Q and A with KMIC CKO Blake Melnick

graphic - KM and Workplace Innovation
Blake Melnick, CEO/CKO of the Knowledge Management Institute of Canada responds to audience questions following the webinar about the revolutionary KM and Workplace Innovation Program.


Q & A with Blake Melnick, CEO and Chief Knowledge Officer, Knowledge Management Institute of Canada, following the recent Webinar about the up and coming program, KM and Workplace Innovation

Question 1 - An Innovation Challenge

Q - It appears that the program is essentially a crowdsourcing initiative where two important partners can harness the creativity and experience of external collaborators to address a specifically defined problem/challenge/opportunity. Is the program thus a collaborative initiative where learners learn by doing, while being monitored and supported in the process by experts in the field?

A - “I wouldn’t call it a crowd sourcing initiative per se rather it is an innovation challenge posted by two workplace partners who have been directly involved in contributing to both innovation within their organizations and to our research around workplace innovation. The best way to understand innovation is to actually do it within a real time, authentic context (As opposed to something like the Harvard Business Case Challenge where students work on challenges which have already been solved).”

Question 2 - A Unique and Different Program

Q- What makes the program unique and different?How is this learning program different from other innovation learning programs?   

A -  “The key factors that make this program unique are as follows:

  • The challenge is forward looking rather than backward looking.
  • KM practices, methods etc. are applied to drive actual value (solutions for the types of complex challenges that every industry and organization will need to tackle in order to remain competitive and thrive in our world of disruption and exponential change).
  • It introduces a new model of education which treats the “Classroom as the Workplace” rather than the pervasive model which treats the classroom and the workplace as separate domains, and different from the co-op model which, while attempting to integrate theory with practice, still treats both work and learning as separate experiences. 
  • Subject matter experts work alongside students as expert participants in the learning process rather than as teachers or facilitators. 
  • The outputs from the program (The final reports) will actually find their way into practice in the real world rather than languishing on the "proverbial shelf” within an academic institution.
  • The assessment model is transparent. In other words, students can monitor their own performance throughout the duration of the program and the analytics measure elements of both knowledge growth and innovation capabilities
  • Co-development - Unlike traditional programs with a very rigid and structured curriculum, this program will be shaped by the participants. While there is a general structure, we want to keep it open ended enough that it can be modified on the fly (by both learners and instructors) to suit the evolving the knowledge needs of the community of practice (COPs are very much a real- world KM best practice) in their pursuit of the best solutions to the challenges presented by our workplace partners.”

Question 3 - The Relationship Between KM and Innovation.

Q- How exactly does innovation relate to the Knowledge Management domain?

A - “While the practice of KM has certainly evolved over the past twenty years, it has largely been confined to an internal process to drive operational effectiveness and efficiency. Sadly, in a great many organizations it is perceived as a cost centre rather that a value centre. The biggest driver for most organizations adopting KM as a formal practice, is the aging demographic and the pending loss of critical knowledge through attrition, movement, downsizing etc. In most cases its implementation is tactical and reactive rather than strategic and proactive. 

Most organizations neglect the real value of KM, which lies in knowledge creation that results in the organization remaining on a continuous trajectory of innovation.  A typical scenario within many organizations, is they implement a KM best practices (rather than a comprehensive organizational knowledge strategy) while maintaining their traditional operating structures and existing work flow models. This suggests that they don’t really see, ‘knowledge’ as the commodity, rather just a series of practices in support of the existing culture. 

In order to build a knowledge centric culture (or a culture of innovation - which we view as essentially the same), organizations will need to change their cultures and the structures which support these cultures. For example, how they onboard new hires and off-board experienced employees, how they measure performance, how they mentor and train people, how they run programs etc. and all these must be aligned to deliver the outcomes they are looking to achieve.

What we are aiming to do with this program is to demonstrate the effective application of  KM principles, practices and methods in the context of increasing both individual and organizational capability, which in turn will translate into a measurable ROI - productivity, profitability and capacity for innovation (intellectual capital, human capital, relationship capital, financial capital etc.) and in the case of this program, solutions to real challenges which have an impact beyond the two organizations - our proof of concept”

As well, we want to identify the skills, mindsets, knowledge of the innovation capable employee so that organizations have the ability to identify these attributes in new hires, and more importantly create the type of organizational structures that allow these individuals to thrive and drive outcomes consistent with the organization’s business strategy

Our two workplace partners were carefully selected because:

  • They realize they need to change their cultures.
  • They have made the real commitment to do so.
  • They are open to new ideas from outside their organization and realize that engaging others who approach their challenges from the perspective of different disciplines, may well yield solutions they might not have considered otherwise. 
  • Their mandates impact all Canadians and thus so will changes they make.”

Question 4 - KMIC’s Core Mission

Q- What is KMIC’s core mission?

A - “Our mission is to advance the practice of KM and our mandate is to ensure Canadian organizations, thrive and prosper in the ever-changing Knowledge Economy. We believe this program will help do exactly that. 

As a personal aside, we have been training and certifying Knowledge Managers for companies around the world since 2008. Our first program in KM and Innovation was delivered in 2013. While the feedback from participants was always positive, I was not convinced that our graduates could actually perform in their roles. Part of the problem was that while we did a good job introducing the theory of KM along with KM best practices, and tried our best to integrate theory and practice, it was artificial - there was nothing on the line, ‘no skin in the game’ so to speak, and nothing that allowed them to work with constraints that are unique to each organization. 

If we believe knowledge is “understanding gained through experience”, teaching best practices and KM theory etc. do little to develop the holistic and strategic mindset necessary to impact organizational culture. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprising, I was able to tell pretty early in each of the programs who would be able to be a successful Knowledge Manager, based on the types of questions they asked and their level of sense making - connecting the dots to arrive at a comprehensive KM strategy, and their willingness to advance the ideas of others in the program as well as their own ideas. In effect these individuals had both the right mindset and the skills necessary to advance the knowledge of the community of learners.  

We think this program will address the deficiencies in KM training and learning programs, by giving students the experience of working in teams, engaging in purposeful collaboration, advancing collective knowledge and applying new understandings to develop real solutions to the types of challenges they are likely to face in their own organizations.”

Question 5 - Course Costs

Q - What is the cost of this learning/collaborating experience/program?

A - “As this is a new prototype and by its very intention, a design experiment, we have chosen to offer the program to a limited number of students at a price point well below our previous programs. (Our cost for a 3-day face to face certification program is $4500.00 per person). 

As well, we want to engage both experienced professionals as well as graduate students so that we can hopefully prove the "Classroom as a Workplace” education model - where students advance their knowledge, gain experience while they’re learning and contributing to innovation in Canada. We wanted to make sure the price point was accessible to students as well as professionals.”

Please click on this LINK for course costs (pricing is located at the bottom of the course description page). 

Question 6 - Synchronous Component 

Q - Do the “synchronous” portion of the sessions require a physical presence?  Can those sessions take place virtually “live” via internet and/or phone communication?

A - “The synchronous component will be comprised of Webinar presentations by renown subject matter experts (one per each week of the course). These will be recorded, so if you are unable to attend on the day/time the presentation is scheduled, we will provide you with access to the presentation within the learning environment, which you can review at a time that is most convenient to you.”

Question 7 - The Learning Environment

Q - In the field of Knowledge Management (not the software aspect – which is just a tool) one must facilitate the essential step of capturing knowledge (both tacit and explicit) and translate it into a universally accessible format for maximum effective transfer. Is the Learning Environment able to facilitate this?

A - “I really like your comment with regards to "technology as a tool”. I think you will find the learning “environment” distinctly unique. Behind its design, is over 30 years of research into expertise and expert learning - from this research, 12 principles/practices/patterns of knowledge building have been identified. These principles were practiced by experts across a wide variety of disciplines. The research indicates that those individuals who practice these common principles (DaVinci, Edison, the Wright Brothers, Gates, Jobs, the best teachers, engineers etc.) develop the "mindset for innovation” The environment was designed to both inculcate and support these principles through use by building collective responsibility for advancing knowledge which is of value to the individual, the community, the organization, and the world at large. As I mentioned during the webinar, the expectation is that all thinking, ideation, knowledge refinement and work will take place within the learning environment. It is purposefully designed to support deep level knowledge building discourse and constructivism allowing teams to move from ideation to implementation, while sharing knowledge amongst members of a team and between teams.