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Restless Knowledge

José Cláudio Terra founded his company based on his doctoral thesis

personal collection“I am a semi-academic,” acknowledges Jose Cláudio Terra, engineer and businessman, whose restlessness caused some discomfort for the first readers of his doctoral thesis, submitted in 1999 to the Department of Production Engineering of the Polytechnic School at the University of São Paulo (USP). He recalls that one of the examiners asked: “Who are you to propose this new model of knowledge management?” The examiner was hoping that Terra would do more in terms of improving the visions of established authors rather than his own.

Terra did not want the thesis on the proactive management of business knowledge to stay just in libraries forever—and it did not; it came out in book form a year later. He wrote the second book, on corporate portals, while working in the United States and Canada—the soaring growth of the fledgling Internet drew him there.

Since the companies where he was working closed, he returned to Brazil and, based on the models of knowledge management he proposed in his 2002 thesis, he opened his own company—TerraForum Consultants—that combined consulting, creation, design, video and technology services.

As an entrepreneur backed by academic knowledge, he knew from the beginning that one day he would have to sell the company. “It took ten years.” In 2012, Globant, a multinational company that develops computer programs for companies with large audiences, acquired TerraForum. Terra stayed on as general manager and assisted with the transition phase.

“What we do in strategic and operational terms is to mobilize brains for managing knowledge in organizations,” Terra explains. This means, for example, that we identify, improve and implement strategic knowledge to generate patents or new products.

Terra writes scholarly articles, and more intensely, books—the tenth, Dez dimensões da gestão da inovação (Ten Dimensions of Innovation Management)—was published in 2012. “Since earning my doctorate, I haven’t stopped teaching MBA courses and giving lectures,” he says. “I never completely left academia and have always enjoyed the freedom of going my own way.”