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There is a real need to think through the modern engagement platforms we require, both externally with our customers and other stakeholders, and also for our internal needs.

The effectiveness of our management to win the hearts and minds of our workforce is getting to a very serious crisis. A global Gallup State of the Global Work Place survey suggests only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs. That is that they are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for the organization they work for on a daily basis. They are even outnumbered by those who are negative and even potentially hostile to the organization at a rate of 2:1. That really staggers me.

If we look around us we can see many dangerous trends of economic stagnation, income inequality, unemployment or underemployment practices and that spectre of corporate autism reducing value-creating investments and very limited focus on any longer-term horizons beyond that particular years result.

These steadily worsening trends - are they a growing reality or can we change these forces that point to decline not growth?

The possible evolving bright spots are emerging

Thankfully some of our organizations are beginning to pick up on co-creation, co-ordinating practices stemming from a need for more open practices and the search well beyond our organizational boundaries. There is increasing acknowledgement on the value of collective wisdom, growing flexibility in discovery and selection, relying on others that can add new knowledge and insights as well as recognizing the match and balance between intrinsic and extrinsic values for motivating are slowly reversing this lack of engagement.

Yet it is a hard uphill battle and until we can combine knowledge (new and old) with increasing the creativity, drawing out pride and emotions and getting everyone on the same page in values, identity and mission, it remains a tough one.

We need to shift from scalable efficiency to scalable learning.

How can we liberate creative energy, how can we achieve higher engagement? The best way is to encourage everyone to have ongoing experience, get caught up in projects and initiatives that have the potential for impact. Learning from failures needs to be part of this.

Yet the very best thing is to encourage connected minds for value creating opportunities and knowledge sharing for innovation to flow across an organization. For this we need to think about some modern engagement platforms that have ’engagement and knowledge’ at their heart.

Let me offer some thoughts on this engagement need.

Firstly and most importantly- Absorptive Capacity really does need greater understanding.

A fair time back two researcher, Cohen and Levinthal (1990) pioneered the concept of absorptive capacity, further defined as the ability of an organization to identify, value, assimilate, and apply new knowledge. Since their 1990 publication, the concept has been further developed and given rise to many thousands of published papers around this subject.

absorptive-capacity

The value of absorptive capacity is that when organizations have some prior knowledge they are more receptive to adding new understandings and new ideas.

Organizations that encourage and set about learning consciously set about the search for new ideas and by having this already established ‘learning’, are far better at recognizing new ideas that might lead to innovation.

These organizations develop deeper understanding of integrating and experimenting this new knowledge and set about placing it in a new setting, concept or hypothesis, to push this knowledge forward into new innovation. They are consciously advancing learning.

This gaining of continuous knowledge encourages constant learning and this has a positive feedback cycle as it builds the capacities and capabilities for future innovation activity. Absorptive capacity, once recognized and established as a system promotes the search for new knowledge that greatly increases the capacity to make the necessary new connections for new innovation to happen.

The ability of our knowledge gathering needs a continuous focus and methodology of approach.

For this to happen, it does need continuous focus. If organizations take the alternative route of wanting to squeeze every last drop out of the existing innovation activity or research department, organizations over time develop as bad learners, they begin to ignore, to assume they have the knowledge and get fixed in their mind sets. They fail to absorb, they tend to reject and increasingly adopt the “not invented here” syndrome. That can only last for a limited time before ‘innovation decay’ sets in, people leave and the knowledge often goes with them also.

We need a system to capture and allow knowledge to flow, and a strong absorptive capacity has three main outputs which result from the flow of external or distributed knowledge: (1) the creation of new innovation; (2) the creation of new knowledge; and (3) that it does lead to new economic and social value. This is why this becomes important to establish and apply.

key-absorptive-capacities

Managing innovation is the ideal home. If we agree that most innovations happen outside often self-imposed boundaries then we have to extend to all our boundaries and beyond. We have to open up.

We certainly understand that today innovation is not confined within the walls of one particular company. The world ‘absorbs’ more innovation than we can turn into greater value but we need to attempt to capture this and see if and where its value might lie. 

This is going to be achieved more likely within a distributed approach, asking everyone to contribute to innovation ideas, and regularly providing them with the content and context that they need to look for.

Absorptive capacities provide us with the system on which we can encourage the gathering, understanding and translation of knowledge. It underpins engagement.

Then we have to align technology with this ‘needing to be engaged’

We work in different modes, we have ad hoc communications, the more process-work-driven collaboration needs and we need to seek out more content-centric collaborations to help us in our work and sense of engagement and worth.

There are plenty of tools out there that need bringing ‘in-house’ as standard service delivery platforms. These include Business Intelligence gathering tools, open access to portals, websites and intranets to acquire, assimilate and transform what we are discovering, we need to establish organization specific collaboration tools, enterprise social networks, encourage the constant feeding and building of content management resources, streamlining workflows, so as to encourage others to explore and build on these insights.

The key though is a uniformed communication strategy for all to appreciate, accept to work on and gain increasing value from it.

Then we need to build this modern engagement platform

What needs to be part of this engagement platform? It needs to have the capacity to ‘listen’ and capture understanding, it needs to deploy some filtering and analytics, it needs to have some inbuilt principles of workflow and BPM.

Then you need to capture the interactions, offer search and discovery services, organize event management and be able to retrace the interaction history.

Then it has to have application connectors, domain-specific apps and value the activity streams to provide a rich user experience of different points within the engagement.

Finally all of this needs to be integrated within the larger organizations processes and be able to be ‘syncing’ capabilities with the more traditional systems of your organization.

So this engagement platform interacts with the world to bring it into your four walls, it engages with other systems that help it in their capturing and dispersing abilities and it simply connects people. Lastly it has to contain interesting work, knowledge or activity.

So are you aware?

So in our need to achieve a greater engagement from everyone within our organizations we need to recognize the importance of having a ‘modern’ engagement platform available.

Do you realize you already have one of those or you could fairly easily obtain it? It presently operates at the ‘fuzzy front end’ of innovation and today we sometimes limit its potential by calling it an idea management system?

I would argue this idea management system should be seen and used as a broader more modern engagement platform that seeks to engage across the whole organization to connect minds for broader value creation and knowledge sharing, a place for scalable learning to take place.

Do you see it that way or limit it down to capturing simply ideas to feed the innovation pipeline?

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Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft

Paul Hobcraft researches and works across innovation, looking to develop novel innovation solutions and frameworks where appropriate. He provides possible answers to many issues associated with innov
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