Originally posted 25-May-23

Stan Garfield

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This begins the fifth and final series on knowledge management in special libraries and information centers, structured around Five Cs: Capture, Curate, Connect, Collaborate, and Create. This four-part blog post series is about the fifth C: Create.

Creating new knowledge is an important goal for most organizations, but it can be challenging to achieve. By creating explicit processes that use existing forms of knowledge flow to create new knowledge, innovation can be stimulated, and invention is facilitated. Creative ideas can be developed into useful new products, services, and ways of getting work done.

Basics

In The Knowledge-Creating Company, Ikujiro Nonaka wrote:

“In the knowledge-creating company, inventing new knowledge is not a specialized activity — the province of the R&D department or marketing or strategic planning. It is a way of behaving, indeed a way of being, in which everyone is a knowledge worker — that is to say, an entrepreneur.”

“New knowledge always begins with the individual. A brilliant researcher has an insight that leads to a new patent. A middle manager’s intuitive sense of market trends becomes the catalyst for an important new product concept. A shop-floor worker draws on years of experience to come up with a new process innovation. In each case, an individual’s personal knowledge is transformed into organizational knowledge valuable to the company as a whole. Making personal knowledge available to others is the central activity of the knowledge-creating company. It takes place continuously and at all levels of the organization.”

In Putting Ideas to Work, Tom Davenport, Larry Prusak, and Bruce Strong wrote:

“Under old approaches, organizations often didn’t manage knowledge creation in any formal way. They left it to their research-and-development or new-product groups, which weren’t that familiar with the process because they were focused on the creation of products, not the underlying knowledge necessary to develop them.”

“The organizations with the best knowledge-creation programs define in advance the type of information they need and why they need it — say to improve customer service or to develop easier-to-use products. They solicit ideas, insights and innovations from rank-and-file workers, customers, and business partners, rather than relying solely on the R&D staff to come up with the ideas. Technologies such as internal corporate blogs and wikis…are encouraging this broader participation in knowledge creation.”

Knowledge creation 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. Generating new sources of 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 in communities and 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 easy to turn this aspiration into reality. The best ways to support knowledge creation are to establish standard processes for connecting creative people to one another, developing new methods, managing ideas, publishing white papers, and discovering new patterns through analysis.

Connection

New knowledge is often created through people interacting. A good way to enable such interaction is through communities and Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs). Community members engage in online discussions in which they learn from one another and build on each other’s ideas. They also participate in community events, such as giving and listening to presentations on community calls, providing advice in peer assists, and conversing in knowledge cafés.

Those who join threaded discussions in communities bring a wide range of experiences, perspectives, and opinions. When they bounce ideas off each other, the result is often a synthesis of the collective thinking that advances the total body of knowledge. When they share their work and their thinking in the community, it can spur advances and new ideas in response.

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 community members to brainstorm about ways to apply the concepts. Suggest that good ideas be pursued, and then follow up on them during future events.

If your organization supports invention, a process for disclosing patents can connect inventors to other creative people. When an idea for an invention is shared with others, it can lead to helpful suggestions for improvements, colleagues who can act as a sounding board for testing assumptions, and connections to others doing similar work for ongoing collaboration.

Methods

Knowledge creation occurs when practical experiences are turned into new standard methods. Provide a process for practitioners who discover improved ways of doing things to convert their insights into new methodologies. This will result in new knowledge being provided to others.

Methods are repeatable techniques and approaches that can be used to solve a problem or accomplish a desired result in the best possible way. To create new methods, start by identifying gaps and opportunities that exist. What is a needed methodology that is currently unavailable? Is there an opportunity that could be pursued if only the right method existed? Find the people who have tackled relevant problems and developed new solutions and capture their practical experience. Transfer that knowledge into a new method.

For example, in a video library, it may be difficult to locate a specific passage in a recording. If you ask the staff to address this challenge, one staff member may have an effective way of searching the content of videos. You can document this approach and standardize it for use by the entire organization. Then the next time this need arises, there is a readily available and proven method that can be applied.

In Part 2 of this series, I discuss ideas and white papers.

The Five Cs of KM

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Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/