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Monday, June 11, 2007

Knowledge Management and taking the bite from the Apple.

I'm away a lot this week in London and in Newbury this week.

But I do have some interesting observations following a recent article in last week's Economist on Innovation at Apple and what other companies can learn from them. I have read this article a few times and if you replace innovation with the word knowledge management there are a few interesting observations.

The first is that innovation can come from without as well as from within.

For me knowledge management is not purely about sharing information but also examining the outside environment and seeing ideas that other may have not fully utilised and asking myself whether it can be used within our organisation with a few cultural twists. The article calls this network innovation and it tackles the cultural arrogance that some companies can fall prey to of thinking that the only good ideas are home based ideas. However it isn't easy - it involves cultivating contacts and constantly scouting for new ideas and always pushing forward. Does this sound familiar to knowledge management practitioners in terms of utilising social networks and finding boundary spanners who move between the various organisational silos and beyond.

The next area is in terms of designing it's new products around the needs of the user and not just the needs of the technology.

When I have carried out work on KM, I have undertaken a knowledge audit to find out what people are looking for and what is causing problems in their working life and tried to solve it but also keeping it simple and designing it around people. How many times do we as KM practitioners and IT try to force people around the system or needs of a document management system. I don't like wearing an ill fitted suit and neither do end-users. One size does not fit all.

The third area is in contrast to the above - occasionally you do have to ignore this user centric point of view as to what the end user says that they need today.

This can be the case with the use of wikis and blogs to support knowledge management, but also can you for example use micro blogging such as Twitter to provide people with updates as to new precedents placed on the system.

The article quotes the success of the Nintendo Wii - because it tapped into a new area of non- gamers. Occasionally you need to head for the blue ocean and away from the Red Ocean where everybody else is congregated.

The fourth lesson is to fail wisely the lesson is not to stigmatise failure but to see it as a learning opportunity and to be more tolerant.

I remember James Dyson quoted that it took 5000 attempts before he got his vacuum cleaner right. SO if you carry out a review of a project - don't look at a failure as a failure - look at it as an opportunity to improve and try again - so don't make your post project review an inquest - you won't get people to share knowledge - why not look at where things went right before looking at the areas for improvement. As Steve Job's said once - people occasionally need to stay foolish and need to 'think different'

I'll try to post on Friday after I've attended a knowledge management event in London on Thursday.

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