Reproduced with permission from The New Global Indian (http://newglobalindian.com)
From Knowledge to Ideas
The discipline of Knowledge Management can perhaps be traced back to the epochal statement of Confucius – “I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand”. For most part of my life translating my learning into knowledge has taken that route.
My early tryst with Knowledge Management was way back in 1999 when I started working with IBM Consulting. Armed with the huge body of knowledge at IBM, I came to lead an opportunity with a Sports Utility major who engaged us to articulate a Transport Solutions strategy. We had one problem though –such an engagement had not been done before; no knowledge artifacts to fall back on. So the team huddled, went to the whiteboard, shared ideas, took responsibility to adapt available knowledge to the engagement at hand. Most of these were conversational in nature unstructured in content. Lots of coffee, late nights, doodles on note pads. Ultimately the “idea” of Transport Solutions was realized based on the ingenuity of ideas of my capable team mates. It remains as one of my most successful consulting engagements.
As knowledge workers serving a diverse set of customers, irrespective of industries we serve, we are being constantly challenged to solve complex problems. Our “Aha” moments are numerous and discontinuous. They start out as incomplete parts that need inputs, sometimes from areas the originator is not familiar with. They must essentially go through several iterations. Realization of “revolutionary” ideas must essentially adopt an “evolutionary” trajectory.
The questions we need to ask ourselves are that are enough ideas happening within our companies? How are they being supported? Is there a case for instilling Idea Management as a core discipline?
Idea Management as a core discipline
The audacity of ideas is visible in products, technologies, social reforms and more. The sheer magnitude of ideas that are coming forth every day often crisscrossing multiple channels needs curating and managing. The landscape of innovation is transforming fast and ideas are at the front-end of such initiatives. Enterprises and institutions are embracing new processes and tools to give customers, partners and members of their communities a voice in their innovation initiatives. There are few who are leveraging this Idea economy … there are many more who need to.
Idea-Management is being talked about as the next discipline that enterprises and institutions must master. I believe that Idea-Management is in itself an idea whose time has come.
Zensar Technologies – Harnessing ideas to power its strategic vision
The genesis of this initiative dates back to 5 years, when its CEO- Ganesh Natarajan involved a handful of his reportees to engage in defining the Strategy for the company. A Vision Community was established which would work with the CEO to shape its strategic vision. Over the years, the numbers of members in this group grew to accommodate diversity of views across levels in the organization. As the organization grew from 2500 to over 5000 people the need to scale this initiative across levels and well as different global destinations became evident. Even so, the Ideation was limited to few months in a year.
The company is currently rolling out our platform to over 5000 associates globally with an objective of tapping and enabling ideas around strategic focus areas which will ultimately enhance its competitive positioning and customer intimacy.
In order to scale this initiative, socialize strategic themes to a larger audience and invite ideas that could be stage-gated by leveraging a common platform to tap ideas on a continuous basis was becoming critical. That is when the customer chose Aikon Labs as their Idea Management Platform Partner.
The company is currently planning to co-opt key customers and partners in the ideation process.
By socializing specific themes or strategic focus areas, the company is now able to democratize the process of ideation across functional silos or geographical boundaries. Familiar social tools are being used by everybody to contribute, shape and finally execute the ideas. Over a period of time the company expects a significant increase in its innovation potential; something they could not have done by limiting the initiative to a “chosen few”.
The process that was adopted can be understood from the graphic appearing below:
The Leadership team communicates strategic themes around which employees post ideas. These ideas then go through a round of company community voting and rating. Based on scores, a few ideas are taken to the next stage of Teaming when they are required to expand those ideas into more detailed plans. Ideas from this stage are measured against company criteria and the winners are chosen to go into the next stage of Execution where they are encouraged to create a prototype. The Winners are then taken into a full execution stage and rewarded.
The key thing to note here is that no ideas are really rejected but kept in an Idea Store database, to be recalled at an opportune time. The other point is that this happens on a continuous, year round basis- at Zensar every season is an idea season. This unique initiative and achievement now forms part of a Harvard Business School Case Study.
Zensar Technologies has weathered successive downturns and posted impressive year-on-year growth. It has now set its sight on becoming a One Billion Dollar enterprise. I am more than sure that new ideas will be propelling the new growth engine at Zensar
Ideas are everywhere. Yet our track record as a nation in innovation and patents is abysmally poor. We are standing at the confluence of an Idea Economy. Some of us will be watching this train leave our stations. I am hoping that many of us will board the train of Ideas and take the journey towards a resurgent India – an India that is truly incredible.