Knowledge Management and innovation go hand in hand, and effective Knowledge Management at the team and organizational level can catalyze impactful innovations to reach new heights. Discover how Knowledge Management at WFP is supporting our innovation work after our Global Innovation Network Annual Workshop.
By: Brittany Persinger, Knowledge Management Officer, INK
Last month, more than thirty WFP innovators gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, for the 2023 Global Innovation Network Annual Workshop. The goal was to connect Innovation Champions from across WFP to share knowledge and fresh ideas, as well as co-create new approaches to innovation at WFP. Across the many discussions around innovation throughout the week, Knowledge Management continually emerged as a critical element to integrating innovation into our day-to-day work towards ending hunger. So, what does Knowledge Management have to do with innovation?
The answer? A lot.
What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge management (KM) delivers value and improves performance by capturing, organizing, storing, and applying organizational knowledge. The collection and sharing of knowledge are at the foundation of every organization; without it, there is no way to know how information flows throughout the organization. At WFP, we recognize that proper knowledge management across our wide organization is fundamental to our ultimate mission of achieving Zero Hunger.
How are Knowledge Management and innovation related?
KM is a key enabler for innovation. It provides a foundation for knowledge sharing and collaborative problem-solving as well as connects internal and external knowledge to generate innovative ideas, tools and approaches. In addition to these foundational impacts, KM can improve innovation in the following ways:
As innovators, we should always seek to improve upon what has been done before. KM helps us systematically understand our work to scale what is effective and develop new innovative approaches for what is not.
Retention and transfer of innovation knowledge
According to Harvard Business Review1, the most expensive knowledge for an organization to lose is the capacity for regeneration — the ability to bring out the next product or idea. Innovation is often built on years of experience and expertise in designing and producing a particular kind of product.
Refined implementation of innovations
Because KM empowers innovators to continuously improve, innovations can be better developed for their operational environment and respond to the needs of the individuals and communities the innovation seeks to improve. Therefore, KM can transition innovations from test trials to “business as usual”.
Increased staff efficiency
It’s estimated that employees spend nine hours per week searching for information2 and eight hours per week duplicating someone else’s work.3 Effective KM frees up time to innovate and allows teams to focus on continually pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the best-in-class information available.
Using Knowledge Management to protect climate solutions: Envirofly
As part of the Workshop week, the WFP Innovation Ecosystem event showcased six different innovations in a World Café. The World Café format facilitated knowledge sharing not only between participants and the innovators but also among the innovators themselves. What was surprising was that knowledge-based challenges and solutions arose, unprompted, for each innovation.
Take Envirofly, which uses black soldier fly larvae to turn food waste into affordable, eco-friendly fertilizer and provide a source of protein. One of the major challenges this innovation faces is temperature control — if the larvae get too hot or cold, they die and become ineffective. As the climate continues changing and becoming more unpredictable, Envirofly must learn to adapt its solution to new climate realities. In this way, the ability to learn from others and share and scale new knowledge — key aspects of strong KM practices — will be critical to ensuring Envirofly’s long-term sustainability. If applied correctly, KM can empower Envirofly to stay on top of the latest know-how and adapt their solution as new challenges arise.
Takeaways from the 2023 Global Innovation Network Annual Workshop
- KM and innovation experience similar challenges. Despite being a management discipline since the 1980s, confusion persists about what KM is (and is not). Innovation teams often must define, redefine and explain their work to their colleagues, causing confusion and disconnection between teams. Greater awareness, clear processes and enhanced capacity building are needed to help meaningfully integrate KM and innovation at every level of an organization.
- Retaining and transferring knowledge is highly valuable to innovating sustainably. What happens when talented innovation staff move on from a project or leave WFP? Knowing the value of innovation knowledge led many to discuss how to better retain and share information across team members and units.
- KM can help innovators know what they know — and talk about it more effectively. The innovation process generates extensive knowledge and learning about what works, what does not, and what can be scaled in diverse environments. Capturing knowledge about this process empowers WFP innovators to communicate more effectively about innovation’s impact with various stakeholders both internal and external.
As we learned last month in Kenya, KM and innovation work hand in hand, producing a cycle where innovations provide new knowledge to share, which in turn encourages new forms of innovation. At WFP, we will continue to improve this cycle with our Innovation Network around the world to inspire solutions working to achieve Zero Hunger.
Brittany Persinger is a Knowledge Management Officer in the World Food Programme’s Innovation and Knowledge Management Division (INK).
Learn more about the Innovation Accelerator’s work on Knowledge Management. If you are a WFP employee, you can also access Knowledge Management resources on WFPGo.
Find out more about us: http://innovation.wfp.org
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