In the current business environment, defined by some as the ‘Knowledge Age’, leadership interest is increasingly focused on Innovation and Knowledge Management development efforts. To date, these functions often operate along parallel, yet discrete, paths. As organizations seek new areas of growth, while further cutting costs there is an increasing need to build more effective partnerships in order to ensure ongoing success and drive additional business value.
Our most recent whitepaper, “Untapping Hidden Value,” discusses some of the key challenges faced by Knowledge Management (KM) and Innovation functions as well as providing a step-by-step approach for innovation leaders to explore and build partnership opportunities.
The primary shared challenges for Innovation and Knowledge Management leadership include:
- Sourcing expert knowledge
- Creating and maintaining channels of interconnectivity
- Ensuring information relevance
- Inspiring stakeholder participation
The whitepaper outlined several actions that leaders from both competencies can take to build partnership and generate business value, but within this article we will focus on two of these opportunities: innovation training and innovation employee networks. While more obviously linked to the competency of innovation, partnering on these efforts has rich opportunities for both functions and can help address the four challenges listed above.
Approaches to innovation training can vary depending on the organization, but they generally consists of workshops or courses that focus on employees learning principles and actionable skills that relate to the identification, selection and development of new ideas. You can read more about these efforts in previous articles, linked here and here.
KM and Innovation partnered training offers many benefits such as directing relevant explicit knowledge to the right employees, within the appropriate context. The training sessions:
- Are fantastic avenues for introducing KM and business objectives in an actionable way
- Support Innovation by ensuring that execution focused resources are dedicated to the best quality ideas, which are more aligned with business goals, giving them a better chance for success
- Are an ideal space for introducing more employees to KM resources such as groupware or information portals
- Can (and should) incorporate content and information sourced from KM channels, with a flow on effect of expanding participants awareness and use going forward
In order to enhance the affect of these training efforts certain activities should take place:
- KM members should actively participate in the development and running of Innovation training efforts to help bring out knowledge sets, explicit or tacit, that may be unused in the context of an employee’s everyday work.
- KM can offer resources, such as platforms, to support the training.
- KM mapping can be used to track down the most appropriate trainees based on relevant knowledge sets.
Innovation employee networks
An extension of innovation training, which more and more companies such as Pfizer, Intuit, Neiman Marcus, etc. are taking, is to engage and connect with employees once the training exercise has been completed. Employees that graduate from the training effort (and others as determined by the organization) can be invited to participate in an ongoing innovation-focused employee network. These networks aim to connect, support and drive value from employees who have an interest in innovative thinking and the development of new ideas over a sustained period of time. These networks can be positioned as small, exclusive groups, or more commonly as broad opportunities to connect and engage a range of employees from across the organization. In order to engage employees with the network, they can incorporate a wide variety of activities, such as online communities, training efforts (see above), exclusive leadership sessions, and much, much more.
In terms of supporting both Knowledge Management and innovation competencies, these networks can be powerful opportunities to support employees with an innovation mindset and identifying individuals who may be better positioned to drive business and KM value over time. Both KM and Innovation activities and channels can be directed towards network members to achieve leveraged results.
The full whitepaper covers a range of activities and actions where KM and Innovation teams can partner, along with a framework to assess the current level of partnership within any organization. Feel free to download it and let us know your thoughts.
By Anthony Ferrier and Libbi Williams
About the Authors
Anthony is the CEO of Culturevate, an organization that empowers a company’s employees to execute ideas and inspire a culture of innovation, through employee networks, a resource portal and training programs (developed in association with Professor Chris Labash from Carnegie Mellon University). Anthony is a widely read author, speaker and advisor to industry leaders at organizations such as Pfizer, U.S. Postal Service, Johnson & Johnson, ADP and Fidelity. He previously led the BNY Mellon innovation program and has a Masters of Commerce (University of Sydney) and Bachelor of Economics (University of Newcastle).
Libbi Williams is an Analyst at Culturevate, providing industry tailored research and innovation-centric training materials for our clients. Libbi has worked in consultative and coordination capacities for various organizations across sectors, including the United Nations Development Programme, The University of Chicago and the U.S. House of Representatives. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration (MPA) in Management at New York University. Her professional interests include organizational effectiveness, innovation and knowledge management. She enjoys cooking for friends, traveling, and constantly learning.
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