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Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Chief Knowledge Officer, The Knowledge Management Institute of Canada; Senior Advisor, Knowledge Management, Organizational Effectiveness, Husky Energy

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Improvable Ideas

"Ideas Are Improved When Tested Through Action"


Everyone in the organization treats ideas as improvable objects


The Knowledge Building Principle of Improvable Ideas require individuals  and organizations to firstly value ideas as the means to advance knowledge and understanding, and secondly accept that ideas are subject to continual improvement by members of the organization.

Notionally I would think this makes sense to everyone, but what does this really mean to the development of an organization's knowledge strategy? How do we make this real and actionable for people within an organization?

Ideas at the Centre

I have to confess this is a bit of a mantra for me.  It really means that to become a knowledge centric organization (where the pursuit of new knowledge is considered the key to success and longevity) idea generation and improvement lie at the heart of the work for everyone in the organization.  This is very different from many organizations which place the completion of tasks as the central activity for employees.

Good ideas (ones which are valued by both individuals and the organization as a whole) typically emerge in context - e.g. to address a need, solve a problem, improve upon something we already do, or to launch something new. It is safe to say, "Ideas are the DNA of invention and innovation"

If ideas are valued as a source of continual improvement and innovation, then we must look to developing structures which support idea capture, idea improvement and idea transfer. Certainly technology can help with this, however what we are really after is to create the cultural conditions, where this principle (and practice)  becomes part of "how we do things around here"

 Some Strategies:

Below are a few strategies which I have found to work. 
  1. Idea Banks: A number of companies have instituted "Idea Banks" usually employing some form of technology (see Google) to capture ideas from employees across the organization. Depending on how well they are designed, idea banks can serve as an effective means to ensure good ideas are not lost (particularly where there is yet a context for these ideas) and can be improved upon by others. Many organizations allow employees to vote on the "best new ideas" of the month / quarter. Teams and individuals are recognized (and in some cases rewarded) for their contribution to advancing and improving on ideas which  advance the goals of the organization. Some companies also use idea banks to solicit input from their customers about their level of satisfaction with current products and services or to solicit ideas for improvement or new products and services. 
  2. Collaborative, Knowledge Building Environments - Virtual work spaces where employees advance ideas, build on the ideas of others in the course of  their daily work. Now the caveat here is you need an environment designed specifically to support the advancement of ideas (this will be the subject of a future post)
  3. Share your Organization Challenges - If your organization has challenges it needs to solve in order to grow, diversify etc. - create a mechanism for sharing these across the organization and for allowing people to collaborate with one another in an effort to improve them. If there are already ideas for addressing these challenges being considered, share these as well and provide the directive for people to improve upon them - you will be amazed at what can happen when you tap into the collective brainpower of your organization.
  4. Lunch & Learn Sessions -  Link your L&L sessions to company sponsored professional development programs. Create a form of social contract with your employees e.g. If we invest in your learning, you have a responsibility to give back by sharing what you've learned (new ideas and insights) with your co-workers. Have them host 2 lunch and learn sessions following the professional development event,  where they focus on explaining what they learned, how it changed their thinking,  and how this new knowledge could benefit the organization. It is also a good idea to have employees log a learning report in the idea bank or in your collaborative knowledge building environment, so these new ideas are accessible to everyone in the organization and in a form where they can be further improved and / or applied to address a different set of needs - often times good ideas can be used in multiple contexts.

Next Instalment:  Idea Diversity

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