Innovation Capital

A community's ability to regenerate is expressed in rights and reserved patents, knowledge assets and other tacit assets that are not manifested (especially not in accounting balance sheet). Managing a knowledge balance tells of innovation capital. Innovation capital is part of the intellectual capital balance which refers to human capital and innovation capital as substantial components, beside the organization's other physical and traditional assets (e.g. structural capital, customer capital).

There's a saying that goes "a good product sells itself". This perception is not true in all cases. Information systems, like most work solutions, are efficient tools for upgrading a work environment; yet nevertheless require many guidance and implementation activities. There are two major reasons why an information system does not 'sell itself':

  1. Information system are not always intuitive and needs operational/process instruction regarding its manner of operation.
  2. The system symbolizes changing old habits. Most of us find it hard to change old habits and therefore need help to implement them.

Implementing/instructing an information system requires completing a number of stages:

  • General Instructing to the entire target audience: Activity within the target demographic to describe the tool's structure in detail, its manner of use, expectations and new work processes. Efficient tools: frontal instruction, experience, user manual, explanatory booklets, tutorial.
  • Personal guiding of key personnel of the target audience: performing a one-on-one instruction with key personnel and "knowledge intersections" focusing on practical operation and direct experience.
  • Showing Presence around the target audience: "roaming" the field and showing availability for questions. Actively approaching random users in order to assure they indeed understand how to use the tool.
  • Telephone calls to key personnel and random users: asking questions such as: do you use the tool? What is the last activity you performed and when? Are you satisfied?
  • Remote activity monitoring: without the users known, performing initiated checkups on the tool's level of usage, using two methods: "wandering around" the tool and checking its content's level of update and using statistical tools.
  • Neutralizing old/contradictory work processes: most of us prefer to use work processes which we are used to. If we have a chance to use them again, we will indeed do so. We need to help the users drop their old work habits.

So what is the difference between this and implementing a Knowledge Management solution?

In a KM solution, besides the process described above, we must take into consideration two factors of great importance that add complexity to the implementation:

  1. A knowledge Management solution includes, beside changing work habits, also dealing with inhibiting factors (that exist, if at all, much less in regular information systems):
  • A cultural fear of change.
  • A fear of competition and the individual's fear of losing power by sharing the knowledge he/she possesses.
  • Generation gaps.
  • The benefit from this sharing is unclear (WIFIM).
  • There isn't any time- sharing knowledge is not perceived as part of work.
  • The worker identify with their unit, but not necessarily with the organization as a whole.
  • A lack of consistent sharing of knowledge due to work habits, organizational structure, fear of exploitation.
  • A low placement in the organizational hierarchy of the subject in which the Knowledge Management solution was established.

Therefore, the implementation must consider these subjects among others when actualizing the plan by scaling it. The recommended method includes three stages: First, performing a Knowledge Management pilot that illustrates the need and gives the users an appetite for Knowledge Management; then, performing a moderate Knowledge Management project in order to generate awareness and habits for the new 'lifestyle' and finally, launching the full KM solution as a new lifestyle in the organization.

  1. Initiating classical instruction/implementation processes for Knowledge Management processes is not always possible: In some cases, the target audience is too wide and the classical instruction/implementation is irrelevant. Even if we did complete an instruction one time, this is insufficient. On the other hand, the technology is simple and is reminiscent of the internet in which users do indeed learn independently. We therefore try to rely on the tool to "teach its users" how to operate it, while we market it and persuade the target audience of its advantages and its feasibility of use.

 

Main marketing methods:

Rational persuasion: proving to the user that the new tool is an improvement compared to the existing tools and using it will benefit them and their environment (Written explanation, examples at meetings, frontal explanation).

Direct experience: Exposing users to the new tool for an active experience and see for themselves "through their fingers" its advantages and innovativeness. This can be done through usage competitions (not necessarily for evaluating production, rather just to get people used to the tool and expose them to it).

Direct marketing: External advertisement companies try to associate products with a psychological feeling (clothing with popularity, alcoholic beverages with sex, cars with social status). This can also be done when marketing a new tool: a slogan, a logo, performing a fun, routine-breaking activity which symbolically illustrates the products advantages (and associates it with fun).

Serial advertisement: flooding the work environment with messages regarding the new tool: signs, slogans, mentioning the tool in every meeting, a grand launching event, pamphlets, booklets, catalogues, advertisement and greeting cards.

Constructive competition: if content experts are scared of sharing knowledge we will create an atmosphere in which those who do share knowledge are praised and each expert's contribution is highlighted. If the units are meant to build subsidiary websites with relevant knowledge, we will make sure that Department A will indeed build these sites, which will automatically cause its competitor Department B to ask to join (there is always a department that views any department we choose as competition). It's amazing how great this method works in Israeli organizations.

Furthermore, we also recommend a special implementation method-customized implementation:

The rationale is that after regular instructions and implementations, we can still find users who oppose the tool or those who find its operation difficult. The method includes working with each group manager and building an implementation network, customized especially for him/her. The customized network isn't built from a blank page, rather from a range of options from which each manager chooses what suits his/her group best with an option to contribute innovative ideas. The method's advantages are that in most cases group implementation programs are 80% similar, but we earned two benefits from this method:

  1. The remaining 20% indeed create the best network for the team and therefore improve the implementation's success.
  2. More importantly-the implementation plan is printed and signed by the group manager. It is his/hers and not ours (the Knowledge Management team). The manager's level of commitment to the plan's implementation is orders of magnitude greater than ours. Remember, the managers' commitment is the key to the implementation's success.

(For more details on the customized implementation method,  see the October 2004 issue of 2know).

The bottom line:

Implementation and marketing are a delicate and complex issue. There no "known" models and no schoolhouse solutions. Yet there is indeed a difference between the regular activity in a "straight forward" information system and the implementation and marketing of a Knowledge Management environment. The guidelines and principals described above have been proven efficient. The implementation process requires planning and creativity prior to its execution and patience during it. The bigger a solution is and the more it requires the entire organization to go through a mental change, the more the activity needs to be performed gradually, convincingly, persuasively and patiently.

Good luck!

 
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