Is Knowledge an Asset at your Organization?

I used to be an accountant, we know all about financial/monetary assets and keeping track of them, but what about knowledge? A lot of which walks out the door at the end of the day in the heads of your staff.

A lot of organizations don’t think of knowledge as an asset, so don’t manage it appropriately. Here are some things to consider to help you figure out if knowledge is an asset at your organization. (Thanks to Nick Milton for the list and the idea.)

  • If your organization requires good knowledge based decisions, then knowledge is one of your key assets.
  • If you are a consulting firm, a contractor, or an educational or professional body that creates and deploys knowledge on behalf of customers and clients, then again knowledge is one of your key assets.
  • Knowledge will also be a key business issue for you if your staff turnover is high, and you need to transfer knowledge to new employees.
  • Knowledge is a key business issue for you, if much of your core operational knowledge is held by people approaching retirement age.
  • Knowledge is a key business issue for you, if you are involved in repeat activity, where knowledge from the past can help improve future performance.
  • Knowledge is a key business issue for you, if many dispersed parts of the business are performing the same process, with varying results (in other words, some parts of the business know how to perform operations better than other parts, and that knowledge needs to be shared and re-used).
  • Knowledge is a key business issue for you if your budget is being challenged and you have to contemplate delivering ‘more for less’, or (in the words of the business cliché) “work smarter, not harder”.  Working smarter means making better use of your organisational knowledge.

So, is knowledge an asset at your organization? What are you doing to take care of it?

ColaLife Documentary

I will write more about this later, but I wanted to get some initial thoughts down tonight, while it’s fresh in my memory.

I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to attend a University of Waterloo Alumni event this evening. At the event they were screening the Canadian premiere of ColaLife a documentary about an organization that is “is working in developing countries to bring Coca-Cola, its bottlers and others together to save children’s lives by opening the distribution channels which Coca-Cola uses, to enable ‘social products’ such as oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements to use similar routes. We began with the concept of using space in Coca-Cola crates – but have extended into a range of innovations, some based on Coca-Cola’s expertise and networks – but many based on questioning the status quo.” (This comes from their webpage, here

It was a fantastic story about trying to save the lives of children, but for me it was also a story of creativity, innovation, and knowledge management and design thinking. Why? Because ColaLife wasn’t afraid to think outside of the box, to say who is getting their products into remote regions in Zambia and how are they doing it? CocaCola, that’s who. How? Shopkeepers want to carry their product because they can make money selling it, so they transport it “the last mile” from a distribution centre to their shops. (Knowledge management–sharing knowledge/best practices from CocaCola.)

ColaLife then designed their packaging to fit in the space between the tops of the bottles in the case, so that they can be packaged together. They also had some innovations in how the oral hydration salts and zinc were packaged to make it easier to mix and taste better for the children who had to take it (design, creativity, and innovation).

What you also need to know is that it took 20+ years to get this made. Why did it take so long? It needed social media to get the word out and get the right parties involved, that’s why. (Knowledge management, and innovation).

When I heard the 20 years and social media part I thought: serendipity, everything coming together at the right time at the right place. But what if you could make “serendipity” happen more often? What if by taking a more purposeful approach to creativity, innovation, and KM you could help your organizations and all organizations generally, make connections quicker? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

What are you doing to make that happen?

Knowledge Management by Design, part 2

Design thinking seems to be everywhere lately, but it seems to me that KM has always been “by design,” at least it was if it was done successfully.

Design thinking is characterized by being purposive; human centred;  a balance of analytical and creative; uses abductive reasoning, i.e. inference from best available explanation; and iterative, it uses prototyping and play testing to achieve success.

How are these principles applied in knowledge management?

Purposive: we look at the organization’s strategy, goals, and objectives and assess how knowledge management best supports those activities. The knowledge management strategy outlines how the organization’s goals and objectives are furthered through the application of knowledge management activities.

Human centred: the best knowledge management implementations consider the people of the organization, e.g. how they work, what makes their work-lives easier, what the culture of the organization is like and works with those requirements to make the organization more efficient and effective in its knowledge processes and activities.

A balance of analytical and creative: KM should be a balance of analytical and creative. It should capture knowledge and make it reusable, but it also needs to leave space, ba, to allow for knowledge creation. This space can look like lots of different things, e.g. giving employees 10% of their time for projects they want to work on/explore, foosball tables, basketball courts, gyms, art/creativity space, and communities of interest; activities that encourage different connections to be made.

Abductive reasoning: this sums up the belief in KM in general. It can be very difficult to prove a causal link between improved knowledge activities and improved organizational performance, metrics and ROI continue to be a significant hurdle for many organizations. However, anyone who has experience with implementing knowledge management successfully knows that efficiency and effectiveness in an organization are improved through the use of knowledge management activities.

Iterative: successful KM starts small and grows. It starts with an over-all strategy and plan, but then moves to pilots, which bring in small parts of the organization, so that lessons can be learned and adjustments made as the people, process, and supporting technology are implemented across the organization.

Is your knowledge management by design?