Fast Company

IT: Friend or Foe of Innovation?

Kathy Harris of Gartner muses on the connection between innovation and knowledge management, the disappointment many organizations feel over their knowledge management initiatives, and the promise of social networking software to deliver on the promise of knowledge management.  Kathy’s thesis that knowledge management and innovation are fundamentally linked is very noteworthy.

Most organizations have vast amounts of institutional knowledge that they are unable to leverage.  This knowledge resides on shared drives, in document management systems, in PDM repositories, and other data stores.  But organizations are unable to truly leverage this information because the access methods in place don’t meet the needs of knowledge workers.  Workers are not interesting in accessing data or documents.  They want to get at actionable knowledge—specific information that is precisely meaningful in the context of their work at the moment of need.  This is not what traditional knowledge management solutions provide.

So, can social software really close this need gap?  Not really.  Kathy is right to point out that such software can enable specific context rich exchanges of information.  When these exchanges occur, they can be highly efficient both in quality and quantity of knowledge transference.  However, the situational dependency of such exchanges has a limiting effect on the scope of impact that is delivered.  Additionally, once the specific exchange has occurred, it’s highly context rich information tends to sink into the same quagmire as other enterprise information.

That said, social software can be a valuable part of a holistic knowledge management solution.  There is still a desperate need for corporate IT organizations to rethink their knowledge management strategies.  They need to move away from data driven knowledge management schemes to user context driven schemes of content delivery.  Allowing the knowledge worker to define the metaphor of immersive knowledge navigation through the context of their daily tasks is the missing element in the knowledge management approaches that are commonly deployed.  This is why social software holds such promise as part of the solution.

IT organizations are very often considered the Innovation Terminators.  Ironically, they have an opportunity to be truly instrumental in supporting a corporate innovation culture by reshaping the knowledge management framework around the knowledge worker.

 

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