Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Innovation - Transferring Know How

This is intended to be an outline of a system that will allow Innovation know-how such as knowledge, behaviours and cultural attributes to be transferred from a standalone or bolt on Innovation project and disseminated throughout the host organisation. Knowledge can be thrown like a stone into a pond and the ripples will then spread at their own speed across the pond. Organisations are not as fluid as our metaphorical pond but it is possible for knowledge to spread through the creation of Innovation Action groups that are not dissimilar to quality circles and action learning groups. They do, however, have some fundamental differences. They are:
  • not unique, they have boundary spanners that overlap
  • they can multiply, rather like human cells
  • they are not confined to improving quality or modifying behaviours
  • they act as catalysts and are not just suggestion boxes or talking shops
  • they are bi directional, 'ripples' can travel both inwards and outwards
  • they do not rely on technology
So how is it done? Well the minute details are secret but the recipe is as follows. Select a number of Innovation Ambassadors and ensure that they have an appropriate balance of coaching, facilitation and action learning skills as well as the latest strategic objectives of the organisation. Next create a number of Innovation Action groups spread through tout the organisation, both geographically and functionally. Ensure that the composition is as varied as possible and give them one of your Ambassadors as a leader/facilitator. Each should also be 'seeded' with an initial idea/knowledge item to work on. These groups can then:
  • work out the best ways of spreading know how in their local context
  • create links with other groups to increase their reach
  • combine existing knowledge to create new knowledge
  • capture knowledge and ideas
  • use their problem exploration and solving skills
  • create new groups
  • act as libraries of knowledge and resources
The entire system can be independent (and devoid) of technology although technology can act as an enabler where appropriate. Technology on its own cannot act as a knowledge transfer mechanism so if anyone tries to sell you a computer system as a solution to your knowledge problems then please run in the opposite direction.

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