K Street Newsletter :: Directions

January 2019    |    VOLUME 17, ISSUE 1

A More Creative Self

Many people, maybe most people, believe that creativity is something you have to be born with. That is, there are creative people and non-creative people, and you are fated to be one or the other. In How to Get Great Ideas, writer Dave Birss takes the opposite view, describing creative thinking as a birthright for all human beings. And this review provides a very detailed analysis of his ideas. (In the small world department, the review was written by Madanmohan Rao, the editor of a book on Knowledge Management to which we contributed a chapter back in the day.)

Birss thinks curiosity is the foundation for creative thought, and he's developed a process framework that's tagged with the acronym RIGHT (research, insight, generate, hone and test). And there are lots of interesting examples and success stories. General Mills had an important insight into its cake mixes. They were initially designed to be as simple as possible but left people feeling unfulfilled. They changed the mix to require a real egg, and customers felt more like they were really baking. Creativity is becoming more important in a time when people are expected to have more than one career in their working life. That means you need to unlearn some things and learn others. Building a more creative version of yourself can help.

Building a Remote Community 

One of the issues that Knowledge Management was intended to address is the virtualization of the workforce and the rise of the remote worker. Using a remote workforce can broaden the talent pool, lower overhead costs and increase worker satisfaction. Happier workers are generally more productive workers. But something is lost when you eliminate the random exchange of ideas that happens around a water cooler. Remote workers can come to feel isolated and disengaged. And sometimes they have good reason. It's easy for managers to forget that keeping remote staff in the loop calls for extra effort. How do you establish a feeling of camaraderie in a virtual office, among people who may never meet face to face?

This article gives you some ideas. One is to find ways to get to know each team member as an individual, by learning about them outside of a work context. The author's company has a weekly "getting to know me" session that rotates around the team. Each team member is encouraged to share five things that their coworkers probably don't know. It's also important to make sure employees talk to each other, and management can take the lead. Set up an intranet or social media channel for casual conversation, jokes or philosophical musings. Use it yourself, and encourage others to join in. In our old KM team, we had weekly meetings that always ended with "Good of the Order." That was a place where anyone could talk about non-work developments. A new dog, a book worth reading, vacation plans. Making that part of the agenda costs nothing, and can be surprisingly effective at building a sense of community.

 

 

Street Smarts 183: Be more productive.

If you've made it this far into the new year without falling short on your resolutions, you're ahead of the game. Or maybe you didn't make any at all, since those are the easiest to keep. If you're still thinking about how to be better in 2019, maybe you could just resolve to more productive. There are apps for that, and this article gives capsule reviews for several tools designed to enhance your productivity.

There's an app called Things that has expanded its basic To Do List concept with more sophisticated searching and multiple device integration. Also Evernote, which can save audio or text notes, set reminders and built reference lists of URLs. IFTTT lets people create customizable applets even if they have no coding experience, and Proofhub is a simple project management system that gives you a big picture view of all your projects and work teams. None of these apps will change your life, of course, but learning how to use the tools that are out there is a small step forward.

 

 

A Communication Playbook

We do more work in the general communication space than we do in Knowledge Management. And Communication is a place where the focus is on audiences, messaging and delivery channels. We developed our Communications Decision Tree as a tool for thinking through an organization's options, since the objective is always to have as broad a range of message flows as your budget allows. The idea of a communication "playbook" was intriguing. A new idea to us, but one that had immediate appeal. According to this article, it's somewhere between a brand book and a messaging guide: a standard for how you want people to communicate, both internally and externally.

The authors believe a good communication playbook needs to include at least three things. It needs to emphasize the importance of an audience-centric mindset. Be sure you are communicating things that the audience really cares about, not the things you think they should care about. Be brief, and to the point. The people in your audience are busy and have a lot on their minds. The playbook also needs to hammer on the importance of absolute transparency, which is necessary to build trust. Finally, it should underscore the importance of graciousness. Always take the high road, and stay with it. Don't be a gloating winner or a sore loser.

 

The End of Employee Surveys?

We always recommend that communication programs contain some pull elements as well as push elements. That is, you want to give your audience the opportunity to comment on what you're telling them, so you can adjust your focus accordingly. Traditionally, that means doing periodic surveys, and in the last ten years online survey tools have made that process both easy and cost effective. But there are some new tools coming to market -- employee engagement tools - that offer a different approach.

This article describes how Mission Health System had been using an annual, 100-question survey to assess the satisfaction of its more than 12,000 employees. It was a big, expensive operation and management realized it wasn't adding much value. The engagement scores remained flat, and the company felt it wasn't getting any better at understanding how people felt about coming to work. Management opted to switch to shorter, quarterly “pulse” surveys that would let managers recognize problems and respond more quickly. They also deployed a "check-in" application that gave employees an opportunity to share weekly progress and concerns. It's a two-way vehicle, which means leaders also need to be engaged and provide meaningful feedback. The frequent check-in conversations have made a measurable difference in employee engagement.
 

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