I’m looking forward to seeing the Olympic Torch Relay tomorrow as it makes its way through Newbury, Berkshire http://www.london2012.com/torch-relay/route/. The event is all the more significant as last week I was teaching Knowledge Management to MBA students at Athens University http://www.imba.aueb.gr/ and, whilst in Athens, had the opportunity to visit the Pan-Athenian (white marble) stadium; home to the modern revival of the Olympic Games in 1896 http://www.olympic.org/athens-1896-summer-olympics.
There have been many changes to the Olympic Games over the past 100 years or so (from the way it is run, to sponsorship, to the events themselves, to the improved performance of athletes), and this period has also seen significant changes in the way in which businesses and organisations operate. One aspect common to the Olympic Games and businesses/organisations over the past 100 years has been the need to innovate and to share and transfer knowledge for continuous improvement.
Those old enough to remember Dick Fosbury http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Fosbury will recall the innovative method he applied to clearing the high jump with his ‘Fosbury Flop’ – a technique which quickly gained adoption by others. I guess that anyone watching the high jump at the Olympics this year who was born within the last 40 years might assume that ‘the flop’ has always been the way the high jump has been jumped – and know little, if anything, about previous methods e.g. the scissors, the Eastern cut-off, the Western roll, or the straddle.
However, it is important to recall, learn from, and build on the past (experience and learning) to inform the future; and this is where I return to my theme of the Olympic Torch Relay. The important word here is ‘relay’. Many Knowledge Managers will use the analogy of a relay race to tell a story about the importance of sharing and transferring knowledge. They might describe this (and their approach) in terms of ‘handover notes’ or ‘baton passing’ – the latter an approach invented by Victor Newman, former Chief Learning Officer, European Pfizer Research University http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/id/victor-newman. And their story might also include the example of a relay team (we won’t mention which one) that dropped the baton – and use this as an example of knowledge getting stuck, misplaced or lost.
Knowledge Managers will also be thinking how they can use the ‘Fosbury Flop’ story to highlight the need for innovation in their organisations and to understand how better/improved approaches to resolving problems (in this case how to jump higher) become adopted and then embedded as ‘the normal way we do things around here’.
So, as I watch the Olympic Torch Relay tomorrow, whilst one part of me will be enjoying the occasion and a sense of community spirit, another part will be reminded of the various methods businesses/organisations use to ensure that they learn from the past, are innovative, and actively share and transfer knowledge for continuous improvement.
I’ll also be hoping that no-one drops the (torch) baton, or that the rain puts out the flame!