K Street Newsletter :: Directions

February 2018    |    VOLUME 16, ISSUE 2

The Creative Brain

A new study from the National Academy of Sciences suggests that creativity has a physical manifestation, in that the brains of more creative people process information in different ways. The study took a group of 160 volunteers, monitored their brains with MRI machines, and asked them to think of creative uses for various common objects including a brick, a knife and some rope. The brains of the more creative subjects showed a distinct pattern of activity that involved three different brain networks, known as the default mode network, the salience network and the executive control network. The more creative subjects also demonstrated what the study called "flexibility of thought,” which let some people avoid the rigidity that most brains exhibit when faced with a creative challenge.

The researchers were also able to review brain scans from earlier studies and found they could predict levels of creativity based on the interaction between those three brain networks. The study doesn't indicate whether creativity could be enhanced through training and practice, but the results are interesting. It does undercut the idea that creativity is related to whether people are left-brained or right-brained, since it appears to involve multiple brain areas across both hemispheres. Creativity is complex.

 

The Up Side of Silos

Organizational silos are almost universally criticized as a barrier to peak efficiency. They inhibit communication, invite redundancy and can lead an organization to work against its strategic interests. Workers hunker down and focus only on their own team, department or functional role, so they lose sight of the big picture. Given these obvious shortcomings, it may seem surprising that so many companies still struggle with a silo mentality. However, silos also deliver certain benefits.

This article notes that as long as they're not too opaque, the right kind of silos can add value. They can help a company develop industry experts by concentrating functional knowledge. That's good for the business, and can also raise a company's profile if the experts participate in industry events. Silos can help build customer relationships, letting workers develop the kind of intimate understanding that comes from deep immersion in the client's business. The key is striking the right balance, so your company runs smoothly overall, with silo-oriented structures where they make sense.

 

 

Street Smarts 172: Build trust.

Since the earliest days of Knowledge Management, practitioners have understood the importance of trust in knowledge sharing. People won't use a knowledge repository unless they believe the information stored there is accurate and up to date. And they won't contribute to knowledge communities unless they believe they'll be given credit in a fair and equitable way. That's why it's so hard to scale KM programs and make them work across a large enterprise. People are much more likely to trust folks they know and recognize as members of their tribe. Trusting the unknown stranger is more of a challenge, and the lack of trust can be a deal-breaker.

Trust is also an important element for any work team, particularly if the team is virtual. If you notice that members of your team seem uninterested in their teammates or are negative about the contributions of other team members, it's something you need to address. A good start is to hold regular face-to-face meetings, even if some of the team has to join via video conferencing. It's important for team members to look into each others' eyes. They need to feel empowered to make decisions and act on them, and the team leader needs to model and reinforce positive behavior. For more tips on succeeding with a virtual team, take a look at this article at business2community.com.
 

 

Making Movies, On Location

Companies have long recognized that a lot of organizational know-how can be found in the heads of front-line workers. Finding ways to mine and leverage that knowledge is a significant undertaking. There have been some famous successes, credited with dramatic improvements in downtime, increased productivity and millions of dollars in savings. Despite such examples, most companies tend to focus their knowledge-sharing and collaboration efforts on managers and more traditional knowledge workers, considering the insights of field personnel outside their scope.

However, the proliferation of smartphones offers a new way to address that know-how, from both a capture and retrieval perspective. Smartphones are the vehicle of choice for most communications today, and some companies are embracing them as a data collection and storytelling technology. The cost is minimal, since the tools are already in the hands of most employees. We know that most people prefer visual media to text, and there are things that can be captured in a picture or a video which would be very hard to describe in any other way. What companies need to do is provide real-time sharing tools as well as guidance about the right kinds of things to share. Facebook's Workplace is an option (see next article) as is Microsoft's Yammer. Either one could be deployed for secure communications to bring front-line knowledge inside an organization.

 

Facebook's Workplace

When it comes to increasing workplace collaboration, the "Facebook for Business" platform may be something to consider, particularly for companies that don't have the resources (or the patience) to design and deploy a custom platform. It's also true that since so many people are familiar with Facebook, there's likely to be less of a learning curve. Facebook claims that more than 30,000 companies are using its Workplace to improve employee communication and increase productivity. It's like a supercharged company intranet that's designed for ease of use.

Like the consumer version, Workplace is built around a News Feed, but users can also set up video calls or send instant messages via Work Chat. Project or department based groups can facilitate collaboration, and integrations with business applications let users share presentations, files and images while making live edits to documents. It's a viable option for small businesses, and is available in a free standard offering with limited functionality or a Workplace Premium version for $3.00 per active user (users are considered active if they log in during a 30-day period). Workplace Premium is also free for non-proft and educational organizations.

 

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