Ron Webb of the APQC explores the intersection of Knowledge Management and Innovation in organizations. He asks “Is the way they manage knowledge part of the reason these organizations are so innovative?“. This question is tricky in a way. It is true that organizations that innovate “manage” knowledge better than others that don’t. However, “manage” here would mean clearly understanding what knowledge to borrow and combine and what to forget. This has to happen in different degrees depending on the kind of innovation the organization is pursuing. So, if the goal is to transfer best practices around a six sigma rollout in one of your facilities to another facility(same kind of process) the need to borrow knowldge as it is from point A to point B is more. However, if you are creating a new business that will pursure strategic innovation there is a serious need to balance forgetting and borrowing.
Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble in their book 10 Rules For Strategic Innovators -From Idea To Execution speak about three major challenges that strategic experiments need to address:
1.The Forgetting Challenge
2.The Borrowing Challenge
3.The Learning Challenge
Understanding the forgetting and borrowing challenges is very crucial to organizations that are planning a innovation or best practices transfer program . According to the authors, new businesses attempting strategic innovation need to “forget” the belief systems,mentals models and world views of the core business and at the same time “borrow” its assets(Brand,Customer Relationships etc.,). The structures(new organizational design) that need to be put in place for effective borrowing to happen has to be managed carefully. Too much of borrowing (read transfer of “best practices”) from the core company may kill the new business.To summarize,it is true that effective knowledge management helps in innovation. But remember, to “manage” knowledge is to understand what to borrow and what to forget and continuous learning.(combining new knowledge that is created with borrowed knowledge) depending on the kind of innovation you are pursuing.