Two books written for AKRI and which support the work which is done by AKRI.
The two books have the words ‘Thinking about’ as the first two words of their title. This is to encourage any reader to understand that the books are intended to promote thought and the formation of opinion. Both books express ideas and make proposals which have been extensively investigated. Yet these ideas and proposals may or may not fit in with the readers own views. The intention is that after reading the books, the reader has formed a stronger and clearer view concerning their own beliefs about these concepts.
Thinking about Knowledge Learning and Wisdom
The book is written with the understanding that Knowledge and Wisdom are very complex concepts yet ones which are really worth thinking about. The contents of the book ranges from the philosophical to the highly practical. Sometimes, the more widely used words are, the less people know about them and what they actually mean. This book intends to help the reader to sort out this problem, at least for knowledge, learning and wisdom. More details are available here.
Thinking about Innovation
Several investigative projects were carried out in East Lancashire (UK) between 1990 and 2004. A great many people from many organisations contributed to the projects and several useful project outputs were produced. However, the information which the contributors provided was in danger of getting lost. The author (me) decided to organise and then write down these ideas and comments. In addition, the author took a fresh look at the ideas from a new perspective and used them to formulate process and policy for innovation. The book contains a summary of comments and ideas and a description of process and policy.
Why you should read these books
Well, the truth is, you should only read them if you really want to read them.
If I had a need within an organisation to develop innovation, then I might buy and read the book and then try to implement resulting ideas. But I wouldn’t buy this book simply out of curiosity.
However, I would buy the knowledge book out of curiosity. The middle part of it about Knowledge Structure Mapping is very useful if you intend to use it, otherwise it simply supports other ideas from the book. If you have no use for Knowledge Structure Mapping then it's the beginning and end of the book that may appeal more. PLUS, this book is a lot cheaper than the Innovation one.
Thinking about Knowledge Learning and Wisdom
Thinking about Knowledge, Learning and Wisdom is a book which grew between 2004 and 2009. I work with knowledge now and have done for a great many years. It seemed fitting that I should attempt to clear my own head about what I believe knowledge to be, based on what I have found others to say about the topic and on what I think after reviewing the thoughts of others and my own thoughts and experiences in the knowledge domain.
The intention of this book is to discuss the concepts of knowledge, learning and wisdom in such a way as to encourage thought in others and clarify ideas. The book presents clear and reasoned explanations of each concept yet encourages the reader to challenge the views presented and find independent and personal answers.
A well tested method for knowledge study and analysis is also explained. This part of the book is a key feature of it and provides something a little more practical to do about knowledge. The method discussed is one which has been used successfully in many organisations and has delivered a range of benefits. So in some way, it provides its own justification to feature in a book about knowledge.
The main intention of the book however is to address knowledge, learning and wisdom as practical concepts even though they are also truly philosophical ones.
Incidentally, the small image of an elephant which features on the front cover of the book has come from freeclipartnow. Many thanks to the people behind the site for making these images available.
The book contains 15 chapters, approximately 300 pages, a few with images and about 122,000 words. The main sections of the book are listed in the left hand menu. Each page will provide a little more detail about those sections and about the chapters which form them. The ISBN is 978-0-9560632-1-2, it contains a price tag of £14.95 and it is advertised on Amazon.
If you ever read the book and would like to comment on it, please use the email address on the contact page page. Although please do remember that the book is my view, whether you agree with it or not. But I do hope it helps you to build your own view of knowledge learning and wisdom.
Thinking about Innovation
This book will encourage thought about organisational innovation. The primary aim of the work is to help an organisation to improve its performance by realising benefit derived from innovation. Innovation itself is discussed openly and in depth, but the goals of enhanced innovation are clear and unambiguous as are the plans for action that an organisation may derive from experiences of this work.
Chapter 1 – Discussion: What are the benefits of Innovation to an organisation?
The first chapter of this book considers interviews, discussion, meetings, workshops etc held with people who all had a strong interest in innovation from an organisational perspective. The information is presented as discussion rather than evidence, to be agreed with or challenged by the reader. However, within the discussion, there are elements of common agreement that present opinions that seem to be more generally held. Discussion is a useful place to begin a programme of innovation development. There may be many people within an organisation with experience and valid opinion concerning innovation who may help in the design of a programme that could be extremely well suited to a particular organisation. The discussion provided in chapter 1 will make an interesting reference point with which new opinion and experience may be compared. At least the opinion can be considered as it stands and discussed to establish if it will work ‘here’.
The focus of the discussion on innovation is the benefit to the company or organisation. It is not an academically led discussion about theory but a workplace biased discussion about practice. Several of the elements of innovation that become central in later chapters are raised in the early discussion. Certainly the most pronounced element is that of motivation which is itself linked very strongly to environment and culture. For me, the most memorable part of the discussion, certainly the most memorable part of interviews and meetings, are the items which are discussed under the heading of memorable comment. Most if not all of these are simply comments made by or positions taken by individuals within the context of a discussion about innovation. They are memorable because they appear to me at least, to be highly relevant to the practical task of promoting innovation within an organisation. They are also things which can be used to test other views against practicality.
Chapter 2 – Innovation: Definition and core themes
The second and rightly, the largest chapter is chapter 2 with its direct focus on innovation. It may seem odd to have a book about innovation with one chapter out of six, being about innovation. Perhaps the converse is more interesting, that five of the six chapters are focused on something other than innovation. The early part of chapter 2 considers some of the more distant parts of innovation such as memory and attention. In earlier work, these more remote parts were given much more space than they are here because they are so important if people are to really begin to understand innovation. Everyone in organisations seems to want the most efficient delivery of anything that they undertake. So for an innovation policy, maybe a one day training course would be considered useful. I hope after reading this book, the reader will not still think this way. But whatever people think, there are still real pressures to get things done efficiently. The problem with this is often in the way efficiency is measured, not that looking for efficiency is in itself incorrect. If understanding that human memory may be less than perfect and understanding a little more about what it is good at and what it is not so good at, can help to sustain innovation, then it may be worthwhile in the longer term. The more distant parts of innovation may not need to be addressed up front but may be better addressed as an on going part of the promotion and maintenance of the scheme.
Innovation is another of those concepts used within business that is very widely used but very poorly understood, at least from a definition perspective. When people can’t agree on definitions, the argument that it does not really matter what it means as long as we all do it, seems to surface. This argument is often used with Knowledge Management when people can’t really agree what knowledge is. But within an organisation at least, it does matter that everyone has a common understanding of what innovation is and what its goals are etc. To suggest otherwise is surely sowing the seeds of confusion. Even if it is difficult to form a common understanding of the concept, this does not mean that it should be avoided.
Chapter two also discusses the potential innovators and how they are to be developed. This is where motivation features as a core theme within innovation and of the environment for innovation and the culture of the organisation. There is a considerable body of research concerning various aspects of motivation. However, most of the practical discussion focuses on practical things which can be done to help to encourage motivation. After all, whatever is known about the theories, it is the practical and successful ideas which will make a difference to the policy. Like a knowledge of memory and attention however, at least a general understanding of the theories of motivation will probably be of value. Again, just as for the other more distant elements of innovation, this understanding of motivation is something that can be developed during the programme of innovation as part of the effort to improve it. An important section of chapter 2 concerns the most directly relevant part of the discussion, that of having ideas. To show that having ideas is possibly the core theme of innovation and then to neglect to do anything at all about helping people to have ideas, is almost certainly to overlook a significant opportunity.
Chapter 3 – Developing a Process for Innovation: Process, goals and overall direction
The process for innovation addressed in chapter 3 may form the heart of an organisational innovation policy. This is because it provides things to actually do each day, things to measure and test and a general direction. The process and the goals and mission statements can clarify the activities that will be carried out in an innovation scheme. Of the two earlier examples of a policy shown, both had merits but could probably be improved. The new policy, offered as an improvement is an attempt to embody the activities of an innovation programme whilst retaining the brevity needed from a set of guidelines.
Chapter 4 – A Culture of Innovation and Improvement: Organisational environment and culture
Chapter 4 shows that the process can not really be considered effectively without considering the environment for innovation. Rather than environment however, this chapter spends most of its time discussing organisational culture. The justification for this is that the environment relates very closely to the way people behave within it. If people are happy and positive, friendly and constructive, then the environment is likely to look much better than if everyone is miserable, negative, hostile, and destructive. However, chapter 4 does spend some of its time discussing other ways, other than culture, that the environment itself could be made more conducive to innovation. One of the key observations about organisational culture is that changing it is not, definitely not, a short term project. An innovation scheme should not wait for the organisation to first establish the most favourable culture and environment that it possibly can. The innovation project must get under way and the business culture and environment for innovation must be developed in parallel with the innovation scheme.
Chapter 5 – Assessing Innovation: Analysis, evaluation and assessment
It is claimed, at least indirectly, the key to sustaining the innovation policy is probably assessing and evaluating it. Chapter 5 considers the assessment of innovation and discusses two innovation analysers which were developed to assist organisations that were looking to cultivate an innovation policy. The value of assessment and evaluation is that it inevitably leads to the desire for constant improvement; at least it does with the right attitudes or culture in place. The idea of considering innovation as Continuous Improvement, as introduced in the knowledge study project discussed in section 3.1.2, demands that things are measured. If they are not measured, then how is anyone to know when things are improving?
Although the analysers discussed in chapter 4 are actually considered to be very useful, the sort of measurement needed to sustain an innovation process is more focused and based on justifiable data rather than opinion. Opinion is of course valuable, but there needs to be data in this case to drive the innovation process forward. Inevitably, measurements can indicate a focus of activity where it is not really desired. This can be a problem with some objective measuring schemes and therefore needs to be allowed for during the design of the scheme.
Chapter 6 – Managing Innovation and making it Work: Creating, managing and sustaining innovation
The final chapter, chapter 6, takes the information from previous chapters and focuses this towards the goal of creating, managing and sustaining the innovation policy in an organisation. It is not really the intention in chapter 6 to provide a blueprint that organisations can or should use to implement their own innovation policy but it is the intention to provide more concrete ideas to help organisations to design the best policy that they can. In addition, the intention is to show that once an organisation has designed and implemented a policy, that it should then seek to improve it and move it closer to the needs of the organisation. The point that innovation is about change is not lost and means an innovation policy must be able to adapt to changes and even recover from disaster. Wherever the policy finds itself at any particular point, the desire should always be to make it better, more useful to the organisation. Making innovation work means that innovation is making the organisation work.