Innovation Knowledge Management for Creative Teams

knowledge management tools software for SME SMBMany innovation and creative teams have learned the value of light-weight, often stand-alone, knowledge management (KM) tools and software.  The nature of creative teams, in that many are small and medium sized businesses (SMBs or SMEs) or functional teams within larger businesses and enterprises, means that they are not likely to implement KM systematically, but rather use a flexible approach to, selecting the right knowledge management (KM) tool to meet their needs at that moment in time.

Innovation teams (from R&D, architecture, design and engineering) rely on internal, often proprietary, information.  This information may include process document, product specifications, innovation inventory, past projects, technical files, completed engineering modules for reuse and more.  Although many creative innovation teams have implemented knowledge management (KM) systems, KM, and the value it provides creative teams, is not widely understood.  This is in large part because until recently KM tools and software have been developed almost exclusively for large, enterprise, organizations.  Enterprise KM systems, from companies such as IBM, Oracle and SAP, are expensive, have layers upon layers of functionality, are complex, may require years to implement and dedicated IT teams to manage.

Many innovation and creative teams have learned the value of light-weight, often stand-alone, knowledge management (KM) tools and software.  The nature of creative teams, in that many are small and medium sized businesses (SMBs or SMEs) or functional teams within larger businesses and enterprises, means that they are not likely to implement KM systematically, but rather use a flexible approach to, selecting the right knowledge management (KM) tool to meet their needs at that moment in time.[1] There is a growing interest in KM amongst new product development as the value of KM is published through the R&D and innovation industry through organizations such as PDMA, RDinsights and others.  By utilizing a cloud-based, platform independent, knowledge management tool, such as InnoAnalytics, creative teams can quickly, and at low cost, add to their top and bottom lines, reduce cycle times, enhance efficiency, make better informed decision and greater use of what they already know. 

The Relationship Between Knowledge and Creativity:

There is an obvious linkage between knowledge and creativity that can be supported with the right KM software tools.  Innovative businesses; architecture, engineering, design and R&D, require a foundation on knowledge, the basic building blocks out of which are constructed new ideas.[2]  Another view regarding the relationship between creativity and knowledge is that more often than not creative breakthroughs are enabled by finding the right information at the right time…selecting knowledge that is appropriate for the challenge at hand.[3]  However, innovation managers will recognize this is not a trivial task, is that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”. [4]  The need to research, understand, evaluate and collect information, even corporate internal knowledge, is within the context of employees who are under increasing time-constraints.  Creative, R&D, new product development (NPD) and innovation teams are continually challenged to demonstrate improved efficiency, reduced time to market and greater innovation insights.  The time required to manually gain critical knowledge is too often sacrificed resulting in less thorough concepts, unseen gaps and missed opportunities.

Knowledge Management for Creative Teams:

Knowledge management (KM) comprises all the tools and practices used by an organization to  identify, capture, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of information, insights and experiences.

KM is not a new concept.  It’s definition includes on-the-job discussions, formal apprenticeship, discussion forums, corporate libraries, professional training and mentoring programs. However, the growth of corporate knowledge management databases, intranets, and cloud-based software applications have accelerated the adoption of knowledge management tools as a component of business technology strategy.

Used by creative teams, KM systems provide an archive of important files and documents that can be easily updated and amended with new information. This ‘living database’ of knowledge, often facilitated by cloud-based applications, is the repository “book of knowledge”.  Creative teams utilize the “book on knowledge” KM tool as the first resource when initiating a new project.  It contains all the team’s past experience, deliverables from consultants, designs and concepts that can be repurposed, developed or evolved to address a new challenge.   KM is also the last tool creative teams utilize at the conclusion of a project. By capturing and disseminating project deliverables, learning, test results and their associated documents and files, creative teams create a knowledge base they can use multiple times without additional costs.  KM efforts by creative teams overlap with organizational learning and the recognition that knowledge, ie core competencies, are strategic assets that deliver greater value to the company as they are disseminated throughout the organization.  Utilizing a KM system for innovation reduces time to market, reduces the cost of creating new innovations and reduces the inherent risk of new product concepts.

How Knowledge Management Works in Creative Teams:

KM, wether it be an informal or structured software system has a positive impact through the entire innovation process stages includes:

  1. Information on market trends and consumer behavior (Voice of the Customer)
  2. Results from previous, similar, projects
  3. Relevant articles from the trade, general media and blogs
  4. Competitive products, cataloged and assessed.
  5. Project deliverables from suppliers, designers and consultants that can be applied to the new challenge
  6. Stimuli and inspirational ideas, pictures and concepts from internal and competitor creative teams
  7. References to best practices
  8. Standards documentation and project briefs
  9. Ongoing commentary, analysis and new information to continually improve ideas

Understanding if a KM System is Right For Your Company:

It is widely acknowledge that the strategic element of KM is essential for successful KM implementation in any organization[5][6].  However, even though studies have concluded that creative teams, as they are typically SMBs or SMEs generally have many instruments and activities relating KM.  However, these same studies acknowledged the lack of a systematic approach to KM at both strategic and tactical levels.[7] 

Most creative teams recognize the value of knowledge and allocate resources to KM activities but do this implicitly and intuitively, rather than in a formalized manner.  Creative teams use a flexible approach to KM, selecting those activities that they perceive as imperative at a particular moment in time.  This may be due to finance and resource constraints.  Nevertheless, creative teams could be termed as opportunistic users of KM rather than systematic and formal ones.[8]

This opportunistic approach to KM has, until recently, made the purchase of expensive, integrated, multi-faceted KM systems unattractive to creative teams and creative teams an unattractive market for KM system developers.  With the growth of cloud computing, new KM applications have been launched targeted specifically at the needs of the creative market.  These KM systems are unique and separate from digital asset management, CAD workflow systems and artwork management and approval tools.  Knowledge management tools for creative teams – the process of accessing, absorbing and converting knowledge into commercial products and services – can be a low-cost, high-return tool to help small and medium sized companies and functional teams achieve their innovation and project management goals.

Choosing a Knowledge Management Tool for a Creative Teams:

Implementing a focused stand-alone knowledge management system for a creative team can be an easy task that does not require much, if any, disruption from ongoing activities.  Choosing the right KM tool plays an important role the value that can be extracted from the purchase and it’s positive impact on the organization and processes. No less important than the technical features are human considerations motivating people to contribute, manage and share knowledge. Throughout the life of a knowledge management project, leadership needs to constantly emphasize the quality and value of knowledge management. Workers must learn to collaborate and contributors and users of the knowledge management system need incentives to encourage these activities and keep the system vital.

Most organizations that have made this kind of investment in knowledge management realize tangible results. By utilizing a cloud-based, platform independent, knowledge management tool, such as InnoAnalytics, creative teams can quickly and cheaply add to their top and bottom lines through faster cycle times, enhanced efficiency, better decision making and greater use of tested solutions.

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[1] Bashir, Irfan. Baptista, Jose Miguel. Nigel, Russel. Investigating the Use of Knowledge Management to Support Innovation in UK Energy SMEs: A Questionnaire Survey. The  Proceedings of the 7th European Conference on Knowledge Management (ECKM 2006)

[2] Weisberg R. W. (1999) Creativity and knowledge: A challenge to theories. In R. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 226-250), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[3] Mumford, M. (2000). ‘Managing creative people: strategies and tactics for innovation’. Human Resource, Management Review 10 (3) 313-351.

[4] Simon, H. (1997). “Designing organizations for an information-rich world.” In D. M. Lamberton (ed.), The Economics of Communication and Information: 187-203. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

[5] Zack, M. H., “Developing a Knowledge Strategy”, California Management Review, Vol. 41, No. 3, Spring, 1999, pp. 125-145

[6] Drew, S. (1999) Building Knowledge Management into Strategy: Making Sense of a New Perspective, Long Range Planning, Vol 32, No. 1, pp 130-136.

[7] R.P. uit Beijerse, (2000) “Knowledge management in small and medium-sized companies: knowledge management for entrepreneurs”, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 4 Iss: 2, pp.162 – 179

[8] Feher, Peter Dr., Proceedings of the 7th European Conference on Knowledge Management (ECKM 2006)

 

 

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