Enabling Continual Innovation and Change

Article 1, Part 2: Connecting knowledge and innovation

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In article 1 part 1’s blog, we continued the journey exploring how to release collective brilliance within organisations and this next blog article goes further to ‘connect the knowledge and innovation’.

Innovation needs knowledge – often new knowledge – some call knowledge data, or information, or insights. Whichever word you use, the knowledge can be tacit or explicit.

Tacit knowledge has been called personal knowledge and is embedded in what we do, believe in or feel.  It is strongly connected to opinions, intuition and perceptions as well as our experiences, our imagination and the environment we are in. Tacit knowledge is difficult to write down, visualize or transfer from one person to another. It is embodied in the person.

Some examples of tacit knowledge include:
1. learning a language which requires immersion - using the language for long periods of time
2. complex social skills such as leadership, innovation and collaboration are difficult to learn - training cannot guarantee effectiveness in these domains because effectiveness develops from experience
3. snowboarding and other tasks that require physical coordination such as cycling, and skiing are considered tacit knowledge     

The mathematician Dr. Ruth Noller who worked with Albert Einstein and who worked at the Centre for Creative Studies in the USA came up with a helpful equation that connects creativity and knowledge.  The equation is C = fa (K, I, E) and suggests the relationship between knowledge (K), imagination (I), evaluation (E), and “attitude (a)”.

This equation provides a useful framework for how to increase the level of creativity and therefore innovation because, as some scholars and the December 2018 HR Magazine article noted, innovation, creativity, problem-solving and change management are the “same thing, just different words”. They are all “gap-closers” between where we are now and where we want to go; so, to talk about one is to talk about them all.

So, innovation is linked to knowledge, but tacit knowledge is not programmable – not storable in a database – and not in Google! Or put another way, it is hidden and has to be found, surfaced, discovered, unearthed, dug up in a particular moment in a particular context.

In the paper “The role of tacit and explicit knowledge in the workplace” Elizabeth A. Smith suggests that as much as 90% of knowledge in any organisation is tacit - embedded and synthesised in peoples’ heads and therefore most tacit knowledge is an invisible line item in corporate budgets.

Tacit knowledge is a highly underutilised asset when looking for marginal gains. Knowledge lays the foundation for innovation.

Part 3 from Article 1 will be published next and we will look at ‘uncovering hidden knowledge and hidden innovation potential’.

Just in case you missed the previous blog articles, here they are:

Enabling Continual Innovation and Change – Setting the stage

Enabling Continual Innovation and Change - Article 1 Part 1

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