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The application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society.


Innovation is the introduction of something new or different, it does not have to be new as is never before in existence, although that helps, it really just has to be new to your organization or department. For instance, your organization might be able to adopt a process or practice from another industry that practice might be an innovation for your industry or firm, but not new as a concept in the world. The same is true of taking a successful practice from another part of your organization in using it within your division, department, or team.

Another definition of innovation is creating, developing, accessing and rapidly deploying (new) knowledge. This kind of innovation is often developed through research and development activities.

Regardless of the definition of innovation that your organization uses, innovation solves problems and provides new opportunities to fulfill the organization’s mandate.

One of the roles of knowledge management is to connect people to the knowledge they need to do their jobs whether that knowledge is tacit or explicit; innovation is driven through connecting people to this knowledge.

Activities to encourage innovation There are common activities and situations that help to encourage innovation, they include:

  • Processes and events to capture ideas, knowledge, experiences;
  • Supportive atmosphere;
  • Encourage risk taking and experimentation;
  • Promote openness between individuals and teams--share knowledge and experience;
  • Shared responsibility across the organization;
  • Reward innovation and celebrate success;
  • Look for imagination and creativity as well as diversity when recruiting new employees.

Processes and events to capture ideas, knowledge, experiences These are things like after action reviews, lessons learned processes, brainstorming sessions, and peer reviews. They stimulate innovation through the sharing of ideas, knowledge and experiences. When staff learn from others it may fill in the missing piece of the puzzle for them in a problem that they have been facing, thus providing a novel way for them to solve their problem. This new information that proved to be instrumental in solving a specific problem may also provide a new opportunity for the organization to move ahead in its mandate.

Supportive atmosphere This means that management and peers encourage and supports each other in finding new solutions to problems. They may work collaboratively, hold brainstorming sessions, or do other creative problem solving activities to solve problems and they may promote and celebrate new solutions, whether they are new to the department, organization, or industry.

Encourage risk taking and experimentation Encouraging risk-taking and experimentation allows people to try new things, things they may not have tried otherwise. It may be that they have learned something at a course, from reading a book, or from attending a conference that they think may solve a problem or create a new opportunity within their organization.

Promote openness between individuals and teams--share knowledge and experience This open sharing between individuals and teams again encourages the dissemination of knowledge and experiences from one to another, thus providing knowledge and information that may solve a problem or create a new opportunity for someone else.

Shared responsibility across the organization In sharing responsibility across the organization it makes everyone responsible for finding a solution or developing a new opportunity, it is not the responsibility of one department or person.

Reward innovation and celebrate success Rewarding innovation and celebrating success allows the rest of the organization to witness the enthusiasm and support for innovation, for trying new things, and to looking to different industries or areas for solutions and opportunities.

Look for imagination and creativity as well as diversity when recruiting new employees The good education is only one component required for success. Hiring employees for their use of imagination and creativity as well as the diversity is also important. By diversity we mean different age, different educational background, different cultural background, different languages spoken, and different genders, anything that’s different than the average or typical employee. Incorporating this diversity into your workforce brings exposure to different experiences and ways of thinking about problems and opportunities that will be beneficial in the long term to your organization.

Knowledge Management Activities that Support Innovation

Knowledge management activities generally support the sharing and dissemination of knowledge, all of which supports innovation. The knowledge management activities that follow are not the only activities that support innovation, but they are the ones that come up regularly. The following is a brief description of each activity that supports the innovation activities described in the previous section:

Business driven action learning: BDAL is a structured, project-based approach for rapid individual and/or team-based learning over a pre-defined timeframe. The aim of a BDAL Project is to generate creative solutions to significant business challenges and deliver results that meet well-defined, measurable criteria that are set at the start of the exercise.

BDAL is based on Action Learning, which embodies the key principle that people learn best “through doing” because there “can be no action without learning and no learning without action” (Reg Revans). The “business driven” aspect comes from the role that business plays in defining the goal and objectives. BDAL challenges are usually strongly linked to business strategy, and frequently address specific aspects that are difficult to solve, but crucial to success.

Coaching and mentoring: are processes that enable both individuals and groups to achieve their full potential, a more experienced person shares their knowledge and expertise with an individual or group in order to help them reach a goal or objective more quickly.

Communities of practice: Communities of Practice are networks of people who share information, insights, experiences, and tools about a common topic. They help each other, learn together, and ultimately steward the knowledge about a specific topic. They help to share knowledge, expertise, and to improve efficiency and effectiveness. They also create the environment for breakthrough innovation and problem solving.

External assessment and benchmarking: is measuring an organization’s activities against others in its industry and/or against a standard. For example, there are many maturity models and best practices available to assess an organization’s activities. There are also organizations who will prepare benchmark studies of how an organization compares against others in its industry. From these types of assessments and studies it is possible to determine areas which could provide leadership or be improved upon.

Knowledge capture from projects: this is capturing lessons learned from projects. Ideally, these are collected over the lifecycle of the project. This is a process of capturing what worked and what did not work on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or some other periodic, regular basis.

Knowledge exchange: the term used for a meeting where people from several teams come together to share knowledge with several knowledge customers. Several teams provide knowledge, several teams require knowledge. These can be very high-powered creative meetings, often pivotal in the development of an organisation's knowledge.

Knowledge harvesting from individuals: captures reusable documents, processes, and lessons learned from individuals, and requires people to periodically harvest information which has been identified as useful to the organization. This information is stored in a repository for others to use and refer to as they need it.

Lessons learned: Knowledge that results from a post-mortem or after-the-fact analysis of a project, a new technique, or the application of new knowledge; a work practice or experience that is captured and shared to avoid a recurrence or an undesired outcome.

Peer assists: a process for bringing knowledge into a project, or piece of work, at the beginning of the project or piece of work. It is a meeting, where a project team invite a number of people with relevant knowledge and experience, to share their expertise. The invited experts apply out-of-team knowledge to the team’s context. It is one of the easiest and most effective ways of bringing knowledge to the point of need.

Project learning: capturing lessons learned from projects as a matter of routine project activities.

Training: the action of teaching a person a particular skill or type of behavior, this could relate to content, a process, or soft skill (e.g. communication, and facilitation) which enables the person do be more effective or efficient in their role.

Related articles

Peer assist, Peer review, Community of practice, Organizational learning, Training



  1. Harnessing Chaos to Drive Innovation
  2. Art and Innovation at Xerox PARC, paper written by Giulio Iacucci
  3. Art and Innovation, book written by Craig Harris
  4. Chapter written by Stephanie Barnes in Innovation and Tranformation Through Knowledge Management
  5. Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results

External Links

  1. Wikipedia on Innovation
  2. Business Driven Action Learning