Well, a long time ago......but not a very long time ago, a passionate innovation evangelist wondered whether KM 'disables' innovation. Yours truly was shocked, stunned, concerned, curious and disturbed enough to want to vehemently deny it. Ironically, one of the reasons why this blogger loves KM is because of the potential role it can play in Innovation! You see the thing now? So, I decided to ramble non-stop (politely and smilingly though) in response to the post by the aforementioned person. Not sure whether that had any impact but this morning I found a student from Singapore posing a similar but milder question, in Linked In, on whether KM and Innovation are on the opposite sides of the table. So, I decided to refer back to the post that I'd come across last year and knew I could pick up my comment on it and sort of quote myself in response to the Linked In query. But to my surprise, the comment I'd left on the post was missing! No trace of it at all. Whatsoever. Strange, eh? You know what that meant....I had to ramble all over again on Linked In. Sad for the student perhaps, for I may have put in more energy into it this time around ;-)
Here we go. If you believe KM does not enable innovation or, err, 'disables' innovation, then please get a cuppa or a chocolate bar, put aside your belief for just a few moments and consider my ramblings. But please do let me know if what I say makes no sense or if you have better and more points to add to this post.
This is a topic very close to my heart. I am quite passionate about removing (or at least debating furiously upon) this not so uncommon belief that KM and Innovation don't go along together or are detrimental to each other. Like many responses above indicate, this is far from the truth, IMHO. It all depends on the KM objectives and strategy, overall corporate culture and its ability to focus on the objectives as well as balance different approaches.
If the organization is exclusively focused on cost cutting and productivity improvements via KM, then obviously the KM team and the management may chant the 'reuse knowledge material' and 'collaborate to avoid redundancy' mantras more than anything else. But if the focus is on combining views in creative ways (which is nothing but innovation) there's nothing like KM for it! KM is about bringing people together, helping them learn from each other, collaborate in creative ways and add each other's learnings and experiences to create something fresh and new! Think of brainstorming sessions. Think of communities of practice! Think of team work. Think of experts in different areas coming together to combine their expertise and making something cool out of almost nothing.
And, even otherwise, please note that KM strategies have undergone a significant transformation over the last few years. Long gone are the days when organizations and KM teams only used to emphasize on documenting and sharing knowledge via document repositories. Organizations started shifting toward tools for expertise location, social networking, collaboration spaces and now Enterprise 2.0 - which is all about connecting people and letting them innovate as a collective force! All said and done, the culture and the environment must help employees balance reuse and innovation via appropriate KM approaches.
Finally, I think Nick Milton puts it well - KM should be used only to kill unnecessary innovation! Each individual needs to introspect on the context and the situation in order to decide whether it calls for a quick reuse of material or independent introspection that could even later be complemented with some reusable material. And do remember - Innovation is generally considered to be the art of looking at old ideas in new ways or combining two or more old ideas in a 'new' way. :-)