. Will everything be available to everyone? How will I know who is reading my contribution? But the idea of learning from one another excited everyone, and that was a good beginning. These conversations also told us what people would like to be on the portal – and thus what they were keen on sharing as well as knowing about. True to the culture of a communications agency, this needed to be a place where one could seek inspiration. Entertainment as well as ‘life experiences’, we realized, would be a good draw. The portal would have to be a place to hang out.

4.2.      Constructing A Knowledge Map

Based on the conversations, by looking at the businesses handled by the different divisions, and the consumer groups we communicated with, we were able to construct a map that told us what kind of knowledge resided where. We decided that there were different kinds of knowledge that people required at different points in time. During a pitch, for example, there would be a scramble to compile experiences on the sector, and find out what was happening in that industry – from policy to competitor strategy; and a search for the latest credentials. The planner would want to understand the target consumer better and get the latest trends. Creative teams would like to see historical communications on the brand and its competitors, something the prospect would not always provide. Putting together all this takes time, and the first step often is just finding out who has the information!

The knowledge map, constructed with the help of the business heads, provided us with leads on where to start when we began populating the knowledge portal. We didn’t want to start with an empty space. We also realized that we needed to populate some sections of the portal through subscriptions such as to the creative archiving services, and World Advertising Research Centre (WARC). Then, based on the businesses they handled, we classified people who could be counted as ‘experts’ in their domain, so that the tacit knowledge they possessed could be flagged off as such. The idea quite simply, was to create user groups across cities and divisions.

4.3.      Developing A Taxonomy For Classification Features

Since there were different kinds of knowledge that would be shared, we required a classification regime. How would someone know where to put up their contributions and where to look for information? This is what we came up with.

Since all communication that is designed is for brands that serve some basic human need, want or desire (NWD), all work that was directly related to business would be classified under thirteen needs, wants and desires. These were – food and drink, housing, health, hygiene, money, grooming, knowledge, transportation, communication, socio-cultural, sex, entertainment, and business communication. This section would contain all presentations, market information on the sectors pertinent to that NWD, research, creative work – including competitive advertising, case studies (award winning and otherwise), useful links, photographic references and bibliography. Each NWD would also have the facility of having discussions among those who worked on similar businesses, with the ability of inviting specific people even outside the group to the discussion. Then there would be knowledge on various consumer segments – kids, teenagers, homemakers, breadwinners and seniors. Some of this would be contextual to the above needs, wants and desires, and so would feature under both; other studies, quotations, photographic references or documents would be independent understanding of a particular segment from a cultural or psychological perspective and hence need to be represented independently. We needed a place to capture the tools of the trade, so to speak. The toolkit section would contain all Ogilvy tools – 360 degrees, brand stewardship, as well as the enablers in our business – new and innovative consumer insight methodologies, papers on how brands work, useful business and communication internet links. To that, we added a simple survey tool, that enabled people to do qualitative and quantitative surveys among Ogilvy employees and get collated results. This obviated the practice of sending out emails to 'All Users’. Credentials, client lists and important contact people in each discipline – all examples of the embedded knowledge - would be featured under the Ogilvy divisions section. A Fun Zone would provide the opportunity for just that – a place to talk about one’s hobbies and interests, form groups, put up cartoons, and participate in a daily quiz.

While these were the sections on the home page of the portal, other routine features such as search, a direct link to Truffles, the ability to go to one’s Web –base email, and a counter showing the number of hits were included. A link to a personal area where users could customize their knowledge experience and flag their own area of expertise was also envisaged.

4.4.      Designing The Interface

The knowledge initiative needed a name, a face. We came up with the name Ogyani – a twist to Ogilvy, and a play on the Hindi word ‘Gyani’, which means a knowledgeable person. Nexstep’s designers worked on several options for the homepage, but we didn’t think any represented the Ogilvy personality. Finally, Cannes Gold Lion winning creative director Rajiv Rao was briefed, and he came up with the logo and the homepage design – simple, uncluttered, with buttons that had a world to discover when clicked (see Figure 1).

                                                                        Figure 1












4.5.      Incentivizing Knowledge Sharing

Our conversations gave ample proof of the adage that knowledge is power. And power sharing is something many are averse to. We had to recognize employees’ contributions to the organization’s knowledge base, as well as incentivize them to get started. In a highly creative, much awarded agency like Ogilvy India, everyone sought recognition, but it was mostly those in the creative function who got it. We devised a system of rewards. Each contribution would earn the employee points, based on a value that the core team determined. As the points were racked up, these could be exchanged for gifts – visible gifts like satchels, sweat shirts, T-Shirts and coffee flasks that would signal that the employee was a valuable contributor, and a part of the knowledge-sharing culture. Even the first contribution would be rewarded, we decided. Every quarter, the core team would choose a ‘Gyani of the Quarter’, based on the number and quality of contributions, and give him or her a certificate and cash award. We wanted to create a buzz around knowledge.

Ths was also the stage where we brought in the quality check. If there were no filters, how would users know which knowledge was valuable, and which was not? One of the tasks that the core team mandated to itself, and set the business heads, was to judge the contributions every month. If something was outstanding, they would assign the contribution a ‘cup’, which would show up on the portal. If users saw a cup against their search find, they would know that it was a piece of exceptional quality. 

4.6.      Preserving Sanctity

We’d realized that not everyone wanted to share their work or domain knowledge with all in the company. We provided contributors the facility to share their work with only those they wanted to have access. The default option was to all users; but they could choose one individual, or a group, based on the confidential or sensitive nature of the document. Second. once anyone had uploaded something, they could visit their contribution and see, on a visitor log, who had been reading their stuff, and when. These features reassured the security-conscious members of the staff.

4.7.      The Lotus Notes Platform

Call it coincidence - that we were already using Lotus Notes at Ogilvy and our consultant assured us that it was possibly the best platform to be on for managing knowledge. Lotus Notes is secure and requires authentication; it allows easy ways to manage access rights of different sections in an application. It is a powerful workflow engine that we thought could be utilized later in the KM journey to automate our business processes. Besides, staying with Lotus Notes meant that our mails were integrated inside Ogyani; a feature that was enough to sway our decision. As an immediate advantage, since we are spread across the country, we used the hassle-free replication engine of Lotus Notes to manage the decentralized architecture of Ogyani. This replication engine allows us to have local mirror sites of Ogyani that update the other mirror sites as frequently as we want. In the bargain, every user got the advantage of high access speeds since they had to access Ogyani locally.

We wanted Ogyani to be so constructed that if in the future we wanted it to be made accessible globally, say from a cyber café or the airport lounge, it should not mean a major overhaul in design. What better interface than the ubiquitous browser? Ogyani therefore is designed on the Internet Explorer. On the whole, the choice of Lotus Notes gave us the strength of a full-fledged platform to collaborate across distances and a mail engine, without us having to spend additionally on the infrastructure.  

5.         Implementing Knowledge Management

It wasn’t easy doing all the things described above, neither was it quick. Our initial timeline of three months, ambitious by any stretch of imagination, stretched to six. During that time, the technology solution was developed; we set up microsites which identified ‘early enthusiasts’ could test and contribute to. These enthusiasts uploaded case studies, creative materials, credentials presentations and business cartoons. In each city, business heads nominated Knowledge Officers – enthusiastic managers who would be our evangelists and troubleshooters. The information technology department ensured that all computers would be able to support the portal (Macs are known to have compatibility problems). They made sure that there was enough hard-disk space to take the flood of contributions, and that local servers would replicate every two hours so that the knowledge stayed pretty much up to real-time. Orders were placed for all the ‘reward gifts’, and posters printed for the launch.

The parallel initiative was to kick-off an offline platform under the same branding for sharing knowledge and perspectives. Every midweek, someone would share a life experience that shed insights into the life of a consumer, or a category, at an informal forum. The topics covered were extremely diverse (see for example Figure 2); from lessons on multicultural identity from a review of ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ to recommendations on single-size meals at restaurants for single travellers; from how we could benefit from a closer study of body language, to the emotional role of music in our life stages. The diversity ensured that different people attended, based on their interest, though there has been a loyal set of staff that participates in every session, the Ogyani Sessions as they are called, have been held and attended religiously for a year and half now.

Figure 2













5.1.      Launching Ogyani

In launching Ogyani, we tried to practice the same kind of high-decibel activity that we so often recommend for our brands! It would be a simultaneous webmeeting and amplified conference call across six cities, with all staff bundled into the main conference room. The evening before, we did a rehearsal; Ranjan, who would press the buttons, got familiar with the innards of Ogyani. After working for six months on each and every aspect of the knowledge initiative, I missed the launch. Just three hours before the appointed time, my wife went into labour with our first child.

When the Ogilvy staff arrived at their workstations on the morning of January 7 2003, they found cute mousepads showing Snoopy with a know-it-all look on their desks. At the appointed hour, all the large screens in six Ogilvy India offices, went online with the new portal. Ranjan spoke briefly about his vision of Ogilvy and the critical role of knowledge in achieving that, filled up his profile, contributed a piece to the portal, and we were on our journey. People returned to their workstations and found the Ogyani button sitting on their Lotus Notes dashboard, and when they entered the portal, they found interesting, useful information. On the first day, we had close to five hundred hits; and seventy-eight people registered and filled in their profiles. Even the media covered the event.

5.2.      Promoting Usage

Just because there was a place to share knowledge was no guarantee that people would actually start sharing avidly. We had to guide them, and one way was to drive staff to contribute in areas where they would find material. We began with strategy and pitch presentations, which were easily traceable; moved on to research documents and presentations, and then case studies. The information centre uploaded all industry reports and updates they had produced over three years. Our subscription to the creative monitoring service, and a nifty piece of uploading software ensured that every month, some 500 TVCs and 1200 press ads would be easily uploaded and classified on the portal. The quiz proved to be a big draw, as some two hundred people began to compete for a token prize of Rs 500 (USD 11 ) every month. Knowledge officers guided people to the portal whenever they overheard inquiries such as ‘do you know where I can find the latest in the auto industry?’ or ‘who has that recent Pepsi commercial?’ Complaints began to flow in – they told us that sometimes, the software would have a glitch (and also that people were trying) that would only creak under a large volume of usage and had to be set right. Competition to stay on top of the contributors’ list heated up as we began announcing who was leading every month, and within three months, we were ready to announce the first ‘Gyani of the Quarter’. Bhavna Darira, notched up an impressive 6000 points to take a cash award of Rs 10000 (approximately USD 220). The announcement got more people to start contributing; and we gave away the first set of 'earned rewards' across cities.

5.3.      Mid-term evaluation

In five months time, we assessed how we were progressing. Usage was quite good – on an average the portal was getting about 40 hits every day. There were 3125 contributions, if you included the creative work uploaded by the information centre; but excluding that, there were 603 contributions from 61 employees. This clearly showed that there still were bands of enthusiastic and indifferent people, and one hadn’t rub off greatly on the other. However, the most contributions were in the strategy, market information and research domains, which meant useful knowledge was being uploaded. There were contributions in all the spaces within the portal – which provided users with a satisfying experience; they found at least something when they came looking.

In the interim, Truffles was relaunched in its vibrant new avatar, with a similar splash. We wondered, will the knowledge-seeking traffic be split? But no! People were smart enough to figure out that Ogyani and Truffles were the local – global complement to each other. Well, actually, some had to be told so; but it was mostly the skeptics who weren’t visiting either.

6.         Rethinking The Knowledge Way

Six months from the launch of Ogyani, we were glad that the knowledge initiative had got off to a start, but were not ecstatic at its performance. In terms of creating the knowledge culture, we still had some distance to travel. True, six months is a short time; but we were also reminded of the need for knowledge representation to be dynamic. The core team, and the consultant once again got together to probe every bit of the initiative, and use that investigation to tweak the platform:

¨      There were some important lessons that we learned in the first six months. Many users went to the portal when they knew they were likely to find something on it. We had to find a way by which they would automatically know when something that was relevant to their work was posted.

¨      We had to make it easy for them to contribute. In its current form, they had to login to the portal and choose the domain where they wanted to upload documents.

¨      Fun on the portal was a great draw. The response to the daily quiz was our evidence.

¨      Users found strategic documents of great use. The strategic planning and insight team team was enthused by that, and sought a dedicated space to put up their work, in the form of brand and culture related documents and presentations.

¨      It wasn’t enough to just have a library of creative work. Quite a few in the agency had opinions about new campaigns and were keen on voicing them.

¨      In addition to being able to locate ‘experts’ within the company, people were eager to know who the external experts were in different domains – style and technology gurus, youth trendspotters, journalists, filmmakers, chefs, investment advisors et al, so that they could be spoken with when the need arose.

We took two months to take on board all these needs and motivations and reworked the knowledge platform:

¨      We enabled notifications in the users’ mailbox – quite like any subscription to a database – like McKinsey Quarterly or WARC. (And wondered, why didn’t we think of it before – this was elementary.)

¨      The new portal made it possible to upload contributions from one’s Lotus Notes mailbox itself – into the NWD area where most contributions were made anyway.

¨      We revamped the Fun Zone. People were not forming users groups online, so we dropped that. Instead, we added features like ‘What’s In, What’s Out’, e-cards, an extensive gallery of cartoons, and Top 10 charts on music and film (Bollywood) every week.

¨      We created a Discovery Space. This would contain strategic tools in use – Brand Triangles, Hofstede models, Creative Briefs, Brand Prints; reviews of recent ads – best and worst; book and film reviews; and first-hand consumer contact reports – everytime a planner returned after a client-sponsored research, they would put up their personal interpretations here.

¨      We added an Expert Locator – again, having found and involved an expert, the contact details and area of expertise would be listed here.

¨      We decided to reward knowledge use, not just contribution. Staff could notch up points if they read other’s contributions; and contributors would also gain some points if others read what they had put up.

After carrying out these subtle changes in Ogyani, we relaunched the portal. The only difference was – it was a kind of ‘drip launch’. We did not want to flood users with all the changes at one shot, having figured that people do not like to read long emails or notifications. We chose one feature every three or four days, and let them know online and offline through a synchronized poster campaign. We also chose to talk about some of (what we believed) the best content on the portal in these posters, to draw the attention of the non, and infrequent users.

7.         Results & Conclusions

In a small but significant way, the knowledge initiative Ogyani has succeeded in creating a culture of knowledge sharing within Ogilvy India. Importantly, it has given a currency to knowledge. We measured our success in both qualitative – emotion, competence and perceived value – and quantitative – number of hits and contributions – dimensions.

7.1.      Qualitative

The value of knowledge sharing and use has been the greatest in strategy presentations and new business pitches. To cite a few users and instances (Ogilvy India, privater staff emails):

¨      Mala Raj (OgilvyOne) – the ICICI Pitch (referred to Effie-winning case studies, sector reports on the Indian insurance and mutual funds industry)

¨      Prashant Ramachandran (Ogilvy Advertising, Delhi) – the Bata Pitch (referred to articles, presentations on grooming, retail and footwear sector dockets, KSA Technopak Retail study), the Nestle Fruit n Milk strategy (competitive TVCs, Kids Insight field reports and pictures; presentations on kids brands e.g. Cadbury’s Gems; dockets on the dairy market)

¨      Triveni Krishna (Ogilvy Advertising, Mumbai) – extensive information support for the CloseUp varianting strategy and visioning exercise (used segmentation models, youth studies, archetypes study; Ogilvy tools like brand family planning)

¨      Amit Kekre (Ogilvy Advertising, Mumbai) – the Ogyani session on travel photography helped during the VIP luggage pitch in capturing the emotions associated with journeys.

This is heartening because it establishes a direct correlation between knowledge and business value. When knowledge is readily available, and expertise easily traceable, it increases the organization’s speed of response – the value can be delivered faster to clients and prospects.

Quite gratifyingly, were able to find value even in failure. The value of knowledge does not lie in success alone. In any new business pitch, a lot of original work is done in a relatively short time, mostly in categories that the agency has not worked on. When we win the pitch, work begins in earnest and the knowledge gained during the pitch is augmented. When we lose, the presentation usually remains in the computer of the person who led the pitch and gathers e-dust! By enabling sharing of presentations of pitches that were not won, we were able to allow managers to put all the hard work to good use when they worked on or pitched for similar categories, or had to communicate with the same consumer segment. 

The rewards earned on the basis of contribution, and the Gyani of the Quarter award have emotional currency and are greatly coveted. One of the winners of the Gyani award, Dr Vipin Varma5 wrote to me, “This has been a defining moment for me in my two years at Ogilvy.” They have been successful in creating a knowledge community and the satchels, coffee mugs, T Shirts and sweat shirts are badges of belonging to the community. Today, if perchance there is any delay on my part in sending out the rewards, my mailbox is flooded with reminders from those who have earned them. To enhance their value even further, we have small award ceremonies wherein business heads give out the rewards.

New recruits at every level find Ogyani a great place to get orientated with the agency and its work. Prashant Ramachandran, quoted earlier had this to say, “Frankly, for a newcomer like me who's been used only to the JWT intranet (where the last article would've been posted in 1998), Ogyani was a very pleasant surprise.” This is just one way by which our knowledge management effort has helped build competence. The other way it does so is by enabling staff to learn from and be inspired by each other’s work. No doubt, the ‘Best Documents’ and the award-winning cases attract highest readership, and that is simply because people want to know what makes those contributions so good.   

7.2.      Quantitative

7.2.1.   Usage

On the evening of January 6 2004, exactly one year after Ogyani went online, the total number of hits it received was 16433. Broken down by city, the numbers were: Mumbai – 6340; Kolkata – 1160; New Delhi – 5623; Bangalore – 2235; Hyderabad – 535; Chennai – 540. More than half the number of employees – 429 to be precise had registered by the end of 2003.

7.2.2.   Content

Inclusive of content from our creative and WARC subscription, there are about 16000 ‘items’ on Ogyani today. If we took away the subscriptions – which contribute to large volumes, we are still left with 1537 documents. These include 176 strategy presentations and notes, 143 case studies (both our own, and Effie winners from different countries and agencies), 218 research presentations and documents, and 185 dockets on different industries. These are big numbers; they are a gold mine of knowledge for anyone in the company looking to make a valuable recommendation to the client. Interestingly, these contributions come from 93 staff members – which means that each contributor has submitted an average of 16 documents to Ogyani. All our efforts seem to have contributed towards creating this core knowledge community, around 12% of the staff. We wait to see when we arrive at a tipping point, which we are quite confident we will.

From an organizational point-of-view, we have learned that it is indeed possible to get large, very large teams to collaborate and thereby enrich each other. The only thing they need are catalysts to enable them and support from their leaders / managers. Individuals are keen on recognition, and when they know that even knowledge contribution can be rewarding, they seize the opportunity. In some way, the discipline of capturing knowledge helped us document the results of several of Ogilvy’s campaigns in the past year. The resultant case studies helped Ogilvy India win 5 Effies and 4 Asian Brand Marketing Effectiveness Awards in 2003. In time, when most people see and experience the value – in business and in their own intellectual growth – we will probably withdraw the incentives, they will no longer be necessary.

Till that time, we will need to convince more and more managers about the rewards of being part of the knowledge movement. We will need to refresh the experience; we will need to point towards the successes of the initiative. Sir Winston Churchill said many years ago, “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it.” The role of us as knowledge managers is to simply enable everyone in Ogilvy India to shine in the bright light of our own collective intellectual capital.

8.         References

Oracle Magazine, “Knowledge Management in the Information Age”, May 1988

Holsapple, C.W. (Ed), Handbook of Knowledge Management, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, 2002

About the Author

Kunal Sinha is Vice President – Discovery at Ogilvy & Mather India, in charge of consumer insight & knowledge management function across all divisions of the company. He graduated in Physics (Honours) from BHU; followed by PG from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. He has spent over 14 years in the advertising profession mostly in the account planning and consumer insight functions.

Kunal won the international award - WPP Atticus Grand Prix in 1996 for his paper ‘Communication Effect – A Reevaluation of Beliefs’. He has been adjunct faculty at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication and National Institute of Advertising; and a guest speaker at London Business School, Kent State University and Johns Hopkins University. He is listed in the millennium edition of the Who’s Who in the World and has authored a large number of papers and articles; he writes a monthly column in Catalyst / Hindu Business Line.

Kunal Sinha, Vice President – Discovery, Ogilvy & Mather, 3rd Floor, Trade Centre, Kamala Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013; Tel: 91 22 2491 3870; Fax: 91 22 2492 3939; Email: