Knowledge Productivity – easing the pain

Insightflow has discussed the importance of Knowledge Productivity and the benefits it offers at length. Our most recent article looked at the differences between information and knowledge, and you can find that by clicking here.

The aim of this article is to look at how organisations support the production of knowledge within their teams, to identify some of the more common barriers and suggest areas to look at that might smooth the process.

What are the barriers?

  • Siloed or lost information and data
  • Failure to share and to collaborate
  • Opaque data
  • Lack of process
  • Lack of leadership & incentives

Our aim is to improve knowledge productivity within a team, an organisation or even inside your own head! Knowledge Productivity is the journey from information to knowledge and the pace at which that occurs. Businesses and organisations need to turn raw data into knowledge. Having an understanding of Knowledge Productivity may help you :

  • Make your own decisions more effectively
  • Help others make their decisions
  • Educate or inform people within or outside your organisation

Speeding up this process can give businesses a competitive advantage in their sector. Cutting the time taken to source information and data, to sort through it to understand what it can tell you, is crucial. The faster you can move from data to creating a compelling story or answer, the greater the advantage. We call this Knowledge Productivity.

Knowledge Productivity makes organisations think more about the way they treat information and data. In isolation, data tells you very little. But by combining different pieces of information from various sources, you can contextualise and recombine that information to produce knowledge. That knowledge can then be acted on or applied to a business situation. Moving away from thinking in terms of pure data, to thinking about how combining data can lead to knowledge is a big step in improving productivity and efficiency.

Siloed or lost data

The first change to workflow should be about discovery. There are several questions to answer:

  • Where does your organisation store its information? 
  • Are there any legacy systems you don’t know about?
  • Who has access to that information?
  • What structures, conventions and taxonomies are in place to organise it?
  • Who has overall responsibility for its upkeep?
  • How easy is it to find?
  • Does everyone know where it is and have access to it?

“Employees spend 1.8 hours every day – 9.3 hours per week, on average – searching and gathering information.” –

McKinsey report, 2021

“All of the information is on the drive.” We’ve all heard it and it never becomes less painful. The availability of cheap hard drives and servers has meant that more information and data than ever before is being stored, and things have only become worse with cloud storage. “We have terabytes of data,” might sound impressive in a corporate brochure or pitch, but information is not knowledge. A full spice rack does not make you a chef.

There are many software offerings on the market which claim to be a solution to this issue, but they are commonly round pegs being forced into square holes. Using general office-style software to filter information which can then be easily searched through, worked and collaborated on by teams and turned into knowledge simply isn’t practical or feasible on many platforms. Equally, a custom-built inhouse suite of tools may be beyond the scope of many organisations.

If these are familiar pain points, then organising the data and information you have more logically, to make it easier to find and re-use, may be a stopgap solution.

Ensuring that your information is held in one, specific place will avoid information pockets appearing throughout the organisation which may contain useful data, but cannot be accessed by other teams. Transferring data from legacy systems should be prioritised to ensure data continuity.

Failure to collaborate

By making sure everyone who needs access is given access, you improve collaboration and therefore speed up processes. By assigning someone to keep that information updated and relevant, you have a storage system which can be used repeatedly and in collaboration with other teams or staff members. 

By establishing processes which allow information to be specifically tagged and stored in a central, known location or platform, it becomes much easier to discover. Creating an in-house taxonomy guide will allow other team members to label data appropriately and make this process more efficient.

By making data handling and access a central part of the on-boarding process, staff will appreciate its importance.

Opaque data

Having a large silo of information is good. Knowing what it is, down to its constituent parts, is considerably better. Insightflow refers to these small pieces of information as Knowledge Atoms. By adding new atoms, you can combine and recombine disparate pieces of information to create knowledge.

A simple directory listing on a drive is rarely useful enough on its own, because file names can be misleading. They can refer to previous projects without hinting at the potentially useful data within, particularly within organisations who capture and store information such as PDF reports without any editing or annotation. A 50-page document may contain countless, useful Knowledge Atoms covering a wide range of subjects, but will be relatively useless on its own, without some sort of curation and taxonomy application. Less opaque data is more usable data.

Organising your data in a searchable, logical format will simplify your future projects. It will also benefit the entire organisation by ensuring that items can be easily found and re-used by others which, in turn, will encourage greater collaboration. 

Regular reviews of the information stored should be undertaken, with named persons within a team, or managers, given responsibility for overseeing the process and the system.

With these relatively simple steps taken, the organisation now has:

  • Greater access to information
  • Reduced time from information to knowledge
  • Faster decision making ability
  • Improved collaboration
  • A resource of information, knowledge and insights than can be applied to other projects

Lack of leadership and incentives

These relatively simple changes in process may take time to institute across a large organisation. The impact they will have on how you and the organisation benefit from the information you hold could be immeasurable. Embracing greater Knowledge Productivity means a faster route to decision making, backed by credible evidence. 

A ten-year study conducted by Bain and Company showed a clear link between decision effectiveness and business performance. The study found that faster decisions and actions led to better performance, while companies which took longer to reach the end of the decision making process fared worse in their sector. Companies who took a more agile approach to decision making introduced timetables, to ensure decisions were actioned as quickly as possible, streamlining the process from question to action dramatically. 

In today’s business environment, few organisations can afford to ignore that.

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