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Innovation means breaking the rules

6264574707_47f374a312_oToday I paged through a book by Martin Gaedt, called “Rock your idea”. Despite the  english title the book is written in German. One of the first and central ideas presented there was:

Innovation means to break the rules.

I’ve been scientific and innovation enabler for several projects and companies now and this is nearly all you need to know about injecting new ideas or technology into companies.

If you want to work out a totally different and optimal solution for a given  problem or even want to create a new area of business, you have to break the rules.

  • The rules defining what is possible. Maybe someone just invented the technology needed to build your idea. You might at the moment not know that.
  • The rules what we think customers need or want. Ever heard that argument “None of our customers asked for that! Why should we build that?”?.
  • The rules of the existing business. Ever heard that your idea doesn’t fit into the portfolio of the company? WHAT THE HECK? The portfolio is where the money is, for God’s sake!
  • And sometimes even the rules of hierarchy. Having an innovator working ‘at a short leash’ often means preventing innovation. Sometimes managerial control is the worst you can do to harm your company.

So to reformulate the negative arguments to positive actionable items:

  • When having a new idea, don’t instantly think about existing technology to build it. When you need it, there will be a solution. There always was one when I needed it. Finding technical solutions is the job of people like me.
  • When you don’t know if a customers will buy into your idea, TALK TO THEM. Sometimes you will get a piloting customer aboard for an idea that is nothing more than that: an idea. Sometimes you will have to invest a small amount of money and time into a prototype or mockup to win a customers interest.
  • If you only look for ideas fitting into an existing portfolio, I’m sorry to tell you, that your company will not have any chances to survive a future disruptive change in its very own field of business. There will be someone else having a similar idea and with no reluctance to realize it, portfolio or not.
  • If you have people working for you on innovative ideas, trust them. At least a bit further than you feel comfortable with. Micromanaging people is a great way to let them look for another company that offers a broader field of work. If you expect your researchers to follow working instructions to the point you’re exactly missing the point.
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From Knowledge to Competence Management – Part I


This will be the start of a series of articles dealing with the transition of knowledge management to competence networking. I published this first part some time ago on another blog of mine and have revised it for republication here. Planned topics are the nature of knowledge, classical knowledge management, the idea of competence management, social capital, open innovation and which current developments in technology are able to support the realization of a competence network site.

The nature of knowledge

Most of the following ideas can be found in Managing Flow: A Process Theory of the Knowledge-Based Firm by I. Nonaka et al. We will use it only as a short introduction to advance quickly to the more practical topics.

First we have to make a distinction between knowledge and information. The german translation “Wissen” mixes the meaning of the two terms a bit so I would like to explain the probably obvious: information are facts, which can be collected, written down and transmitted. Knowledge can be divided in explicit knowledge which can be written down and transmitted and implicit or tacid knowledge, which can be described as “knowing how to do something”. Tacid knowledge is not readily transferable from one person to another.

Explicit knowledge seems to be strongly related to information but knowledge is subjective while information is not. Knowledge is an attribute acquired by a human being and therefore according to cognitive science filtered by personal views and experiences. A different person could come to different results when put into the same situation.

This leads directly to the next feature: knowledge is process-related which means that it is acquired in a process of interaction between one or more human beings and its or their environment. Different processes of acquisition may result in different outcome.

The process of knowledge acquisition normally ends with the subject identifying an acceptable outcome. What one views as acceptable has to obey our rules of aesthetics. So acceptable knowledge normally means aesthetic knowledge.

Knowledge is an extensive value which means its value (for a company) depends on the number of people possessing the knowledge while its exact value is uncertain since its subjective.

Its non-physical since it’s not used up when consumed. That also means that its transfer or publication can not be undone – just like information. This aspect will be of some importance when talking about open innovation later on.


All this means that knowledge can only be acquired in practice. Its created in the process of human beings interacting with each other and their environment. It’s not static, it’s completely dynamic. Storing it is like cutting a twig from a tree.

The next posting will deal with classical knowledge management and the relation of firms to knowledge, also known as the the knowledge-based view of the firm. Stay curious and leave a comment!