Innovation is often connected with big inventions, technological breakthroughs, and super smart people even though we know that in reality that it is also so much more about everyday functions. It is in capturing knowledge that we can discover what our teams already know and use that knowledge to be more innovative.
In 2017, I had the opportunity to lead pilot projects related to Learning and Innovation. The exposure that these projects have provided in terms of Knowledge Management has been significant.
When I started working on the projects, I had to set aside a full day just to understand the concepts of Knowledge Management. Not only was the subject fascinating, the significance of Knowledge Management being such a vital step to Learning and Innovation became very obvious.
You might already know what Knowledge Management is but I am going to try to describe it here. It is defined as the efficient handling of knowledge – not data or information – but knowledge. That includes the tacit insights that are a consequence of working in a field or role for some time. But how do you work to capture that within your company was the question we were trying to address for our organization.
We designed pilot projects to try and capture knowledge points within the organization. The pilot projects were collaborative and one was competitive. The projects were designed to encourage knowledge sharing in different ways. The projects were designed following the principle of Human Centered Design, keeping the end-user involved and gathering feedback throughout the pilot.
The collaborative projects included Communities of Practice which allowed teams to engage in intentional yet informal in a shared domain. We used some virtual meeting platforms since global teams participated. The competitive learning platform was an Innovation Forum competition, which offered global teams the opportunity to present innovative solutions they had tested in the last two years. The responses to all the projects was very positive. These projects were bridging learning gaps that would allow teams to be more efficient and agile.
The projects we led were successful but we realized that the real challenge would lie in developing and sustaining an innovative culture within the organization. That would need a shift in the way we function. Certain bureaucratic systems would need to be eliminated. More trust would have to be established. Failure will need to be considered as more of a learning step instead of a taboo or it will hinder success. We will need to be smarter about recognizing successful innovation and rewarding it. This would encourage people to continue innovating.
Most of the pilot projects continued on to become ongoing initiatives at larger scales. This is just the beginning of a cultural shift towards innovation and the possibilities are exciting!