Using Brainstorming as KM Tool
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:
• Learning and Idea Capture
• Peer Assist
• Learning Reviews
• After Action Review
• Collaborative Physical Workspace • APO Knowledge Management Assessment Tool
• Knowledge Café
• Community of Practice
IT Methods and Tools:
• Document Libraries leading to a Document Management System
• Knowledge Bases (Wikis, etc.)
• 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.