As a faculty member of Columbia University’s Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) program, I have a variety of duties and responsibilities. One of these is to actively participate in the “residencies,” a twice-yearly physical coming together of the students — many of whom live and work outside New York City, and some of whom are outside the United States. (See the great 2017 cohort below.)
It’s always exhausting, due to the string of 16-hour days and the need, as a faculty member, to always be “on” for advising students. My job consists primarily of counseling student teams who are working on live consulting projects within sponsoring organizations, many of which are large and complex — NASA and the United Nations, for example.
This cycle was especially challenging — and rewarding — as the students had clearly embraced the Knowledge Value Chain model to an extent that had not happened in previous cohorts of the program. This was not only hugely gratifying to me, it was a substantive assist to my work. As students engaged the model on behalf of their clients, many of them also engaged my help in determining how the model could benefit their clients.
While the students were respectful of my time, and even apologetic in some cases, I pointed out that this is how the KVC model grew in the first place — with input from clients and interested friends. And that is how it will continue to grow in the future — so I regard no question or application as off-topic or non-fruitful. It’s all good!
One Columbia team used the KVC to chart their own progress in their consulting project, which lasts a total of eight months. Two key lessons emerged: (1) that the consulting effort itself passes through the essential stages of the KVC — collecting Data, analyzing it, presenting it to management in the form of Intelligence, and (2) that the production of Value from that Intelligence remains solidly in the domain of the client.
The client (the “user” in KVC terms) is uniquely empowered to actually develop value-producing outcomes from the consulting effort: making decisions, allocating resources, and taking actions based on the findings. That said, the consulting team can provide a roadmap by which this knowledge-to-value transformation can optimally be operationalized by their client.
Another team is helping a European scientific research agency improve the speed and value of their innovation process. They used the KVC to discover that the incentives for knowledge production at the micro level — that is, the incentives for each individual subject matter expert within the organization — were not well-aligned with those experts’ actual day-to-day needs and workflow.
Another team is working with a global (and quite sophisticated) consulting firm to develop client-facing knowledge-based service and product offerings. They are interested in including both hard and soft costs and benefits in any ROI model.
I also helped them with the idea of “verticalizing and horizontalizing” their financial benefit/ROI models. That is, knowledge ROI targets should be developed specifically for each industry vertical and for each horizontal type of intervention (e.g., community of practice development, lesson learned capture and curation, etc.) This is primarily because the KPIs and other performance metrics impacted by the effective uses of knowledge will vary across both industry sectors and enterprise functions.
Finally, one student came to me with a hard-copy KVC Handbook that was dog-eared and underlined and/or highlighted in several places on just about every page. It was a mess — a beautiful mess! Though she seemed embarrassed, I was of course delighted — this is a clear sign that she is actively using the book and the constructs that it represents.
Her team is working for a global NGO to fix and empower their “lessons learned” capture and curation process. That process is not providing sufficient macro-value (i.e., value to the enterprise) because it does not provide micro-value (i.e., value to each individual who supplies the system with data on his/her projects) to actually generate a critical mass of reliable data. They are in a downward-spiraling “doom loop” of low-quality/low-usage.
They are using the “value leverage” formula Value = Benefit / Cost to increase the value of this knowledge-producing activity by decreasing its implicit cost — specifically, the time it takes each agency professional to make meaningful contributions to the lessons learned database.
These projects and the resulting stories will continue to unfold through the end of this year. I’ll report here any significant non-NDA’ed developments that you should know about.
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