Success through Failure, KMTool, Measuring the benefits of KM

15-Jun-06 Archive of Weekly KM Blog by Stan Garfield

KM Books

Success through Failure: The Paradox of Design by Henry Petroski

Book Description

Design pervades our lives. Everything from drafting a PowerPoint presentation to planning a state-of-the-art bridge embodies this universal human activity. But what makes a great design? In this compelling and wide-ranging look at the essence of invention, distinguished engineer and author Henry Petroski argues that, time and again, we have built success on the back of failure — not through easy imitation of success.

Success through Failure shows us that making something better — by carefully anticipating and thus averting failure — is what invention and design are all about. Petroski explores the nature of invention and the character of the inventor through an unprecedented range of both everyday and extraordinary examples — illustrated lectures, child-resistant packaging for drugs, national constitutions, medical devices, the world’s tallest skyscrapers, long-span bridges, and more. Stressing throughout that there is no surer road to eventual failure than modeling designs solely on past successes, he sheds new light on spectacular failures, from the destruction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940 and the space shuttle disasters of recent decades, to the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001.

Table of Contents

  1. From Plato’s Cave to PowerPoint
  2. Success and Failure in Design
  3. Intangible Things
  4. Things Small and Large
  5. Building on Success
  6. Stepping-stones to Super-spans
  7. The Historical Future

KM Links

KMTool: A global community for knowledge management professionals

A resource for planning knowledge management (KM) projects (i.e., projects that promote sharing and use of knowledge such as ideas, expertise, best practices). This site was created to share interesting links, reading materials, and vendor information with friends and colleagues.

KM Questions

Q: How can you measure the benefits of KM efforts?

A: Collect success stories to demonstrate how KM helped teams to be successful. For more on this approach, see Why measure the value of KM? by Chris Collison, where he says:

“Measuring value can often seem like a time consuming effort for knowledge workers. Is it worth it? Is measuring the value of KM initiatives a worthwhile way to spend time? Don’t get me wrong; clearly any KM activity needs to be linked to the creation of business value, and we need to be able to illustrate that convincingly. But, the concern is that to try and separate out the unique contribution than KM activities make can become something of a cottage industry and counterproductive to ‘getting on with the business of making a difference.’ ”

You can also use a KM recognition points system to capture the value of knowledge reuse. This data can be rolled up and used to document some of the benefits of a KM effort. To do so, before awarding points for reuse, ask a few simple questions about the benefits of that reuse. The incentive for the user will be to be awarded points, and the by-product for the KM program will be the collection of the value of reuse data.

Dr. Nick Bontis has published several papers on the value of intellectual capital. See his research site for the following papers:

  • Bontis, Nick and Jac Fitz-enz. (2002). “Intellectual Capital ROI: A causal map of human capital antecedents and consequents”
  • Bontis, Nick. (2001). “Assessing Knowledge Assets: A review of the models used to measure intellectual capital”
  • Bontis, Nick, Dragonetti, N., Jacobsen, K. and G. Roos. (1999) “The Knowledge Toolbox: A review of the tools available to measure and manage intangible resources”
  • Bontis, Nick. (1998). “Intellectual Capital: An exploratory study that develops measures and models”

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager

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