Tuesday 27 May 2014

The creation of Knowledge

Knowledge creation happens only when inspiration hits the receptive mind.

You can't manage inspiration, but you can manage receptivity. All knowledge creation activities are based around approaches to helping people to move outside their boxes, and open their minds.

For example, the Deep Dive process is based not only on a rigorous approach to problem analysis, but also on a series of exercises to de-limit the thinking of the team members. Deep Dive is used as a way to bring innovative thinking to the biggest business issue.

Similarly the Technical Limit process used by Shell involves challenging teams to deliver the best result possible, encouraging them to challenge the way things have always been done.  Technical limit is used in the project planning phase.

Even the humble After Action Review can include a knowledge creation step, when the team discusses "How will we do this differently next time".

Knowledge creation can be encouraged by any of these processes, and although you cannot manage inspiration, you can use processes such as these to encourage receptivity.

The main enemy of receptivity is prior knowledge. As Epictetus said, "you cannot teach someone something they think they already know". This means that if you give people problems they know how to solve, they will not look for additional knowledge, and they will not think outside the box.

So the key cultural behaviour that drives Knowledge Creation is challenge - challenge to the way things are currently done, and continually looking for a better way.

Management can help by giving people targets that they don't know how to meet, as a deliberate way to move people out of the comfort zone and into the knowledge creating zone.

Knowledge creation therefore is an active combination of process and behaviour, rather than a passive waiting for inspiration to strike. But the ideas created in these processes only truly becomes knowledge when tested in practice.

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