Idea in brief
We look at simple ways large organisations can boost creativity by using technology to encourage a culture of knowledge sharing, and enhance security at the same time.
Senior executives can benefit enormously from open communications with staff across the company. Sharing information openly regarding trends, observations and ideas enables senior managers to pick up on innovative new concepts.
This is why creating a knowledge-sharing culture is so important. Not only does it provide a steady source of new business ideas, it also encourages staff to work together more effectively.
“C-suite executives are light years removed from the coalface and don’t know how things are done on a day-to-day basis, so they need to be inclusive and engaging,” says demographer and senior partner at KPMG, Bernard Salt.
In response to this intellectual isolation, Salt, who founded KPMG Demographics in Australia, has created mechanisms to capture and share ideas throughout the organisation. Drawing on the idea of crowdsourcing – soliciting ideas and content from a large group of people – Salt has assisted in creating a global corporate intranet to facilitate ideas sharing.
“It is extraordinarily useful if you are working on a project, so you have access to the latest trends and expertise of 155,000 people in 155 countries,” Salt says. “It is the role of management to provide the network to facilitate such conversations and cultivate collaborative knowledge and sharing.”
Technology plays a crucial role in collecting organisational knowledge – it is the tool by which that information is accumulated. However, the company culture plays a fundamental role in creating the opportunity and impetus for the sharing of ideas.
Creating the right environment
Data protection is an important consideration in a culture of sharing, according to David Shephard, general manager for market development within Telstra’s Security Services Division.
Shephard says that although a sharing environment can expose organisations to increased risk, it also encourages companies to develop a deeper understanding of their data profile and understand what information is of most value, and why. It is also to understand who else might benefit from having that data, and how.
‘One thing about digital data loss is that you typically don’t notice something’s gone missing until a third party informs you, or your valuable IP turns up elsewhere,” Shephard says. “Cyber risk to Businesses is real, but not new. An effective way to improve security and reduce risk is to educate users about the value of the information they access so they can be more aware, vigilant and make better choices in how they handle and share data’.
But rather than restrict access to data and potentially impact on productivity, Shephard says a key role of IT is to enable the business by seeking ways to promote collaboration and make it possible for Information to be shared in a safe and managed way.
“Organisations should focus on securing their most valuable information and manage who has access to it in order to facilitate safe sharing,” says Shephard. “It’s important to understand that bad things can happen, either from outside criminal action or by insiders being careless, and to take reasonable steps to protect data wherever possible and ensure responsibility and awareness among all users remains high on the agenda. It’s not only the job of IT to prevent data loss; everyone needs to play their part.”
Set thinking free
Once a strong data security background is in place, companies can create mechanisms to facilitate the transfer of information in different directions, a source new ideas from staff, suppliers, customers and partners.
This is what Salt refers to as the “festival of left-field thinking”, a process that actively encourages staff to share ideas, then adopts mechanisms to pinpoint which ideas could be effective and which can be discarded.
“Thousands of ideas will be generated and for every 100 there will be one or two really innovative ideas,” Salt says. “It could be as simple as moving the photocopier or only having one waste bin between two people.”
Salt cites supermarket shelf-fillers as an example. He says Census figures reveal that between 2006 and 2011, about 6000 positions were shed. “The reason is the way products are being manufactured and distributed – display-friendly packaging has reduced the number of fillers needed.”
It is the role of management to provide the network to facilitate such conversations and cultivate collaborative knowledge and sharing.
Display-friendly packaging – whereby shelf-fillers simply take the top off the box and it’s ready to slide into a shelf – is a great example of an idea generated via crowdsourcing ingenuity.
This suggestion, which came from the supermarket “coalface” and was passed on to packaging manufacturers, fundamentally changed the time and workforce required to move goods from pallet to shelf, Salt says.
By integrating a sharing ethos into the company culture, he adds, companies obtain access to streams of knowledge that are directly relevant to how the organisation interacts with staff and customers.
A simple test, according to Salt, is for management to adopt a technology platform that facilitates ideas sharing, then ask staff “to suggest one idea to improve operational efficiency”. In a large organisation this would generate tens of thousands of simple ways to improve productivity from the very people with direct experience of the business.
As a result, products are better designed and processes more efficient as a culture of knowledge sharing unlocks innovative ideas.
A knowledge-sharing culture :
- encourages staff to work together more effectively
- turns employees into a company’s competitive advantage
- is facilitated through technology
- requires strong senior management support
- improves employee engagement and retention
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