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How can knowledge management improve R&D efficiency, collaboration and innovation?



The way your organization manages knowledge has a huge impact on your research and development team’s ability to collaborate, learn, and innovate - so how can you ensure knowledge flows freely within your business?

Research and development (R&D) is key to creating stand-out products and services in a competitive market, so it’s important to ensure you’re providing an ideal environment for your R&D teams to innovate.

Your R&D teams need to be able to easily collaborate with their colleagues, learn from each other and make well-informed decisions. To facilitate this, you must ensure that knowledge can flow freely throughout your organization. This requires a robust knowledge management strategy.

The importance of knowledge sharing for R&D is something that Donna Mann, Director of Knowledge Management at PepsiCo R&D, understands well.

As a Fortune 100 company, innovation is key to PepsiCo’s success. In our webinar, Donna told us that their knowledge management mission is to, “create a knowledge-centric R&D ecosystem that helps to foster faster innovation and decision making.”

Why is knowledge management so important to PepsiCo and other organizations looking to improve R&D efficiency for faster innovation? Because effective knowledge sharing enables R&D teams to:

Put their questions to the best person

Every single employee within your organization has unique experience and knowledge that may be of use to your R&D teams. But, it can be difficult for your employees to know who holds a particular piece of information. They may be new to the team and unfamiliar with their colleagues’ backgrounds. Or, they may simply not realize that one of their colleagues has some valuable insight.

This was the case in PepsiCo’s R&D department. When one of their associates asked a question anonymously through Starmind, he was surprised when the person sitting at the desk next to him was identified as the best person to answer his question. He didn’t know that his deskmate had worked on a very similar project in the past, and could provide some critical knowledge that may have otherwise gone untapped.

That’s why it’s vital to have a robust knowledge management strategy in place, because it needs to be easy for your employees to find the right person to answer any question. Modern knowledge management systems make this process much simpler. Starmind, for example, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze non-private employee communication data sources to determine who is the best person to answer a particular question.

Share tacit knowledge

Due to the process-driven nature of R&D, your R&D department may already have a structured approach to capturing knowledge that aligns with their innovation goals. However, tacit knowledge - the type of knowledge that can be hard to express to another person - is often difficult to capture through documentation.

If your employees don’t realize the information they hold is valuable to others, or if they don’t use it in their current role, they may not write it down for your organization to capture and retain. This could mean that a significant portion of the knowledge your employees hold isn’t easily accessible, even if you have a structured documentation process in place.

But tacit knowledge is vital to research and development. In fact, it’s often the learnings and understanding individuals gain from their experiences that helps them to refine their approach to current projects. That’s why your employees need different ways to share knowledge, so they can access the explicit and tacit knowledge of their colleagues.

Organizations like PepsiCo are facilitating this by investing in knowledge management platforms that allow human-to-human connection. By enabling your teams to talk directly to their colleagues, rather than simply refer to spreadsheets, you’ll make it easy for them to share that all-important tacit knowledge.

Collaborate with colleagues

Face-to-face meetings have always played a vital role in enabling innovation. Some of the best-selling products across the globe were first imagined during team brainstorming sessions - and some came from chance meetings at the office coffee machine. Today, with many R&D teams spread across continents, or rarely meeting in the office due to hybrid working, there are fewer opportunities for inspiration to strike during incidental meetings.

If your employees are only attending planned video calls with a set agenda, their ability to ‘innovate by accident’ is significantly reduced. Many R&D teams are also finding that while they once struggled with knowledge being siloed within different departments, ‘micro-silos’ have developed within the team itself. If your staff are working in different locations, their knowledge may only be shared between those they speak to regularly, creating knowledge silos and limiting innovation further.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure that knowledge can flow freely between teams and the individuals within those teams. If your team members aren’t always working in the same building, you need to ensure that you manage knowledge in a way that supports the transfer of knowledge online and enables remote collaboration.

Accelerate innovation

When knowledge flows freely to and from your R&D teams, you can improve their efficiency, accelerate your innovation cycle and get new products and services to market faster.

This is because your employees won’t have to waste time searching for answers to their questions. Our commissioned study with Forrester revealed that the average employee spends around two hours a day searching for information. By prioritizing knowledge management, you can minimize the time it takes for your teams to access the information they need. The result: they can make well-informed decisions at pace.

Creating an environment in which knowledge flows freely also helps less experienced members of the team to learn from their seasoned peers, which is important within any R&D team. By opening up the channels of communication between all employees, you can ensure that new joiners can quickly learn from their colleagues and avoid repeating past mistakes.

However, it’s also important to make sure your employees feel comfortable asking questions of their more senior, experienced peers. That’s why, within Starmind, all questions are asked anonymously. This means nobody feels embarrassed about seeming inexperienced.

Free up your organization’s knowledge

If you’re looking to improve the way R&D knowledge is shared within your organization, Starmind is the ideal solution.

Our AI-powered knowledge management platform enables your R&D teams to connect to knowledge from anywhere in your business, whenever they need it. With the information (and collaboration) they need at their fingertips, they can accelerate innovation, and bring products to market before the competition.

Get in touch with our team today to find out how our platform could transform your R&D teams.

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