(Co-Authored with Steven A. Cavaleri)
Enhancing problem seeking, recognition, and formulation alone, will move an organization some way toward the Open PSP. But enhancing developing new solutions is equally necessary to get there. There are two important stages in developing new solutions: 1) coming up with new ideas; and 2) evaluating them before communicating them to others as surviving knowledge and implementing them.
Coming up with New Ideas
There is no methodology that can guarantee producing both new and “good” ideas (i.e. ones that merit seriously evaluating them in comparison to their competitors), but there are things we can do to make their production more likely. Let’s consider the resources available when we need to come up with new ideas. First, there’s the world outside the enterprise and its various sources of information. We can acquire information helpful to us using a variety of methods that everyone is familiar with, including both interpersonal and technological methods, among the most recent being Internet searching and browsing, and “Web 2.0” tools. The extent and quality of our access to external interpersonal networks, and cultural knowledge stores, influences our ability to come up with new ideas.
Second, there’s also “our” previous knowledge, including
– our mental models, and
– the cultural knowledge we find in enterprise media, databases, and content stores.
All new knowledge we create, or discover, somehow leverages previous mental knowledge formed, in part, through interacting with cultural knowledge. However original our thinking, we always have some presuppositions. We always leverage something old in making something new. Our ability to create new ideas is based in part on the extent and quality of our access to cultural knowledge and also on the extent and quality of our ability to remember previous mental models. In addition, it is based on our ability to participate in social networks, communities, and collectives that allow us to participate in and contribute to the social aspects of the process of coming up with new ideas. The first of these is based, in turn, on the degree of transparency in our organizations, and while the second, ability to remember, is, in part, biological; it is also, in part, a skill that can be learned and taught. The third is based, in great part, on the degree of inclusiveness characterizing the networks, communities, and other collectives we wish to participate in.
Third, we also use inputs from other individuals, groups, communities, teams, and other organizational structures generating knowledge claims. How good we are at coming up with new ideas depends, in part, on the social networks in which we’re embedded and on the information that we can retrieve from our networks, or that is broadcast to us, or shared with us by our families, friends, communities, teams, and organizations. But our ability to participate in networks, and in collective problem solving efforts is based, once again, on the extent of inclusiveness in our organizations and also on the extent of interpersonal trust existing in these networks.
And fourth, we have our own mind and its ability to create ideas and models. This ability and our acts of creation are influenced by our brain functioning and also by our social, cultural, and ecological environments. We can do things to increase our ability to create new ideas. But, our ideas are not reducible to some combination of the foregoing factors. There is a creative element, something “emergent”, which we, as living systems, produce, which is beyond our ability to predict and control.
Looking at these four categories, we can see that to discuss all the important things we can do to enhance the process of coming up with new ideas by implementing measures in each of these four categories needs a lengthy work. Here, however, is a list emphasizing a few very important ways of enhancing this process. These include:
– implementing policy allowing knowledge workers to access Web 2.0, 3.0, and future generations of web technology for interactions with others outside the firewall;
–introducing a comprehensive organizational support system for openness to new ideas;
– constructing “knowledge bases” that actually distinguish knowledge from information; and
– implementing training in using social technologies, and implementing IT applications that enhance the capabilities of individuals to create new ideas.
Here are some amplifying comments expanding on this list.
First, organizations should implement a policy of continuing to acquire both advancing search technology and new applications in 2.0 and 3.0 technology. There’s a debate right now about whether Enterprise 2.0 technology is really “productive,” or wastes the time of knowledge workers. For us, however, bringing social computing and social software into the enterprise is purely a “no-brainer.” It’s not a question of direct productivity. That aspect of things has to do with the Operational Pattern (OP). But Enterprise 2.0 and the coming later generations of social software are about “exception handling,” and problem solving. That is, they enhance virtual connectivity in organizations and carry with them the potential to both draw on the learning of others, and also to enhance one’s own learning provided that the patterns of connectivity are open. Social software is about the PSP more than it is about the OP, and any organization that doesn’t commit to these technological advances will soon find the effectiveness of their PSPs lagging behind those of organizations that have introduced these newer applications.
To Be Continued