Smile London was opening a new conference format. Three rooms in parallel to allow for everyone to choose from different topics. The format was called Smile Workshops and emphasized interaction amongst participants. In order to encourage interaction between an average of 35 people per room, Marc Wright, organizer of the event, had suggested using the Meetoo application allowing surveys to be carried out in real time. The app worked well and enabled the speakers to draw conclusions. I was a speaker myself and I preferred the classical approach of “getting up and sticking a post-it on a board”, which allows to have more detailed information even if this means sketching a hasty conclusion in little time. For the first time in “workshop mode” during the introduction of the Knowledge Sharing Canvas, I invited participants to look at external factors possibly impacting their business in the years to come, and where needs in knowledge will be growing.
I first listed 5 factors which I believe to be critical:**

  • Transformation (digital, IoT, technology, artificial intelligence, digitally networked business models )
  • Transition (energy, environmental)
  • Intellectual property (open knowledge)
  • Open innovation (coupling/accumulation of disruptions with other radically innovating systems)
  • Business acceleration (and more fundamentally the acceleration of our lives)

A first logical consequence coming out of these impacts is the growing need for multidisciplinary profiles in order to understand and manage the twists and turns of our society.

Results of the workshop

With no surprise, the large majority of the answers either expressed issues around technology or around environmental and global governance.

  • Big Data and related analysis
  • Digital maturity
  • Understanding of the constant transformation of social networks
  • An increase of online and personalized shopping
  • Connected support such as the mobile telephone, or the electric car
  • Decarbonisation and its future drastic regulation, the finally efficient productivity of new renewable energies
  • Changes at the governmental level (transparence of taxation, changes in financial regulation and health)
  • Increased social equity (social empowerment)
  • Reduction in test cycles (health) and better care of citizens
  • A global market and a reduction of costs

Amongst the interesting internal factors:

  • The enormous knowledge transfer issue related to retiring managers
  • The desire for increased mobility and work flexibility
  • The demand for an increased IT freedom (under the threat of shadow IT)
  • The validation of a growing need for the multidisciplinary dimension
  • The need for “corporate memory“

Investing in what exists also means preparing for the future

Despite all these prospective leads, it has become very complex to project oneself, which is however not an excuse for not doing it (“Embracing uncertainty“, HBR, 2016) and it actually is, according to Robert Colville (“The Great Acceleration”, 2016) the biggest certainty. Therefore, rapidly emerging issues which every business will have to adapt to in order to maintain its current performance at the least. We had already discussed the importance of a progressive and soft transformation and not waste time before heading towards it. Speaking of Knowledge Development (Victor Newman, 2002) now seems obvious to me as well as prepare to welcome new knowledge and expertise, currently non-existing inside the enterprise, in order to adapt. The Henley Forum did a paper on establishing this balance  between the discovery of new knowledge and the real cultivation of this knowledge to lean towards a sustainable approach of individual performance (“Contextual ambidexterity”, Christine Van Winkelen, Jane McKenzie, 2011).
One of the best ways to reach this goal is to mobilize your existing employees to adapt themselves: “Engage your employees, but how?”, understand how existing knowledge is collective within your own enterprise, understand which is the actual capacity of your team and, obviously, equip yourselves with a real social knowledge platform to find the right balance.

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