Why knowledge management is the key to innovation

Why knowledge management is the key to innovation

We live in a knowledge society where knowledge is generated, processed, shared and made available to all members of society, at all times. According to David Derbyshire “Scientists have worked out exactly how much data is sent to a typical person in the course of a year – the equivalent of every person in the world reading 174 newspapers every single day”.

Sorting this constant stream of data every day – understanding it and properly utilizing it – is making data and knowledge management increasingly more important. However, most companies focus on data and knowledge management but fail to realize that management itself is not enough. It needs to be shared. Four reasons why knowledge sharing is important to the success of product development:

1. It ensures the very existence of your business

I have seen it numerous times. Many businesses, large and small, are so focused on meeting deadlines and satisfying customers here and now, that they forget to nurture what is the basis of their existence: knowledge. Often, key knowledge exists within a few senior employees, resulting in massive loss of knowledge, which can be devastating to the company. Fortunately, you have plenty of easily implementable solutions that will prevent this worst-case scenario. For example:

  • Mentoring “forces” the bearers of knowledge to share this with their colleague(-s)
  • Workshops and seminars a great for holistic knowledge sharing, e.g. sharing that shines a light on the impact of your decisions on your colleagues in other departments.

I once worked with a company, which had been continuously innovating an industry for more than 20 years. However, none of the knowledge gained throughout these two decades of testing, investigating, prototyping and failing were ever documented – it existed solely in the mind of one employee. When he quit and started working for a competitor, all knowledge was lost and the company was set back from being industry leaders to becoming practically new to the industry. Needless to say, this company now struggles to stay afloat.

2. It enables viable decision-making

If knowledge is not shared internally in your organization, how then can you be sure that any decisions you make are based on facts and not fiction. Properly managing and sharing knowledge enables managers to cut through the noise, properly select, prioritise data, and draw the right decision based on the right parameters. A great way of doing this is by using visual communication tools (I will cover this in my next post).

3. It stimulates innovation

In an active knowledge sharing organization, having an organized and utilized can stimulate managers to embrace change and encourage ideas and insight, which might lead to both product ideas and innovation. This is because knowledge sharing induces dialogue, which can kick-start cultural change, resulting in employees daring to question what is right and what is not. That is how innovation can come from within the company.

When working hands on with product development, you need involve all internal stakeholders right from the beginning. Only by doing this, you ensure that knowledge can be shared throughout the lifetime of the project. Leading us to the final point, not only does this smoothen up the internal process of the project…

4. It reduces time-to-market

It is my experience that integrating knowledge sharing deeply within your way of working and collaborating, cuts of several loops of the iterative process of product development. This is especially true when dealing with the long-term development processes that we undertake when collaborating with clients on medical devices. You simply arrive at your conclusions faster and more efficiently when you have an overview of than has been done and what needs to be done, and when the entire project team is on the same page throughout the project.

Coming around to the point

The consequences of failing to manage and share knowledge are near unimaginable. Even large companies find this task difficult and with good reason. The larger the company, the more difficult the knowledge sharing.

”Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge.”
– Pamela Babcock

In an earlier post, I discussed how to facilitate product innovation in order to retain or reclaim your market position and develop long-lasting products that resonates with your customers and users. Without proper knowledge management and profound knowledge sharing, succeeding in the development of innovative products is near impossible.

Therefore, keep your project team to a minimum to best facilitate knowledge sharing, progress and success.

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