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Knowledge Management at Whirlpool

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : ITSY070 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 500;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 500 + Shipping & Handling Charges extra


Knowledge Management/ Innovation/ Core Competency
Case Length : 21 Pages
Period : 1999-2012
Pub Date : 2012
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Whirlpool Corporation
Industry : Electricals and Electronics
Countries : US; Europe; Global


This case is about the knowledge management (KM) practices at Whirlpool Corporation (Whirlpool). In 1999, the then CEO of Whirlpool, David R. Whitwam (Whitwam), launched a worldwide effort to embed innovation as a core competency across the organization. He felt that Whirlpool could gain sustainable competitive advantage by focusing on innovation. The case describes how Whirlpool instilled innovation as a core competency by making significant investments which included redesigning business processes, training thousands of employees, and changing the culture of the company. The case discusses the various initiatives taken by Whitwam to encourage employee participation.

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As innovation from everyone and everywhere required knowledge to be assimilated and democratized, the company set up a comprehensive internal Knowledge Management System (KMS) in 2001. The case elucidates the various KM tools used by Whirlpool such as the Innovation E-Space portal and the I-Pipe to capture, share, and manage knowledge. The case highlights how Whirlpool's KMS served as a platform wherein Whirlpool employees worldwide participated and contributed to innovation-related activities resulting in new ideas, products, and services which in turn contributed to Whirlpool's overall revenues and profits. The case concludes by emphasizing the company's plans to carry on its vision of "Innovation from Everyone Everywhere" and to invest in product innovation to drive sustained future growth and create value for its shareholders, employees, and customers. This case is aimed at MBA/MS level students as part of the Information Technology/ Knowledge Management curriculum. It can also be used in a core Strategy curriculum.


Understand the issues and challenges faced by a company in deploying innovation as a core competency
Understand the strategic importance of knowledge management in gaining a competitive advantage
Analyze the knowledge management tools used by Whirlpool to capture and disseminate knowledge
Examine the role played by the top management to develop a knowledge management framework in an organization
Appreciate the use of IT for knowledge management and innovation management
Explore strategies that the company might adopt in the future to drive innovation and encourage knowledge sharing


  Page No.
Introduction 1
Background Note 2
Need for Redefining Innovation 4
Embedding Innovation as Core Competency 5
Consumer-Driven Innovation Model 7
Whirlpool's Knowledge Management System 8
I-Pipe 9
Innovation E-Space 11
Results 12
Outlook 14
Exhibits 16


Knowledge management; Knowledge Management framework; Innovation E-space; Innovation Pipe (I-Pipe); E-learning; Project resource management; Strategic Innovation; Embedding Innovation; Core competency; Competitive strategy; sustainable competitive advantage; Innovation management; Information Technology; Culture; Consumer-focused innovation; Innovation Embedment S-Curve; In-Out analysis tool; Strategic Architecture; Double Diamond Innovation Process; Whirlpool

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