Knowledge is one of the most important resources that organizations possess. However, they don’t always manage it well. Consequently, they lose important organizational capabilities, which can negatively impact business results.
Communication isn’t always effective. We forget things easily. The pace at which we learn is slower than it could be. In the midst of getting bogged down in details, we often lose sight of the big picture. Because of this, we often make suboptimal decisions that undermine one another’s efforts. However, we could do better. It is possible to be more effective, learn, grow and innovate in a more efficient manner.
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Information is overwhelming, but knowledge is barely enough.
Knowledge is the basis and fundamental building block of today’s “knowledge economy”. It is, however, an intangible concept by nature. It is difficult to define and even harder to measure. However, today’s turbulent business environment makes knowledge, this intangible resource, even more valuable than tangible ones like land or property. Nevertheless, poor knowledge management can hurt a business’s bottom line.
We live in an era of extreme information overload. A staggering amount of information surrounds us every moment of our lives. The amount of information available today is growing exponentially. It doubles every nine years, according to expert estimates. In this environment, it is increasingly hard to separate the signal from the noise and turn information into valuable insights. In other words, information is overwhelming, but knowledge is barely enough.
Even with the growing amount of data organizations possess, crafting meaningful experiences for humans beings remains a challenge. In spite of advances in technology and communication, organizations remain disconnected from the people they intend to serve and the people within them. This disconnect is a concrete and tangible problem. It affects organizational performance and hurts business results.
1. The Customer Challenge
- How well do we understand our customers? Do we have real customer knowledge and actionable insights to act on?
- The reality is that many of the products and services we use don’t meet our expectations. As a customer, have you ever felt like “this isn’t what I meant; this isn’t what I expected”?
- We have thousands of data points about our customers. Despite this, we often struggle to understand why customers choose one product over another. Gaining customer insights and turning information into actionable knowledge remains more of an art than a science.
- Building for the mass market is no longer viable. There is no one-size fits all solution. There is no such thing as an “average customer”. People demand uniqueness. Building great products starts with understanding people’s unique needs, wants and desires and building unique experiences for them. Understanding customers as unique human beings and turning insights into actionable customer knowledge is critical in a fast changing word.
2. The Organizational Challenge
- Do we really understand our people? Do we know what drives engagement and cooperation, what enables effective decision making and problem solving? Do we know how to create high-performing teams?
- Organizations claim to know their employees very well. Yet, when it comes to fundamentally understanding how people work, learn, cooperate, innovate and solve problems together, we often have gaps in our understanding. What exactly motivates people to show up at work every day? What are the best ways to build highly effective teams? What can we do to effectively scale our processes?
- As people leave or retire, they take their expertise with them. Every time this happens, organizations become weaker and weaker. Indeed, knowledge is an invaluable resource, and managing it is an essential organizational capability.
- Moreover, research shows that 87% of employees are disengaged at work. All too often, people are merely physically present at work, but their hearts are elsewhere. People who are disengaged stop communicating and sharing knowledge. A low-trust environment makes it difficult for employees to learn from each other and build organizational capabilities. The job of every leader is to be responsive to people’s needs and motivations. To foster learning and cooperation, leaders need to create a safe environment where people can freely express their ideas without fear of judgement.
3. The Alignment Challenge
Do we have a reliable system in place that can produce the same results every time? Does our business work consistently and predictably? Can our business give our customers what they want, every single time? Do we have alignment and shared understanding across all parts of our organization? Does everyone understand what we’re trying to accomplish? Is there a convergence between our short-term and long-term goals? Can we scale our systems effectively? Can our organizational objectives be aligned with societal values? Does our daily work fit into a broader context?
- Creating alignment between how individual minds work, how teams and communities work and aligning organizational goals with larger, societal objectives can be extremely difficult. Sometimes it seems as if these three systems are separate universes. Over the past few decades, we’ve gained a deeper understanding of how human systems work. Still, why is it so challenging for people, teams, and organizations to unite around a common goal? Why can’t we predict change and foresee its outcomes ? Knowledge creation, decision making, and problem solving are still mysterious processes within organizations. Why is this so? What causes organizations and businesses to “forget” what made them successful in the first place? Some outstanding organizations can answer these questions, but many fail to understand how these fundamental processes work.
- A lack of alignment and shared understanding can lead to people pulling in different directions, undermining each other’s efforts. We misalign incentives. We optimize for the short-term, neglecting the long-term. We optimize for subsystems, neglecting the whole. With the world becoming more complex and interconnected, organizations that create better alignment between their systems will take the lead.
A Case for Creating a More Responsive Organization
The better we understand people, teams, and human systems, the more robust our businesses will be. Creating an effective learning organization requires a more human-centered approach to management.
Knowledge creation is an inherently human activity. It is impossible to manage the ever-growing body of knowledge without understanding how humans work, cooperate, learn, create, and innovate. Learning is at the core of problem solving, decision making and innovation. Creating environments that enable fast-learning and boost cooperation is essential for organizations wanting to succeed in a fast-changing, turbulent business environment.
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