What is a Knowledge Academy?
“People are our greatest asset” is all too often heard from corporate lips, but for us at Capgemini it’s really true. We sell people to deliver successful projects, bar some approaches, accelerators and some assets it’s all we have.
The success of any project hinges on the direction desire and capability of the people in the team; the client organisation, Capgemini, and our partners. This is why we pay special attention to this by setting up project academies on our larger engagements.
It’s all about the decisions
My favourite analogy is that any business is a ‘decision factory’ – stripped down then what it makes is decisions. Any organisation is just a load of people making decisions all of the time – same on our consulting projects – decisions about how to code an ETL transformation, how this user interface should look, who should approve this plan, should I escalate this risk, and etc. and etc.
So, how do we enable people to make good decisions? The Information value chain of course: Data to Information to Knowledge to Wizdom to Decision. We can look at this problem as an information enablement one, creating an ‘architecture’ that allows people access to the right information to enable actionable insight.
What Enables Wisdom?
Wisdom comes from several sources. We can think just in terms of training, as many do, but this is far too narrow, knowledge comes from a wide variety of sources and most of them are informal…
Why I can use my phone better than my grandmother can? Why are the young typically early adopters? It’s all to do with the size and character of a personal network. I have a far wider daily network than my grandmother – within one day at the office I’ve got the opinion of 50+ colleagues to ask how they got something to work. Now think of a school and consider how fast a new idea can spread informally.
Innovation comes from competition, freedom, and freedom to fail. Think of a Darwinian mechanism here; new ideas and ways of doing thing are a mutation, it might work it might not. That idea then gets tested – is it adopted? Are the results better? The weak practice dies and the new idea takes place. The speed of innovation depends on the frequency of mutation and speed of failure.
So this is about standing on the ‘shoulders of giants’ and not ‘reinventing the wheel’. How does an organisation retain and share the best practice, the valuable knowledge? If it’s lost or inaccessible then people will reinvent – and it’s typically better that innovation happens on top of what’s already known. Of course, we do want some possibility of challenging and failing a foundational paradigm from time to time, a balance between evolution and revolution.
Accreditation allows us to identify people with required knowledge and skills, and those who do not. It allows people to compare where they are and determine what they want learn next and it allows selection of the right people for a particular job. Accreditation isn’t just a formal mechanism provided by some certifying body. We can see accreditation as the consequence of transparent measurement. I don’t need to see the certificate of Usain Bolt to know he’s a fast runner – there’s transparent evidence.
How an Academy Works
In our knowledge academies we adopt a holistic approach to support all four of the drivers above, and it’s the Academy Manager’s role to enable this.
Community is facilitated by broadening networks. Movement of people between on and offshore, project events, the way seating is arranged in the office, and the non hierarchical and collaborative culture we create all play a part. This is about creating the maximum opportunity for serendipity; coincidental connections that facilitate flow of information and best practice informally. Technical collaboration platforms also play a part here and we expect a project to adopt collaboration behaviours that span across organisations.
Innovation is part culture, but also partly to do with one our core values of ‘trust’ and ‘boldness’. By not being a top down ‘command and control’ organisation we try to allow everyone freedom to do either job as they see best. Sometimes even the structure of teams can contribute to this, parallel teams working on a similar task allows each to develop ways of working independently, effectively a friendly competition.
Knowledge retention is part the role of the collaboration platform and communication. But a Knowledge management system is also key. How do we ensure that the best knowledge is captured and promoted?
Finally, accreditation. Sometimes there’s a need for formal certification, to meet security standards or verify proficiency in a particular skill. But often this is about transparent performance management too… We should clearly measure and communicate on the performance of teams and individuals to identify where the good practice is, the experts in a particular thing, and then use this to improve continually.
So what does an academy manager do?
In our eyes this role goes way beyond that of a traditional training lead. Of course there is formal training involved, although this need not be centrally organised, the internet and MOOCs are as good a place to go as many classroom courses so even here innovative thinking can do things differently.
The core of the role is in thinking how the culture, organisation, technology, performance measurement, and processes of an engagement can be shaped to allow actionable knowledge to be created and shared. Quite an exciting role I think you’ll agree.