Monday, September 20, 2010

Pop-Up Knowledge Management

Frequently we talk about the need and the benefit of transferring and reusing experience and knowledge from one function or department of an organization to another function or department. Although the benefits go without saying, cross boundary knowledge sharing is not common.

Although the organization already has the knowledge, culture often does not encourage or enhance the possibilities or looking elsewhere for applicable ideas. Even as I write this, the logic of NOT doing that eludes me and at the same time I realize the difficulties in working across boundaries.

In the same spirit, looking outside of our usual realm for ideas from other industries, ideas presented to solve problems similar but not the same to our own is very useful and can be economically prudent. Like recycling and reusing materials, recycling and reusing our ideas brings us forward more quickly, with less time and effort.

So, today I looked outside of the usual ideas around knowledge management to the concept of Pop-Up Retail.

The idea of Pop-Up retail and Pop-Up stores is not new but it is getting increasing publicity. Why? Because it is a fast and inexpensive way to create a buzz about your product or service, sell items quickly and learn from your new customers.

Trendingwatching has done a number of stories about Pop-Up Retail over the years as well as lately and the July issue of Inc had a story about How to Do Pop-Up Stores

Why do I bring that up? Let’s take the concept and reapply it.

Let’s think about Pop-Up Knowledge Management (KM)or Knowledge Transfer (KT). We usually talk about the implementation of KM as a long process requiring perseverance and patience. Ok, so humor me here….What if we tried, as one part of our strategy, to use Pop-Up KM or KT?

If we apply the principles from the INC article, we concentrate on the buzz we could create to get the KM word out to the organization, the inventory we could let go (or the processes we could introduce to the audience), testing new products or vetting new business ideas. I don’t know about you, but I see the fit.

Jazz up the introduction of KM by creating very quick, impactful KM (and re-usable) activities like our ‘Active Learning Sessions’ , after action reviews, quick lessons learned, or even the 3 key questions to ask during meetings:
1. What is the most important thing we learned during the meeting
2. Who else needs to know
3. How will we inform them?

Do not make it difficult but do make it meaningful. Choose the right topic, create fun and easy to use materials and invigorate the audience by creating a buzz. Use internal blogs, meetings, posters, internal social networking,….or something very dramatic like email or phone calls to let them know the Pop-Up KM or KT is coming.

Let people know the process is available for a short time, let them know why, let them know how to use it and let them know what to do with the results. Then, make sure you communicate the results.

No, this will not shift the culture alone. Pop-Up KM is only one part of your KM strategy.

It will, however, create some excitement, some fun and help make KM or KT much more trendy and interesting. Be creative! Enjoy sharing the idea of KM and celebrate the outcomes, not matter how big or small they may be. Keep the momentum going!

And try something from another industry --- do this type of thing occasionally so people get used to the idea, are reminded to try it again, see that they are rewarded in a fun way for using it, make it part of the positive part of the culture

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reflection as a Key to Success

Reflection. What does that mean?

You think of seeing your reflection in a mirror, in a still pond. You look at YOU, carefully, critically and hopefully, honestly. You look to assess what is honestly in front of your eyes. You determine what is working and what needs to be changed. It is a useful exercise, not always easy but very helpful to ensure you continue to look your best, to improve.

That is also true in an organization.

Reflection is key not only in managing knowledge but to sustained organizational success.

Assumptions rule us, they often rule behaviors and actions. We assume many things. We assume we know what our problems are, what is working for us and what is not. We assume we are well aware of our biggest challenges and our strengths.

Reflection is when we challenge those assumptions. We take in the information around us, the signs and signals, even the nuanced or subtle ones and assess them to challenge our assumptions. Reflection is necessary for sustained success.

Let me give you an example. Many of my client organizations are multi-national --even the smaller organizations now do business in a number of countries. The world has gotten smaller, technology simpler and cheaper, it has become easy to do business in many countries.

However, very few companies know how to actually WORK GLOBALLY.

We assume that because we have locations and employees in a number of countries that we know how to work globally without challenging that assumption. We assume we know what it takes to work globally. I would make the assertion that we are not familiar with or perhaps do not truly embrace the competencies, behaviors, beliefs and actions it takes to effectively work on an international basis.

We will do more with this in upcoming blogs, but I challenge each of you to take time to REFLECT on working globally. Check the assumptions. What does it take, what are the challenges to working globally? What competencies do you need and does the organization possess those competencies? Can you identify the assumptions you hold or are they so ingrained as to be difficult to recognize? What information are you getting about those assumptions?

For example-- when you are making a leadership decision, do you seek input from those in your location or do you, on a regular basis and as a habit, seek the input from those in your most remote locations? Do you collaborate as easily and often with India as you do with Boston?

I would wager that some of the assumptions you make about your ability to work globally are off base. Gather some information, get some opinions and some facts and assessments. Check your assumptions. What have you got to lose?

Reflection. It is a valuable skill and it takes courage, honesty and time. Without it we can be following each other off a cliff. Reflection is a key component to enhancing and using knowledge globally.

The Magic (No Kidding!) of 3-D printing

Reading the New York Times yesterday I discovered a magical way of taking the innovation that lives in our minds, tacit innovation, and make it real, workable...useable. The process is called 3-D Printing.

3-D printing is the process of layering materials, such as plastics or metal, one on top of each other like thin layers of cake. Through this process, those inventors who normally have to raise huge amounts of capital to see their creations come to life, can create a prototype of their inventions and test their work. Now, new companies have spouted up to use 3-D printing for everything from designer furniture and hotel fixtures to clothing. This is a great use of innovative technologies, and provides the opportunity to quickly learn how a new design will (or will not) work.

This exciting technology is allowing inventors to reach for the moon, and then build the bridge to get there. Or the space ship. Or a flying space suite. I could not wait to blog about this great technology and to think about the possibilities.

Is it possible we have taken not just a step but a leap toward removing barriers from bringing our ideas and wildest dreams to life? Companies like Freedom of Creation and Contour Crafting are using it to create models of buildings and artistically colored artifical limbs.

What an amazing way to take what we know, what we have learned from each other, stretch that knowledge to the limit and create whatever comes to mind. Innovation just got another leg up.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daily Work Life in 2020

A few weeks ago Gartner released their report on the key changes of the nature of work for 2020 and CIO Magazine did a story on it August 4th.

As I read the top 3, I was struck by how often we say-- it is not the technology, it is the people and the process. Yes, technology can enhance but will never replace the human aspect of work.
And now, that seems to be new news.

Gartners' Top 3 Key Changes in the Nature of Work for 2020

  1. De-Routinization of work
  2. Swarming
  3. Attention to Pattern

What do they mean by the De-Routinization of Work?
"The core value that people add is not in the processes that can be automated, but in the non-routine processes, uniquely human analytical and interactive contributions that result in words such as discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning." The report goes on to say "Non-routine skills are those we can not automate. For example we can not automate the process of selling life insurance policy to a skeptical buyer, but we can use automation tools to augment the selling process."

Ok, so does that not mean that in 10 years (Really, 10 years??) we will be back to doing what humans do all the time-- we will use our own tacit knowledge and experience to innovate, collaborate, work together, lead and follow, team together and we will do that without the benefit of some type of electronic system? And, this is a new and upcoming trend we must prepare for now?

If that is the case, I have a whole new language for explaining to my clients about my work-- my current work--to guide them to the benefits of identifying and sharing critical tacit knowledge. Now I can tell them that to prepare for the new wave of the future, to be cutting edge, leading edge, they need to start learning to communicate well, to innovate, think originally and critically, share their ideas and their ways of thinking rather than share only their answers. They need to work on team work-- virtual, fast, effecient teamwork. They need to know how to advocate for ideas and how to listen and inquire about others innovations.

In other words, the message continues to be the same. Though I am heartened again to know we are on the right track but when did the need for human innovation and collaboration become such new thought? My deep desire is that it does not take us another 10 years to see the value of sharing our contextual, deeply held knowledge and to innovate using our experience, insight and creativity with the enhancement, not replacement, of technology.

We have the benefit in our society of incredible technology, brilliant advances in all types of systems and machines, that are continuously faster, more powerful, smaller and sexier.
Yet it all comes back to people, to what we do with what we learn and how we do that together in the most effective, effecient, mindful and respectful ways.

I'm glad to hear that I am cutting edge. It should not take a Gartner Report to tell us that we must be innovative, to be continually learning and that we need to do it together.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Beauty of Brilliance: IP from the UK

Inventions, the truly useful, clever and elegant types most especially, are inspiring to look at and even more so when you are able to learn about the background of the concept. The BBC has put forward a wonderful narrated slideshow providing background into some of the most innovative marketed ideas from Great Britain in the past 10 years.

The slide show is interesting on many fronts. First, it is a visually compelling view of some well known British innovation--you'll recognize Dyson's new fan concept or Yoomi, the self warming baby bottle or the Gocyle. In addition the presentation provides the context of how the inventions came to be. The inventors themselves provide a bit of advice as well.

This is good knowledge sharing-- visually stimulating, intersting, contextual. I recommend watching it for enjoyment, for a bit of learning about IP and as another way to transfer knowledge in our organizations.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Data Visualization -- a Must Read

If you have not seen the David McCandless video 'Data is Beautiful' on the YouTube TED Talks is a must view.

Not only will you see the power of Data Visualization as a way to quickly make sense of and see trends and patterns in data, but you will learn a great deal about the global economy. Yes, the video is 21 minutes long-- and it will be 21 of the most incredible minutes spent in a long time. I would chance to say it will shift your thinking, especially on the benefit of visualizing data.


As Knowledge Managers it is our responsiblity to make good use of data, to anticipate and prepare for challenges and to also identify those issues which we might fear but probably not the issues we should be fearing.

David talks about the quote "Data is the New Oil" but his response is that "Data is the New Soil" because it is such fertile ground.

Data visualization is a tool to clarify problems and identify solutions. It is also a powerful tool for us to understand the viewpoints of others, reflect on our own viewpoints and to deeply examine each.

I highly recommend you watch this video. Think about what data means in your role, your company and your life. The theme of how to look at the patterns and trends, and how to use this to help organizations be smarter, faster and more agile will emerge again and again in this blog.
We must do it carefully, mindfully, but we must do it.

Nicely done David.