The knowledge creation process includes inventing and innovating new concepts, approaches, methods, techniques, products, services, and ideas that can be used for the benefit of people and organizations.
Creating new products and services, coming up with new ideas to try out, and developing innovative methods and processes can help transform an organization, industry, or a nation. Generating new sources of customer demand, stimulating personal and organizational growth, and rethinking the existing rules of the road can help an organization develop, thrive, and endure. Failure to do so may lead to stagnation, decay, or death.
Knowledge management can help trigger the imagination by providing a continually replenished source of ideas and experiences. People help bring out the best ideas in each other through their interaction as a part of networks. Publishing white papers stimulates creative thinking. Analyzing collected knowledge reveals patterns and opportunities for new developments.
Many organizations would like to be known for their innovations, but it is not always easy to turn this aspiration into reality. Connecting creative people through communities, discovering patterns through analysis, and establishing processes for creating new knowledge can help stimulate innovation.
An example of knowledge creation is a patent disclosure process. When an idea for an invention is shared with others within an organization, it can lead to helpful suggestions for improvements, colleagues who can act as a sounding board for testing assumptions, and referrals to others doing similar work.
Another example is a process for turning practical experience into new standard methods. Provide a process for practitioners who discover improved ways of doing things to convert their insights into new methodologies, which will result in new knowledge being provided to others.
Even something as simple as regularly inviting innovators to present their latest ideas and inventions during community events can become a process of creation. As part of such presentations, build in time for the community members to brainstorm about ways to apply the concepts. Suggest that good ideas be pursued, and follow up on them during future events.
Along similar lines, providing an easy process for white papers to be submitted, reviewed, and published can facilitate knowledge creation. Provide a way to subscribe to new publications in areas of interest, connect with the authors, and collaborate on further enhancements of published ideas.
Practical ideas for innovation
Here are ten ways to stimulate innovation.
- Ask communities of practice, both internal and external, for ideas.
- Follow good examples from other organizations, such as the Netflix prize, P&G Connect & Develop, IBM Jams, and InnoCentive.
- Conduct experiments to test new methods. Use analytics to analyze the results and pick the ones that are most effective.
- Ask for suggested improvements, use rapid prototyping to try them out, and then iterate and improve.
- Enable innovation by supporting integration of diverse tools. Encourage skunk works projects.
- Encourage the formation of book clubs, discussion groups, and brainstorming sessions to get people thinking about new and better ways of doing things. Take the best ideas and implement them.
- Hold regular innovation challenges, tournaments, and jams.
- Ask people to use collaboration tools such as enterprise social networks (ESNs) to discuss ideas for improvements, new approaches, and breakthroughs.
- Invite people outside your organization to speak on calls, present at meetings, and participate in workshops. Adapt their methods for use in your organization.
- Set up prediction markets to use the wisdom of crowds to choose between alternatives.
Creation process for stimulating innovation and facilitating invention
Creating new knowledge is an important goal for most organizations, but it is difficult to enable. By using the other modes of knowledge flow — collection, connection, boundary spanning, and discovery — and adding explicit processes to use these flows to create knowledge, innovation can be stimulated. Creative ideas can be developed into useful new products, services, and ways of getting work done.
Let’s look at an example. In a consulting firm, information about customer projects is captured in a repository (collection). Communities for each type of consulting service are active (connection), and include consultants, partners, contractors, and salespeople from all regions of the world (boundary spanning). Details on the win rate, delivery time, and profitability of each service offering are available in a data warehouse (discovery). Competitive and industry trends are available in a corporate library (discovery).
The leadership team has been asked to increase the gross profit margin of the consulting business. They take the following steps:
- Search the project repository to see which customers are doing the most repeat business. Survey those customers about their upcoming needs.
- Ask the communities for each service offering to offer their suggestions for improving profits. Select the best ones for implementation.
- Analyze the information in the data warehouse to see which service offerings are the most and least profitable. Improve on the profitable ones and develop new offerings with similar attributes. Discontinue the unprofitable ones and deny approval to future proposals for offerings with similar attributes.
- Review competitive and industry trends to see which competitors’ offerings are the most profitable and what the analysts predict will be profitable. Use these findings to help shape new development efforts.
- Combining all of these inputs, the leaders decide to drop their three worst-performing service offerings, invest in further developing their top three, and decide to create two new offerings based on customer input, community feedback, and analyst predictions.
By institutionalizing the process used in this case, a knowledge creation process can be reused for future innovation. It is not simple or intuitive to create new knowledge, but it is worth perfecting because the potential benefits are significant.