Short Narratives Illustrating Knowledge Maturing

As part of the Interview study, MATURE has collected narratives that illustrate attitudes towards knowledge maturing, specific problems and challenges and the responses to that:

How to respond to heavy regulation - a Medical Engineering Company

A medical engineering company, which is the market leader in its market segment, has the problem that the medical engineering field is highly regulated, particularly if you are addressing the U.S. market (FDA certification). These certification processes are usually very cost-intensive (> 1 mio euro) and take 1-2 years, sometimes even longer. This certification involves fixing the whole production and QA process. This leads to problems with implementations of innovations (high cost of recertification) so that they frequently have to produce with old machines with have significantly lower efficiency. To stay competetive, they have installed an incentive programme for employees in which they get 10% of all the savings of a new idea. Ideas which do not translate directly into savings are further rewarded with an additional budget. Furthermore, they have a high budget for a "rapid response" team that can create prototypes based on customer ideas within a few days.

Missing community phase - an Energy Provider Company

A large German energy provider has implemented a continuous improvement programme. Employees are asked to put new ideas into a idea management system in a structured description format. In terms of the knowledge maturing phase model, they do not have a community phase and do not feel the necessity for such a phase. However, they experience that as part of this process way too many ideas are generated, which are frequently of little use to the company (too trivial).

Essentials are missing - an Education Center

An education centre in Greece is heavily depended on each others ideas and therefore many communication is needed. This communication is neither supported nor even welcome. But also, teaching has to be done in the winter without any heating. Additionally, payment has been delayed for almost eleven months. In this atmosphere there is no intention to share any information.

Formalistic culture without any willingness for change - a Construction Company

Example for ill maturing at a large German construction company: The processes of formalising and standardising ideas are carried out by a small number of persons only, being designated work tasks as part of their roles within the company. However, new technologies are heavily blocked and even censored. Electronic mails are printed and filed as hardcopies. There is a hostile attitude towards new ideas and their distribution in communities. Communication does only take place as a top-down action whereas proactive communication across departments or in a bottom-up manner is neither desired by the management nor part of the company's culture. It is questionable if such an attitude leads to success, particularly in the case of a change in management with people who are familiar with new technologies. However, the company flourishes and there is no urge for a change as the formalising and standardising of knowledge is well supported by the management.

Communicating and Convincing as a Successful Approach - an IT Company

The large IT company has been on the market only for about a dozen years but is highly successful and considered by many as one of the most innovative IT companies of its size. Employees who are willing to elaborate on one of their ideas need to convince their peers that this idea is worth pursuing. Thus, appropriation means self-commitment in this field but can only be maintained if others are willing to join in. After a determined period of time, e.g. a quarter of a year, the results are revisited and it is decided whether efforts are continued or discontinued. Corporate culture and management policies request for over-communication, i.e. employees are encouraged to communicate whatever feedback on ideas they have got rather to more than to fewer peers. This system brings with it, that employees constantly need to be engaged in cycles of appropriation, convincing and revisiting ideas which are naturally turned into projects that attract as many resources as people are convinced.

Blue collar vs. white collar culture - Heavy industries

The company is a large and traditional manufacturer that follows a quality leader strategy which was highly successful and currently undergoes the usual woes of the financial crisis having turned into an industry crisis. The company boasts longstanding experiences with personnel development and specific knowledge management programs tailored on the one hand to white-collar workers and on the other hand to blue-collar workers. One specific highly successful measure is the way in which process innovations are committed on by all affected parties. The production as well as the maintenance teams are shift workers which means that they can never all meet synchronously. In order to commit on a suggestion for improvement made by one shift, the idea is laid out and documented on a physical blackboard and feedback as well as voting is requested and provided by the other three shifts. If all of the shifts agree and therefore mark it on the blackboard, the initiating shift is authorized to start implementing it. Ideas are never considered individual with blue-collar workers but always associated with teams. This is in sharp contrast to white-collar workers in the very same company where a highly individualized culture prevails so that ideas can always be traced back to individuals. 

Supporting creativity - a Knowledge management Company

Innovation management is the most important economic factor of this enterprise and consequently the emphasis is on the first three maturing phases. The organisation takes care of appropriate conditions suggested by creativity research to facilitate and encourage the expression and communication of ideas. Much attention is paid to the dialogue and thus processes involved in appropriating and distributing ideas can't be separated from each other. Since - in this organization - knowledge maturing means collectively developing methods for the emergence of new ideas, phases III to V mainly concern the documentation and dissemination of schemes conductive to creativity. One example of a learning process resulting in standardizing beard on the participation of the enterprise in a project aiming at analyzing and developing creativity-methods for knowledge workers. An essential and final result was the implementation of insights in the form of a software supporting innovation by guiding a user through a creativity process. The software has proved to be a useful creativity tool and is both the outcome of a maturing process and an established instrument of the enterprise for expressing new ideas.

Incentives for knowledge maturing - a Hardware and software company

Hardware and software company was founded 20 years ago and has 500 employees. They didn't know how could the manufacturer of equipment ensure that its technical support agents knew enough about newly acquired technology to provide quick and accurate answers to customers on the phone? And how could bring new agents up to speed on all the company's products? Technical support agents are more than 40 engineers scattered in a call center field approximately 1000 questions every month about the company's products. Before the acquisitions, agents had relied on Tactics On-line, an extranet where they and customers could search for frequently asked questions and text documents. As new agents and products joined the company's ranks, They wanted to supplement the website with a more comprehensive knowledge management system. At the same time, they wanted to streamline its customer service organization by making more of its product and systems information available directly to customers and shortening the length of customer calls. "We wanted to leverage the Web for customer self-service versus increasing the number of agents," Breit says. "We also wanted to provide our frontline engineers [who interact directly with customers] with more information more quickly so that they could resolve more calls faster." When they began evaluating knowledge management technologies a few years back, the concept of sharing knowledge among agents was nothing new. Agents were already accustomed to working in teams of three or four people, gathering in meeting rooms to solve customers' technical issues. They actually provided a percentage of agents' quarterly bonuses on the amount of knowledge they submitted to the online tactics as well as their involvement with mentoring and training other agents. "Each agent was expected to teach two training classes and write at least 10 FAQs to earn their full bonus.

Rewards, but no feedback - Manufacturer of rubber and plastic products

A swiss manufacturer of rubber and plastic products fosters his employees to continuous contribute any idea they have and motivates the employees by making a competition out of it. The three best ideas which have been implemented have been rewarded with remarkable prices (as an additional week of holiday). This first step of expressing ideas can be mapped to the phase 1a. The ideas have been presented and clarified to the team leader, which seems to fit to the phase 1b, appropriating ideas. 

What was disappointing for the interviewed person is that it was not clear how the ideas where further developed. But he liked that the choosen ideas have been implemented in a fast and straightforward way; and anyone who contributed an idea got a small reward. At the end (phase 5, standardization) of a certain phase it has been announced who won the competition and which ideas where developed. The enterprise doesn't use any tool visible for the employee in order to mature an idea up to the standardization.

Management attention as a reward - Manufacturing company (Switzerland)

A Swiss SME manufacturing metal fittings for sliding doors support innovation through management attention. If a new idea is born it is illustrated on a piece of paper (in handwriting and hand painting)that is pinned on a board within the team room. These ideas are discussed within the team and the three best rated ones are introduced to a member of the management during her monthly visit. If an idea is approved by the management is directly put in place (e.g. a part of a process is optimized or a machine is put to another place or is enhanced with a specific supply). This 'innovation process' is handled equally for all ideas no matter whether it is a completely new idea or an enhancement of an already existing solution, and no matter whether it is something complex or something simple. None of these innovations is captured electronically and the only reward for innovation is management attention: a manager visits the team on a regular basis and takes her time to discuss problems, solution and IDEAS. The team with the most ideas put in place is mentioned at the Christmas party.