Changing Places February 22, 2012Posted by keithsawyer in Innovative networks, Organizational innovation.
Tags: idea labs, innovation, knowledge management, reassignment, shadowing
When workers change departments for a short time–for example, shadowing another employee in a totally different part of the organization–it enhances the innovation potential of the entire organization. That’s because it results in more “weak links” throughout the organization’s social network. And from research, we know that creativity is more likely to result when information flows through these weak links–because it brings together diverse types of knowledge into surprising new combinations.
Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal* describes many companies that are successfully using this strategy:
To help workers sharpen their skills, stay motivated and identify new roles they might aim for in the future. Moreover, they help address a challenge that many companies are facing: how to better foster collaboration across different specialties and regions.
An Intel, employees can find temporary assignments by searching an internal database. This program just launched last March, and already 1,300 positions have been filled. Other companies finding success with this approach include Virgin America and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
My book Group Genius explains why this works: Because it helps resolve the challenge of “knowledge management.” How do you get information moving through the organization effectively, particularly across organizational boundaries? In addition to this “shadowing” technique, other knowledge management techniques help accomplish the same goal:
- “Idea labs” that bring cross-disciplinary teams together for one or two weeks
- Job descriptions that are broad, allowing each employee to cross multiple areas
- More frequent reassignment of staff
Research shows that all of these methods help to diffuse tacit knowledge–the kind of knowledge that’s hard to capture in computerized knowledge management systems, or in formal documents. And research shows that it’s this tacit knowledge that, more often than not, results in innovation.
*Lauren Weber and Leslie Kwoh, “Co-workers change places.” Wall Street Journal, Tuesday February 21, 2012, p. B8.
The Book Everyone is Talking About February 20, 2012Posted by keithsawyer in Everyday life.
Tags: introversion, introverts, quiet, susan cain
A quick follow-up to my critical post about Susan Cain’s New York Times article:
Am I the only person who finds it ironic that the big newspaper ad for her book has this text and the cover image?
“The Instant New York Times Bestseller Everyone Is Talking About”
And at the bottom of the ad, I’m not sure if this is irony or just internally contradictory: the text announces that Cain’s New York Times article is the #1 most emailed NY Times Op-ed. Apparently in addition to talking a lot, introverts have lots of friends, too.
If you define “introversion” so broadly that it includes people who talk a lot and have lots of friends, then how meaningful is that definition, really?
Computing Education for the 21st Century February 2, 2012Posted by keithsawyer in New research, Uncategorized.
Tags: ce21, cpath, kylie pepper, mitch resnick, studio based learning, studio model, yasmin kafai
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Today and tomorrow (Feb 2-3, 2012) I’m in Washington DC at a meeting hosted by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The meeting brings together researchers from around the country who’ve received funding from an NSF program to improve computing education.
What’s exciting is the broad range of research going on here: from middle school, to high school, to college, educators are working hard to figure out how to better teach computer science concepts. One important goal is to encourage more of our talented youth to choose computer degrees and careers, as a valued national economic strategy. A second goal is to improve computational literacy for everyone, regardless of their career path–after all, computer technology is everywhere (from our mobile phones to our microwaves, not to mention our personal computers, tablets, and e-readers).
I’m excited to be here because it’s a diverse and interdisciplinary group. There are professors of education, who know about psychology and how people learn. I’m happy to see many familiar faces from my colleagues in the learning sciences, such as Mitch Resnick, Uri Wilensky, Yasmin Kafai, and Kylie Pepper. But most of the researchers here are in departments of computer science, educators working hard to enhance their profession.
I’m here to represent a project I worked on at Washington University, to transform our undergraduate computer science major away from lecture classes and towards a more active style of learning, by using a “studio model” based on the types of group projects you might find in a design school, or an architecture school. It ties in perfectly with my latest research project, a study of teaching and learning at two different professional schools of art and design (SCAD and Washington University).
When I first saw how many people are here–about 100–my reaction was “This represents a lot of tax dollars at work!” After all, the taxpayers are paying for everything we’re doing here. I believe this is an important national goal, and I’m honored to be a part of this annual meeting.