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Knowledge Management, Creativity, and Innovation: Part 1

1022moleculeby Stephanie Barnes

“Knowledge Management, ho hum, who cares? I have more important things to worry about than some esoteric discussion about knowledge. I have a job to do.”

I know that’s what they’re thinking with the glazed-over look in their eyes as they search around the room to see who else is around that they can talk to.

I’m not going to tell you why you should care; I’m going to tell you why I care.

I like to make connections, meet new people, learn new things and I like to share what I know with others. I like to make my job as easy as possible, and I like to help others do the same thing. I like to learn from my mistakes and not make the same mistakes repeatedly.

So, you’re probably thinking, where is she going with this? This isn’t knowledge management; this isn’t creativity; this isn’t innovation; this isn’t MindCamp stuff.

And to that I say, “ah, but it is.”

One definition of creativity says:

  • The reorganization of experience into new configurations;
  • A function of knowledge, imagination, and evaluation.

In other words, the use of knowledge. Knowledge is about holding information learned through experience or study. Knowledge management wants you to do something with that knowledge.

Sometimes that “thing” is something routine, like an answer for someone who’s called a customer support desk. Sometimes it’s something non-routine, like solving a problem, completing a project, or creating a strategy. Sometimes it’s something brand new, like improving out-patient experiences at a hospital by the whole process. Or like the creation of the iPhone.

Knowledge management behaviours are actions that support these activities. They are the left-brained processes that enable these things to happen, whether they are routine, non-routine, or brand new. Knowledge management is not technology, it is not esoteric, it is practical and necessary to live our lives, and to do our jobs.

I am an accountant by training. This training (and subsequent experience) helped me develop my left brain — it’s a lot of process, and numbers, and guidelines. It also introduced me to the idea of knowledge management. We didn’t call it that at the time, but we were expected to re-use the previous year’s audit or tax file: we had checklists to follow to make sure we didn’t miss anything, and we were supposed to talk to whoever had worked on the file the year before, if possible. Another knowledge management activity was the need for time to learn and plan: learn from last year’s file and plan for the current year’s. The knowledge management strategies made us quicker completing the current year’s audit/tax than the year before, which meant the fee to the client stayed the same (client happy) and our earning power went up (boss happy). Efficiency and effectiveness.

So where do the creativity and innovation come in? TIME.

TIME is what is necessary to create new knowledge. The reorganization of experience into new configurations through the use of knowledge, imagination, and evaluation are right-brain activities: creativity and innovation practices. Designing time into our processes and activities to create new knowledge or finding existing knowledge is the key success factor.

And time is what we’re run out of, more on design in Part 2.

barnes_steStephanie Barnes presents KM by Design: The intersection of innovation and creativity in Knowledge Management at Mindcamp 2013.