Listen to Secretary-General Takenaka of the Asian Productivity Organization:
“The days when incremental or continuous improvement preoccupied corporate managers are over. It is to innovation and breakthroughs that those managers have turned their attention. For achieving innovation, the most relevant tool is no longer quality control or quality management. It is KM in its broadest sense, which includes value creation or knowledge creation that is the most relevant.”
Listen also to the guru of all management gurus Peter F. Drucker:
“…the major task in society – and especially in the economy… [is] doing something different rather than doing better what is already being done.”
Here are some practical techniques to hone your skills in knowledge innovation. Do not just read this. PRACTICE! Set aside one day to PRACTICE each bullet point:
- LISTEN to alternative views on an issue. ASK several people the same question; you will learn different ways to view and think about something.
- Practice more CURIOSITY. Ask stupid questions. Do you recall how you thought and behaved when you visited a foreign country for the first time? Bring that kind of thinking and behavior here and now.
- When something goes wrong, ask why. Ask why again. And again. Dig deeper to discover the ROOT CAUSE. When something goes wrong or did not work well, you can bet an action was performed without correct knowledge about something. Don’t blame the person; he did his best according to what he knew. Instead, discover and supply the missing knowledge.
- Don’t be afraid of criticisms. Go beyond your usual initial emotional reaction and try to better UNDERSTAND the thinking behind the criticism. If you automatically defend yourself when criticized, you will never learn or improve or innovate.
- Even if nothing is going wrong and business is proceeding as usual, ask your internal or external customers: how can we improve our output? Don’t aim to just satisfy her, try to discover how to DELIGHT her.
- If you are allowed by your boss or organization, experiment doing things differently or doing different things. In your personal life, look for how to do the same thing better. More importantly, look for better things to do.
- Visit trade fairs, technology fairs, product fairs, scientific fairs, book fairs, etc. — and let your mind welcome, absorb and enjoy the FLOOD of new ideas. One of those ideas could re-emerge one day or re-combine with your other ideas.
- When your company keeps losing money, it means your company must stop doing something and/or start doing something new. Answering those questions can lead to knowledge innovation.
- Study and learn to apply what are the best practices in your profession; as you copy and apply them, keep asking: what is missing in this “best” practice? What “NEXT practice” is even better? The moment you discover this, you now become the new “best practitioner” and everybody else will copy from you!
- When you hear about a crazy or weird idea, stop and ask yourself: why do I think it is “crazy” or “weird”? It is one of your HIDDEN assumptions or beliefs that is making that judgment! Ask yourself: is my assumption still valid? Hearing about a “crazy” or “weird” idea offers you an opportunity to discover your unconscious LIMITING beliefs.
- Practice DIVERGENT thinking. For example, get a simple and common object like a pencil. A pencil is used for writing. Think of 33 other ways of using a pencil. For another example, get a dictionary. Randomly select a word. Then randomly select a second word. Now try to COMBINE the unlikely two words into a new and useful idea, story, practice or whatever.
- Practice problem FINDING. Wherever you are now, list twelve problems — big or small — you are experiencing. Did you discover a NEW problem you or your office colleagues never noticed? If not, List twelve more. Any NEW problem? Keep going until you find a problem no one had seen before. Voila! The solution to that new problem can be an innovation for your office! Problem finding (NOT problem solving) can lead to innovation.
- Talk to an entrepreneur who had started more than ten successful enterprises. Listen and learn how he looks at things. Watch how his mind works in revising and devising new BUSINESS MODELS and business concepts. He is constantly looking for better things to do. KM is about doing something well, but knowledge innovation is about finding what are better things to do. If you do not check what is the right thing to do, then KM might just be doing well the wrong things!
- Break your routines every now and then. Routine is the ENEMY of innovation. Try eating a new kind of food. Visit a place you have not gone to. Do something new for your spouse or significant other. Perform a “random act of kindness” to a stranger. Don’t allow the resulting initial discomfort to push you back to your usual familiar routine.
- Finally, if people will adopt, copy or use your ideas then it means those ideas are USEFUL. Then you are innovating!