Us­ing Brain­storm­ing as KM Tool

Insurance - - CONTENTS - by Dr Ida Yasin Se­nior Man­ager Malaysia Pro­duc­tiv­ity Cor­po­ra­tion (MPC) The au­thor can be con­tacted at ida@mpc.gov.my

To­day, whether we are in a de­vel­oped or a de­vel­op­ing coun­try, we are not ex­cluded from tacit knowl­edge. Knowl­edge econ­omy is an in­te­gral part of our busi­ness world. Dr Ida Yasin ex­plains more con­cretely what this means for a firm’s com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in knowl­edge cre­ation. She em­pha­sises the sig­nif­i­cance of busi­nesses be­ing a part of the knowl­edge econ­omy which points to­wards the need for strate­gic and op­er­a­tional de­vices to en­hance a busi­ness’s com­pet­i­tive edge and growth.

The use of knowl­edge man­age­ment (KM) is not re­stricted to large com­pa­nies or firms whose busi­ness is knowl­edge. Nowa­days al­most ev­ery firm in the in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries is part of the so-called “knowl­edge econ­omy.” More con­cretely this means that a firm’s com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage is mainly based on knowl­edge cre­ation and that a firm works with knowl­edge as­sets and em­ploys knowl­edge work­ers. Be­ing part of the knowl­edge econ­omy raises the need for strate­gic and op­er­a­tional de­vices to or­gan­ise a firm’s main pro­duc­tion fac­tor, knowl­edge, and thus, to im­ple­ment op­er­a­tional tools to man­age its knowl­edge base. Th­ese KM tools are not only a way to or­gan­ise knowl­edge but also to en­able a firm to im­prove its com­pet­i­tive­ness.

Knowl­edge may be di­vided into two dis­tinct types, de­pend­ing on how much it can be struc­tured and cod­i­fied. Ex­plicit knowl­edge is ex­pressed in for­mal lan­guage, words, sym­bols and num­bers, and can be stored in a data­base that al­lows the data to be trans­mit­ted, con­ven­tion­ally and eas­ily, within the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Tacit knowl­edge, which is dif­fi­cult to ex­press in for­mal lan­guage, comes from ex­pe­ri­ence, per­cep­tions and in­di­vid­ual val­ues and de­pends on the con­text in which it is gen­er­ated. Th­ese char­ac­ter­is­tics make tacit knowl­edge a source of sus­tain­able com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. How­ever, th­ese same char­ac­ter­is­tics hin­der the dis­sem­i­na­tion of tacit knowl­edge within the com­pany. Thus, for it to be­come an ef­fec­tive source of sus­tain­able com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, it is es­sen­tial that tacit knowl­edge be trans­fer­able within the com­pany. Con­se­quently, com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly in­ten­si­fy­ing their search for ways to trans­fer knowl­edge among their em­ploy­ees and pre­vent the loss of or­gan­i­sa­tional knowl­edge. There are var­i­ous tools and tech­niques to gain a ‘quick win’ within the or­gan­i­sa­tion im­ple­ment­ing KM. Al­though this is a very good prac­ti­cal start, re­mem­ber that KM meth­ods and tools have been de­vel­oped pri­mar­ily to bet­ter sup­port key busi­ness pro­cesses and busi­ness projects. The Asian Pro­duc­tiv­ity Or­ga­ni­za­tion in its pub­li­ca­tion ti­tled Knowl­edge Man­age­ment Tools and Tech­niques Man­ual sug­gested that the tools to be clas­si­fied into two cat­e­gories namely, Non-IT tools and IT Tools.

Non–IT Meth­ods and Tools:

• Brain­storm­ing

• Learn­ing and Idea Cap­ture

• Peer As­sist

• Learn­ing Re­views

• Af­ter Ac­tion Re­view

• Sto­ry­telling

• Col­lab­o­ra­tive Phys­i­cal Workspace • APO Knowl­edge Man­age­ment As­sess­ment Tool

• Knowl­edge Café

• Com­mu­nity of Prac­tice

• Tax­on­omy

IT Meth­ods and Tools:

• Doc­u­ment Li­braries lead­ing to a Doc­u­ment Man­age­ment Sys­tem

• Knowl­edge Bases (Wikis, etc.)

• Blogs

• So­cial Net­work Ser­vices

• Voice and Voice-over-In­ter­net Pro­to­col (VOIP)

• Ad­vanced Search Tools

• Build­ing Knowl­edge Clus­ters

• Ex­pert Lo­ca­tor

• Col­lab­o­ra­tive Vir­tual Workspaces

In this ar­ti­cle, we will dis­cuss about the brain­storm­ing tech­nique. Brain­storm­ing is a sim­ple way of help­ing a group of peo­ple to gen­er­ate new and un­usual ideas. The process is ac­tu­ally split into two phrases: di­ver­gence and con­ver­gence. Dur­ing the di­ver­gent phase, ev­ery­one agrees to de­lay their judg­ment. In other words, all ideas will be treated as valid. Dur­ing the con­ver­gent phrase, the par­tic­i­pants use their judg­ment but do so in a 'pos­i­tive' man­ner—that is, they look for what they like about the ideas be­fore find­ing flaws.

Why Use This Tool?

Brain­storm­ing is ap­pro­pri­ate when­ever you need to gen­er­ate a range of op­tions that goes be­yond the im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous set. Ex­am­ples might in­clude:

• All the places one could gain cus­tomer in­sights from,

• Dif­fer­ent ways to learn from com­peti­tors,

• New ways to use emerg­ing in­ter­net tools to sup­port our cus­tomers, and

• Dif­fer­ent ways to re­ward em­ploy­ees for knowl­edge cap­ture.

Brain­storms can be or­gan­ised very quickly and re­quire very lit­tle in the way of ma­te­rial. The in­struc­tions (be­low) de­scribe one method, but the tool is ac­tu­ally very re­silient and the ba­sic prin­ci­ples can be ap­plied in many dif­fer­ent ways.

How to Brain­storm?

1. Agree who will fa­cil­i­tate the ac­tiv­ity.

2. Make sure ev­ery­one is aware of the ba­sic guide­lines (see Guide­lines for Brain­storm­ing).

3. Ide­ally, give ev­ery­one sticky notes and pens so that they can write their ideas down.

4. Write the prob­lem on a flip chart—or piece of pa­per, if you do not have a flip chart—so that ev­ery­one can see it all the time.

5. Ask ev­ery­one if they un­der­stand the prob­lem, and whether there is any­thing that needs clar­i­fi­ca­tion. Deal with any in­for­ma­tion needs, if re­quired.

6. Po­ten­tially, have a group dis­cus­sion about the cri­te­ria that will be used for idea se­lec­tion. 7. Ask ev­ery­one to start writ­ing down their ideas—one idea per sticky note—and hand them to the fa­cil­i­ta­tor, who then sticks them on the flip chart. If there are no sticky notes, ask peo­ple to shout out their ideas—one idea at a time—and the fa­cil­i­ta­tor can write them down. 8. When the group has fi­nally run out of ideas, take the flip chart page(s) and ask the group to:

• Look for du­pli­cates, and com­bine them.

• Vote (by putting dots, tick [check mark], or some other sym­bol) on their favourite X ideas (the num­ber is de­ter­mined by the re­quire­ments of the sit­u­a­tion), based upon the cri­te­ria that were iden­ti­fied in the pre­vi­ous step • Pick the high­est rated ideas and have the group dis­cuss how the ideas would be im­ple­mented— typ­i­cally this in­volves iden­ti­fy­ing the crit­i­cal next steps.

Guide­lines for Brain­storm­ing

Di­ver­gent stage 1. De­fer judg­ment 2. Go for quan­tity 3. Seek wild and un­usual ideas 4. Com­bine and as­so­ci­ate 5. Write ev­ery­thing down Con­ver­gent stage 1. Im­prove ideas as you go 2. Use af­fir­ma­tive judg­ment 3. Be deliberate 4. Seek nov­elty 5. Check with your ob­jec­tives

When to Use Brain­storm­ing (and When Not)

Brain­storm­ing is use­ful when there is a need to gen­er­ate a rel­a­tively large num­ber of op­tions or ideas. It is not ap­pro­pri­ate when a prob­lem is known to have a sin­gle cor­rect so­lu­tion that re­quires care­ful anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine. For ex­am­ple, brain­storm­ing about pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to a math­e­mat­i­cal prob­lem would prob­a­bly be a poor use of time.

Where to Use Brain­storm­ing

Brain­storm­ing can be used in al­most any sit­u­a­tion where a group (con­sist­ing of two or more peo­ple) can find a space to work to­gether. This can be as sim­ple as a shared desk with some blank pieces of pa­per.

…com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly in­ten­si­fy­ing their search for ways to trans­fer knowl­edge among their em­ploy­ees and pre­vent the loss of or­gan­i­sa­tional knowl­edge.

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