Thursday 29 November 2007

Innovation does not have to be invention

When people think of innovation, they almost always think of it as producing something "new". Sometimes this can be misleading though, as often the best value can be realised by tweaking or just changing how a process is done. If we focus too much on finding that "eureka" moment, then the sponsors of innovation will grow tired of the big budget failures.

Dr. Anita Sands, SVP of Innovation and Process Design at RBC, gave one of the most popular keynotes at this year's Digital Marketing Conference. Some of the points from her speech:
  • Innovation connects what is possible to what is valuable to our clients and our shareholders.
  • Don’t mistake innovation for invention; innovation doesn’t have to be something new.
  • New ways of applying old stuff, or kind of new stuff.
  • APPLIED innovation. Ideas are not the problem. Implementation and measurement are the challenge.

In the video below, from the conference, she gives us two great points:

  • ..there is a better way to do what you are doing
  • ..there is a better way to look at something you already know

I think that these very simple principles are a great starting point for anyone involved in innovation or a project which requires some "out of the box" thinking. It is also important to remember that innovation must provide value, there is no point in investing in innovation for innovations sake.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Social Communication in the Enterprise

Creating a knowledge sharing culture in the enterprise is a difficult task. There are many benefits to be gained from an environment where employees can freely exchange knowledge and expertise, which otherwise may be lost when they leave the organisation or switch roles within it. This element is known as knowledge retention.

The following table shows the scenarios in relation to the tools or methods used for capturing and sharing knowledge in the enterprise. The green cell (social - tacit) is the one which is most coveted and is probably most difficult to establish as part of the organisational culture.

This social - tacit communication is what I am exploring in my dissertation. I want to investigate whether the use of an enterprise wiki platform will result in employees participating in a community environment where they can contribute and search for content which previously they would have to either request it or know where to find it in the unorganised shared folders.

I would classify each of the cells as follows:

Individual-Explicit: The creation of knowledge by individuals in documents or in eMails as part of their day-to-day tasks. This type of knowledge is often not shared or made available to others for re-use. In this context, it is often "lost" to the organisation. An example of this is a "How-To" document created by an expert on how they do their job and often stored on their own PC or printed in the form of a document.

Individual-Tacit: From the definition of tacit knowledge..."is knowledge that people carry in their minds and is, therefore, difficult to access. Often, people are not aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Tacit knowledge is considered more valuable because it provides context for people, places, ideas, and experiences". Freeing this knowledge can lead to improved collaboration and communication in the enterprise.

Social-Explicit: Meetings, Workshops, Internal Communications (Magazines etc.) and Intranet Content. This type of knowledge is created by many and requires some collaboration during it's creation or compilation. Organisations have been using Intranets for years now to allow many to access explicit information in relation to procedures, organisational structure, FAQ's etc.

Social-Tacit: A culture of knowledge sharing and open communication is required for social - tacit interactions to freely occur. The use of discussion forums and FAQ/best practice intranet pages have been tried for this type of communication in the past. The use of Wiki's in the enterprise is an emerging trend in this area, which tries to build on the success of wikipedia as a mass-collaboration and participative platform and bring this behind the firewall to solve real business problems. There are also many elements of social-computing which have been demonstrated by YouTube, FaceBook, Flickr and many others which can bring an element of personalisation to these portals.

The creation of communities of practice or adapting current communications methods to enable employees to participate in a wiki portal may help them to contribute to the greater organisational knowledge, however, it must be noted that the creation of documents and management of information strategies must be an important part of any collaboration strategy.

Data Protection - Time to get serious

Patrick Lambe of Straits Knowledge has given a 'hat-tip' to me in his post entitled - "Big Mistakes and Failures of Knowledge Articulation". We had had an email conversation about the loss of customer data at HM Revenue and Customs in the UK.

One of the modules I am taking for my MSc is "Legal Issues in Knowledge Management". We have been looking at the Data Protection Directive, and have covered many case studies relating to data leaks and how data is stored in relation to the guidelines as layed out in the legislation.

The link I referred Patrick to was on the BBC's website. They have a nice page casing some of the major data leaks at the HMRC in the last 12 months. Patrick describes some of the reasons given for the possible failures at HMRC as reported by ex-officials:
  • the work at HMRC has been compartmentalised so nobody has an overview of (or commitment to) the whole process
  • many of the more experienced managers have left
  • many of the front line jobs have been automated or merged with other roles
  • many managers have been moved to new roles
  • a constant pressure to cut costs has hit morale (people don’t care)

Two of these points interest me most, and they both relate to two of the core principles of knowledge management.

Knowledge Capture/Retention - "Many of the more experienced managers have left". This happens in all organisations. If effective procedures were present at the HMRC for the capture and retention of the knowledge of these more experienced managers, then maybe this risk would be reduced as the new less experienced managers could refer to and re-use the knowledge of their predecessors.

Knowledge Sharing - "Many managers have been moved to new roles". Of those managers who are still with the organisation, but are working in new roles, the culture in the HMRC suggests that they do not have access to the relevant expert knowledge which they need to quickly learn the competencies required for their new roles.

Sunday 11 November 2007

Selling Knowledge Management - Language is Key

I haven't had much time to post lately, my dissertation is at a very busy stage. One thing that I thought would be useful to share is my experience of turning an idea into reality. I am looking to pilot a wiki-based portal in my organisation to enable better collaboration for COP's (Communities of Practice), Special Interest Groups, Communications Groups etc.

I have found that the language used to describe my project has been very important. People don't readily know what is meant by 'Knowledge Management' and sometimes they can get a little scared when you try to sell an idea as KM. This is also true for web2.0, as is my experience with the word 'wiki'.

Now, almost everyone I have spoken to about the project has heard of wikipedia, but I am trying to demonstrate the benefits of wiki use in a controlled environment behind the firewall, So I have tried not to mention wikipedia where possible. I am enjoying people's reaction and their questions as they try to understand the concept.

I gave the idea a 'brand', so that when the people I meet talk to each other, they will spread the idea by using its' name. I called the portal 'OnePlace' - To signify that all of the work is now in one place, where the participants of a group can easily find their information (documents, meetings agendas, presentations), and that their COP now has a 'Place' (below) rather than simply comprising of a thread of emails and a monthly physical meeting.

So what about the language? I have tried to use words like re-use, reduce re-work, easily find what you are looking for, keep up to date describe the use of a collaborative wiki space when working as part of a COP.

So where has this got me? A pilot is now being implemented, and we will see how the users react. It will be interesting to see how the baby boomers react to using wiki instead of depending on the office suite. I am confident though that even if they struggle initially with WYSIWYG editing, they will experience/observe enough benefits over the traditional email & attachment way of running a COP within an organisation (below).

Please let me know of your experiences with introducing wiki to your organisation?