Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Intellectual recycling – green thinking for the knowledge worker

We are all into recycling. Recycling conserves sparse resources. But what about intellectual recycling? Recycling of ideas, approaches, processes? Maybe this is what KM is all about?

Let’s follow this train of thought for a bit. Let’s think of a busy team with very constrained resources (people, time, energy, budget). Let’s suggest they apply some green principles to their knowledge work. Let’s suggest they consider Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce. Maybe they don’t need to do this knowledge work at all. Maybe they can actually reduce the amount of work they need to do. There are various processes available, such as Rightscoping, Technical Limit, or customer interrogation, designed to reduce unnecessary work. This could save a lot of their resources

Re-use. If they do need to do the work, perhaps they can reuse solutions which already exist. Perhaps they can reuse something off-the-peg, which has been applied elsewhere in the business. This can save almost as much intellectual resource as reducing the work.

Recycle. If there is no solution they can use off-the-peg, perhaps they can recycle existing ideas. Perhaps they can take what has already been done, and adapt it for their own situation; re-craft it for their own context, and improve it to fit their need. This requires resource, but nowhere near as much as creating the solution from scratch. Peer Assist could be a powerful tool here.

If they can’t reduce, can’t reuse and can’t recycle, then they have to create or invent their own solution. This is the most costly approach (although as I have argued in this blog post, it’s often the solution that the teams find most fun).

I can imagine a rightscoping meeting, where a team divides their project into tasks, and asks, for each tasks, can we reduce? Can we reuse? Can we recycle? Or do we need to create and invent? This could be an excellent format for ensuring that innovation is focused only on those tasks and activities where innovation is needed. Think of the intellectual resources that could be conserved by such a recycling approach!!

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