If we only knew what we know

May 27, 2011

“If HP knew what HP knows, it would be three times more profitable!”
Lewis Platt, Former CEO, Hewlett Packard

Lew was correct. He could not have summed it better. In this simple quote, he has summed the quintessential reason for the products and services our company, Intelligence-NEXT: offers.

Lew’s comment was not a frivolous comment. He knew well, what he was speaking of. The good people at HP also knew it. And if it were not the CEO of HP, it could have just as well been the CXO or Senior Exec of any number of other Fortune 1000 companies. It is a comment that is profound in its simplicity, simply because when we hear it, we instantly recognize its fundamental truth.

The year that Mr. Platt made that comment, HP’s net earnings totaled $2.4 billion. Given the order of magnitude of this number, why didn’t he go for the 3x? What would keep Lew from going for another $6 billion?

In one sense, it is a silly question indeed to ask “…why don’t they do something about it?”.

Many have tried, many are still thinking about it

OF COURSE: if Mr. Platt knew… how to help HP better know what it knew already… they probably would have made that extra $6 billion. Unless of course, it required a few $Million to improve the knowledge game in the company. Then they would have only made and extra $5+ billion.

In the 21st Century global enterprise this comment is no longer even remotely flippant. In fact, this question is a key to success in the highly competitive, information avalanche that is the contemporary business environment in which we all work.

So what’s the big deal? What is being done? What is NOT being done? And why aren’t we doing it?

There are many, many off the shelf programs available and armies of consultants who are at the beckon of any enterprise that wants to improve its knowledge game. For example, there are over 400 software programs on the market that classify themselves as “Intelligence” applications. Depending on how you define “knowledge management”, there are over 1,000 applications available to support what the market has defined as a range of software solutions used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness and learning. And there are tens of thousands consultants offering advice on the same topics.

So there is no shortage of suppliers and products to help discerning executives raise the level of performance for the knowledge game in the enterprises for which they are responsible. In 2003, KM World Magazine reported, “The knowledge management market as a whole will continue to be the fastest growing segment of the software market over the next five years, totaling more than $21 billion by 2006.” This is not a trivial market and most of the largest global consultancy firms have entire practices dedicated to this very same market.

And of course, many enterprises have tried, and many more are… well they are thinking about it.

Although it is impossible to accurately describe the history, the current practices, and the future visions of major enterprise players in the knowledge game. There are clearly some brilliant players with innovative solutions and the prognosis could be considered bright, in terms of future solutions.

But for those leaders who are still hesitant to shoot for that multiple of 3 to the bottom line (as Lew Platt suggested)… what’s up with those guys?

The top 10 reasons why NOT:

The Founders and Partners of Intelligence-NEXT: have led and supported knowledge-focused initiatives on a global scale for over 20 years. In that time, we have collected an extensive database of executive viewpoints on the importance of knowledge in the contemporary organization. Ironically, although most executives acknowledge the substantial role and significance of developing knowledge-focused initiatives throughout the enterprise, they very often find reasons to delay or avoid making the decision to proceed.

Here are the top 10 reasons why executives hesitate to initiate knowledge development projects:

1. My leadership team already has an exceptionally full plate we should wait until they have the time and attention to devote to this important project.

2. We have tried to implement knowledge management projects before and have not been successful we need to study the matter further before we start yet another project of that kind.

3. Projects involving new technology are always more complicated and more expensive than first projected.

4. Our enterprise team is already very intelligent, and frankly they have been performing well without the benefit of a new knowledge management capability.

5. Knowledge management projects are very difficult to measure how will we know that performance improvements are in fact attributable to the knowledge management project, and would not have been realized anyway?

6. Knowledge management projects tend to involve much more resource and business scope than are actually needed we are not trying to solve world hunger here.

7. We already have implemented a competency development strategy which includes excellent recruiting, hiring, training and mentoring components any knowledge management initiative might dilute the effort on our competency development projects.

8. It is already the responsibility of each and every enterprise team member to improve their own knowledge and skills for their given job roles so knowledge management is really more their responsibility than it is the enterprise’s.

9. Although my leadership team agrees we should build our knowledge management capability, they all have completely different ideas about how that should be accomplished it is too difficult to get them all on the same page.

10. Our Board of Directors and stakeholders will view a knowledge management initiative as a sign of enterprise weakness and an excuse for past failure

At the time of this posting, we are conducting a survey to update our 10 years of observation. Please feel free to take this 7 minute exercise, with no obligation. Link here for the survey

Also, if you want to know how your results fare with other enterprises, there are options in that survey to contact us for further details. If you would prefer to just contact us directly for more details, click here.


Memories of 9/11 – Are we still interested?

May 21, 2011

Editors Note: In 2006 the CEO of Intelligence-NEXT: Robert Kim Wilson published an editorial [on another website] on the topic of general public interest in “intelligence” as it might relate to Homeland Security. With recent reminders of the worst civilian wartime disaster in US History, the Editors of I-N: Context wanted to republish Kim’s editorial.

Is the general public interested in the Intelligence process?

by Robert Kim Wilson 3/7/06

The team that originally spawned the idea for Intelligence-NEXT™ held a key assumption. We believed that not only are the Intelligence industry professionals interested in the subject, but the general public holds a strong fascination for the Intelligence industry as well.

Is this a safe bet? There may be two very good reasons why it is indeed.

The Whodunits

First, there is an extraordinary proliferation of highly popular TV programs whose central theme is “criminal intelligence”. Programs with a main thesis of solving crimes through intelligence processes include Law and Order (3 different versions), CSI (also 3 different versions), NCIS, NUMB3RS, Cold Case, Bones, Crossing Jordan, JAG, The Evidence, Criminal Minds, In Justice, Monk, Murder She Wrote, 24, and more, not to mention an entire cable channel dedicated to criminal justice, Court TV.

Network television (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX) Prime Time ran 22 hours of Intelligence-driven programs, constituting 26.2% of the total Prime Time hours in the week this article was written. This total does not include programs that have some “Intelligence” process but instead have core entertainment focused more on (a) action/adventure, such as Walker, Texas Ranger and Nash Bridges, or (b) social issues, such as Boston Legal and The District,

Recently the USA Network ran 56 hours of Intelligence-driven programs in a single week Sunday thru Saturday. This represents a full 31% of all viewing hours on that channel alone. If you include the crime-fighting shows [less intelligence, more action], add another 34 hours to USA programming for the week.Combining the Network television channels with USA Network, the interested viewer could witness an average of over 10 hours per day of television programming whose central theme is focused on the collection and analysis of criminal Intelligence.

Several of the most popular series (Law & Order, CSI, Monk) are run on multiple channels throughout the day, with airing not limited to prime time. There are also occasional “marathons” which run past episodes of a show. For example last week, “Law and Order SUV”, ran consecutive episodes for 10 consecutive hours (and preceded this marathon with an episode of “Monk” for good measure).

Our brief study did not include The Military Channel, TBS, A&E, History Channel, Discovery Channel, and a few others, that also air programming aimed at solving mysteries or addressing problems through (what the professionals would call) an “Intelligence Management” processes.

Of course there is also Court TV, an entire cable channel dedicated to criminal issues running 20½ hours per day, 7 days per week.There is no other single topic unless you consider the news itself that has so much attention dedicated to it by the network and cable television media. The popularity of these programs suggests that the American public has more than a casual interest in the Intelligence process.

Fear of a Repeat

In addition to the entertainment value of the intelligence shows, the public is also afraid of a repeat of 9/11. In fact, most of us fear a catastrophic event is very likely. Consider the following…

  • In the February 3, 2006 issue of the Boston Globe reported, “Despite progress in fighting terrorism, the threat today may be greater than ever before because the weapons available are far more dangerous, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday”.
  • Investment guru Warren Buffett offered a bleak prediction for the nation’s national security saying a terrorist attack on American soil is “virtually a certainty”. Envy and dislike of the United States have fueled rage against the country even as the ability to build a nuclear device has spread. Buffett said, “We’re going to have something in the way of a major nuclear event in this country… It will happen. Whether it will happen in 10 years or 10 minutes, or 50 years … it’s virtually a certainty.”
  • The bipartisan 9/11 Commission reported that al Qaeda has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons for ten years and cited reports that bin Laden wants to carry out a “Hiroshima”.
  • In his book, America the Vulnerable / How Our government is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism, Stephen Flynn rates America’s security readiness against a major terrorist attack as a “1 or 2” on a scale of 1 to 10.

The conventional wisdom on the American public’s perception of a catastrophic terrorist event, “It is not if, but where and when and what will be the impact“.

We believe that the American public is interested in how the Intelligence industry is making strides to protect us from the next 9/11. If it is inevitable, then shouldn’t we do something about it?

If they are already interested, what else?

If we conclude, (a) the American public has a strong, intrinsic interest in the Intelligence process, and (b) the Intelligence process is vital to fighting the war on terrorism, here on our own soil, then where do we go from there?We must direct the obvious strong attraction to the Intelligence process towards an ever growing awareness that the general public can play a highly significant role in this war. Not only can the general public become more involved, they must become more involved.

In the entertainment version of the Intelligence process, there are some excellent illustrations of how the process works. In fact, much can be learned from watching these programs about the techniques and methods of seeking and collecting evidence, and stitching it together into conclusions based on facts. This is the essence of the Intelligence process.

But in virtually all of these programs (with the one exception of “24”), each episode addresses solving a crime after it has already been committed. In the war on terrorism, we cannot afford to solve the crime after it has taken place. We must prevent it from happening. There is too much at stake not to.

I-N coming!

So where do go from this point? The goal is to help our general citizenry learn more about the science and art of the Intelligence process. The more they learn about the process, the more they will understand how they can help.The public can help Homeland Defense and National Security efforts by reporting of suspicious activities to the authorities on a timely basis. Programs called “tips and leads” and “corporate outreach” are opening channels of useful information flow from the public to law enforcement, across the nation.

However, with an increasing knowledge and awareness of the process of Intelligence, no doubt there will be new ideas and concepts for improving the science and art of Intelligence. A well-informed community is an abundant, fertile source for innovation in the Intelligence industry. Tomorrow’s breakthrough in Intelligence methods may come from the school teacher in Oshkosh, the salesman in Des Moines, the real estate agent in Raleigh, the machinist in Encino, the farmer in Ames, the businessman in Tucson, or the pastor in Corvallis.If this war is being fought on our own home front, then we should all seek ways to support our warriors. We consider ourselves an intelligent nation, and we can use our Intelligence to win this war.

Learn more about the process, and then send your ideas to Intelligence-NEXT:

– End –

Another Editors Note: The Intelligence-NEXT organization is largely focused in 21st Century Enterprise knowledge and intelligence issues. We published this editorial at this time and in our blog, not only because it is timely, but because in this age, we will continue to be reminded, that the War on Terrorism demands intelligence of all kinds. We will have more to say on this topic in future editorials.

A Knowledge Game Lexicon

May 17, 2011

What was that phrase you used?

Most of us intellectually appreciate the need for having a common language to communicate with our team mates and associates. On the positive side, we fully appreciate when we use certain language (sometimes called jargon) amongst our peers, that it affords a kind of short-cut. We can communicate large amounts of content – and context as well – with a an economy of verbiage.

To the contrary, we have all been on both the giving and receiving end of the kinds of conversations that begin… “What I meant to say was…” or “I thought you understood it when I said…” or “What did he mean by that?” or my personal favorite, “But you said right here in this email…” Without belaboring the point in our discussion here, you certainly know that when a conversation starts with acknowledgement of confusion, somewhere/somehow the language broke down… and what followed was likely problematic to you.

Of course every type of business or industry generates its own language… a biz speak that helps communicate via shorthand the commonly and frequently used concepts and activities of that particular type of enterprise endeavor. The jargon, buzzwords, clichés, colloquialisms, and vernacular serve to create a useful vocabulary that supports the operation and performance of the workers and managers involved in the business.

It is no different with the knowledge game. In fact, the entire purpose of the enterprise knowledge game is to communicate relevant, important content from one person to another, and do so with economy of effort and timeliness of delivery. So therein lies an amazing irony. The daily enterprise activities associated with the knowledge game – the part of the enterprise that exists for the very purpose of clarity, precision, completeness, and efficiency in communication – is often an area where there is a most outrageous lack of a common language.

One of the primary issues underlying the disinterest, confusion, skepticism, and lackluster performance of in the 21st Century enterprise, is the sloppy use of terms and phrases.

Same words, new meanings

20 years ago terms that are commonplace in the contemporary knowledge game, meant something very different than they do now, in the 21st Century enterprise: learning, training, teaching, mentoring, information, data, IT… and even the term “knowledge”. To take a few examples…

  • 20 years ago structured training was predominantly held in the classroom. An employee went to a school-style classroom setting and received lectures which were occasionally accompanied with group exercises and a test or two. In 2007, for example, in the newly released Microsoft Official Distance Learning (MODL) product, there is a single course (equivalent to a 40 hour classroom experience) that has 370 individual interactions – including a blend of Conventional classroomcollaborative interactions, case study activities, brainstorm white-boarding, media clips, demonstrations, interactive scenarios.

So imagine if you used the word “training” – intended in the 2007 context – and an image of a 1995 classroom reflexively came to my mind.

  • 20 years ago information technology was largely a province of a handful of wizards behind the curtain in the air conditioned room with the big computers. MS Windows as most of us are now familiar with, was released in 1990

Mac DesktopSo imagine if you used the word “information technology” – intended in the 2007 context – and an image of a 1984 Mac came to my mind. We are exaggerating just a bit here to make a point, but the premise is very clear: when you use a key phrase or term in a discussion with another listener, the definition you intend to convey may not be the definition that audience receives. And if that disconnect occurs, all bets are off for that audience getting your point.

  • 10 years ago, for all purposes, these terms did not even exist – knowledge assets, knowledge economics, and knowledge supply chain.

We strongly recommend that if the enterprise intends to elevate its knowledge game, then a standardized glossary should be established.

Three value-laden purposes for a glossary

In truth there are a significant variety of good, solid business reasons for taking the time to build and implement a standardized glossary for the enterprise. Here are three purposes for establishing a knowledge supply chain glossary.

1. To standardize language: provide clear definition, grammatical and/or semantic interpretation for commonly used terms, well publicized and reinforced by management, that can be used for all enterprise communications and documentation.

2. To disambiguate terms: establish a standardized glossary that helps remove the ambiguity from common terms and phrases, as illustrated in the examples above.

3. Introduction of new terms: the glossary becomes an obvious platform for introduction of new terms and language that add increased clarity and richness to enterprise vocabulary.

The end result of fulfilling one or more of these purposes is value that is immeasurable… the enterprise will elevate its knowledge game almost as a side effect of the additional, substantial clarity and significant efficiency in communication and project activity alignment.

To emphatically position the point here, a “knowledge language” glossary is an invaluable insurance policy against miscommunication within the enterprise. AS LONG AS… everyone knows that the knowledge game glossary does indeed exist, and they further know where they can access it… conveniently and readily.

The glossary for the I-N Context: blog is a dynamic document, which we are constantly revisiting and updating with new terms and refined terminology. As you can see in this post, we frequently use the glossary via hyper-links that access the words we use. You can also jump to our glossary via the link at the top of each article in the navigation bar under the headline banner.

A little bit of knowledge should go a long way

May 11, 2011

“In the world of business, knowledge is an interesting but useless commodity – until it is put to good use.”

A quote from countless clients and customers
Intelligence-NEXT: Inc.

Where are you now?

In the 21st Century enterprise, the knowledge game should be well focused on increasing the likelihood that individual knowledge will benefit the enterprise… and do so on a timely basis. Are you doing this now?

From the framework of “where we are now, and where we should be soon”… On the plus side, most enterprises have a variety of policies, processes, practices, cultures, and conventions that are already in place to promote the advancement of knowledge utilization within the organization. On the minus side, whatever the enterprise is doing, it is rarely sufficient… almost everyone will tell you so… and there is not much clarity on how things will get better.

To expand, on the plus side the enterprise will provide a variety of tools email, databases, document libraries, and a variety of software applications that help in the transfer of data and information into potentially useful knowledge. The enterprise will also occasionally provide learning experiences or promote some type of knowledge sharing activities training, lectures, workshops, newsletters, idea forums, etc., that seek to convert individual knowledge into applied knowledge of potential value to the enterprise. And ultimately, the enterprise will provide some structured business processes or best practices project management, decision review bodies, peer reviews, focus groups, etc. – that serve to convert knowledge into executable intelligence.

On the minus side of the knowledge game, the enterprise will readily admit that so much more could be and should be done to improve or enhance knowledge utilization within the organization. The enterprise also has likely had a history of less than successful attempts at improving the collection, distribution, and timely usage of its knowledge assets. Further, the enterprise in general has no central executive strategy to improve its performance in the knowledge game… even in areas of the business where it is understood that incremental improvements may mean huge improvements in marketplace or organizational performance.

Playing it safe and maybe losing the game

For sake of discussion, let’s call it “playing it safe”.

When an executive or leadership team is not quite sure how best to describe the problem, OR what a desirable solution might look like, it typically will just leave the issue alone. There will be some discussion about how important the knowledge game is to the future of the company, but no action will be taken.

To help illustrate this observation, the Intelligence-NEXT team provides a survey on its web site, The top 10 reasons why executives hesitate to initiate knowledge development projects. This survey is the result of 10 years of research, and will help the discerning executive team rate itself in this matter against other leadership teams from global enterprises.The executive team will typically tell you that with all the other priorities on its plate, improving their knowledge game performance as ultimately important as it may be will simply have to wait. They have a business to run that has more urgent priorities. And BTW, there will be nine other reasons that seem pretty good in justifying why the “improving knowledge game” project can wait.

So the apparent safe course is to take no action. No worries… history will later reveal how good a decision it is to postpone active improvements in the enterprise knowledge supply chain. And since it takes a while for history to show up, then a non-decision seems OK… it almost always seems OK in matters such as this.

Playing it safe – and winning the game

Is there a better way to “play it safe”? Our answer is emphatically, YES. In fact, for sake of discussion in this post, we will call it the SAFE approach. And we want to strongly emphasize that the reader should not confuse our notion of the SAFE approach with any contemporary market offerings labeled as knowledge management, business intelligence, communities of practice, distant learning, innovation, etc.

Frederick Presentation 1Quite simply, the SAFE approach provides the enterprise with a means to establish a well-defined and reasonably structured business process… maintaining a central focus in all cases on the role that knowledge plays in enterprise performance improvement.

As critical content flows through the knowledge supply chain from data, to information, to knowledge, and ultimately to executable business intelligence there are many intersecting points where this content is impacted by the people, processes, and technologies within the enterprise. Without judicious management, the knowledge supply chain content can get easily distorted, distracted, morphed, or lost along the way. The end result of a poorly functioning knowledge supply chain often equates to substandard business performance.

The SAFE approach simply takes care to address most if not all of those intersecting points along the knowledge supply chain.

Here is the extremely GOOD NEWS! Achieving a high performance knowledge supply chain does not involve a major, expensive, resource-intensive, long term project. Typically 80% of the ingredients of a successful knowledge-driven enterprise are already possessed by the enterprise… and simply require a bit of restructuring to realize considerable growth in leveraging of enterprise knowledge assets. The following are important points of understanding on the part of the Enterprise Decision Executive or Sponsor who may be considering a SAFE approach to the knowledge supply chain initiative:

  • This is not a complex nor an expensive undertaking; the success formula has been well proven
  • Once implemented, it requires a relatively short period of time to begin to realize impressive gains in enterprise knowledge and executable intelligence
  • The ROI will be readily visible and understandable
  • The upside gain will almost always be substantially greater than anticipated

The key message for discerning executive… improving your performance in the knowledge game is clearly not the substantial undertaking that you may have previously envisioned.

Ingredients for success

Once the decision is made to undertake a knowledge supply chain project… there is a straightforward tactical approach, complete with well-defined roles and responsibilities, and with checklist-driven tasking. There are four important points to bear in mind about applying a SAFE approach to the knowledge game.

  1. You will find out quickly if your enterprise staff and associates are poised and possess the appropriate mindset to drive a knowledge asset enhancement initiative.
  2. To ensure success, you only need a strategic direction for the knowledge supply chain – not a well articulated, detailed business plan.
  3. Any reasonable change management approach to project development and implementation can be utilized – you probably already have a process you use that will work quite nicely with the knowledge supply chain model.
  4. Most of the resources, technology, and competency required for a successful knowledge development initiative, are already in place within your enterprise.

This posting has been classified as a “concept” because it lays the conceptual foundation for a simple yet thorough method developed by Intelligence-NEXT: In upcoming posts we will provide more detail on how to structure an effective knowledge supply chain, using a SAFE approach. It is elegantly simple.

The bridge from knowledge to action

May 8, 2011

PP_B_BlueGGBridgeBelow 35%It has been said that in the world of business, knowledge is an interesting but useless commodity – until it is put to proper use. We have all seen examples of really smart people coming together with tons of knowledge and great ideas, who have failed as an enterprise.We know that >50% of all small businesses fail within 3 years, and we know that the boardrooms of the Fortune 1000 are splattered with disappointing business performance records – many of catastrophic proportion.

There are as many reasons for failure as there are number of failures… and it’s not always as simple as “no sales, no income”.

But we do know this – knowledge sitting in people’s heads is of marginal value to an enterprise – certainly intangible value – until that knowledge is put to work on a task that the enterprise deems important to its purpose.

Then what?

The purpose of models like the knowledge supply chain is to help the enterprise understand how to convert knowledge possessed by the individuals who work for or with the enterprise – into value for the enterprise.

There are many individuals, teams, and groups that really do indeed understand how to turn knowledge into profit and top tier market performance.However, the Founders and Principals of our own group have over 200 years of collective experience working with companies that certainly had not yet mastered the science of “turning knowledge into success”.

The ONLY answer to this dilemma is to establish a method. Develop your own, borrow someone else’s, or hire someone to do it for you… but create a structured, well-defined, business process that everyone fully understands. This process should become institutionalized to the point of being 2nd nature to each and every person with ownership in success of the enterprise.

Everyone should fully understand and practice the disciplines associated with making the knowledge game a consistently sure win, and not an occasional highlight on the monthly report.

The bridge – from here to there

We have carefully chosen the metaphor of the bridge as the transition between knowledge and action. In our experience this metaphor works very well for the reason that a bridge…

  • Connects a destination with a starting point – you know where you are, and you can see where you want to be… and the bridge is a direct way to get there.
  • Eliminates the need to go the long way around – avoids extra time, extra resources, extra hassles… the bridge is a direct way to get there
  • Provides the necessary structure to get there – whatever barriers or impediments were previously denying progress, are overcome by a well-constructed fixture leading to the desired destination… the bridge is a direct way to get there
  • It takes action on the part of the traveler to get from here to there – even if you can see where you want to be, you must move from where you toward where you wish to be… the bridge is a direct way to get there

The metaphor connects the dots

So the bridge from knowledge to action provides the following

A clear process for those who possess useful and purposeful knowledge – to become enabled to convert that knowledge into executable intelligence… which is intended to create the desired value called for by the enterprise.

This process takes into account the current and historical barriers that have previously prohibited the enterprise from accomplishing the kinds of results it believes it is capable of attaining.

This process has sufficient policy, discipline, and best practices associated with it to overcome or deny the obstacles to successful outcomes of applying the knowledge in a meaningful way.

This process compels the people holding the knowledge to get on with it… to actively apply that knowledge in the most appropriate context and in a most timely fashion.

In future posts, we will offer a more definitive description of what a knowledge supply chain method looks like, and how it works.

The Perfect Brainstorm – Part 2

May 2, 2011

The metaphor becomes a tool

When we use this metaphor in a dynamic learning strategy exercise, there are two very obvious questions that arise if indeed this metaphor will hold significant value to the participating executives and/or leadership .

  • What are the similarities?
  • What are the differences?

For sake of discussion, we will look at the ‘storm’ part as the ‘Outdoors’ phenomenon, and the ‘brainstorm’ part as an ‘Indoors’ event (i.e., where business usually takes place). So here are similarities that our participants usually find useful to the exercise.

The contributing conditions can be otherwise common occurrences. Outdoors – weather happens everyday. Indoors – thinking and learning happens everyday.

There were more then a few circumstances coming from multiple different directions. Outdoors – weather is not completely predictable, but we know it comes from somewhere, and it is always going to somewhere else. In this case several circumstances were coming from several different directions. Indoors – people are thinking and learning because they are usually trying to move forward in a particular direction [on a project, a program, an event, etc.] Sometimes, folks on several different activities happen to come together in a uniquely valuable way.

The storm occurred without the typical warnings. Outdoors – the weather went from OK to not so good, very quickly… because of the special circumstances that happened all at once. Indoors – the thinking and learning very often happens, not by design but rather by awareness, alertness, interest, and creativity of the brainstormers. Innovation happens when the moment is seized.

The result was an epic event, with immediate monumental consequences and long-standing implications. Outdoors – the weather generated an order of magnitude of power that rendered all objects and other elements involved, as non-consequential (e.g., $1B in damage, 12 deaths). Indoors – people can bring collective thinking and learning to such a focus as to produce greatness of unimaginable proportion. History is full of epic genius in special circumstances, brought about largely due to the “right people, right time, and right circumstances”.

The contributing conditions came together as if by chance (and of course were totally uncontrollable and their convergence was unpredictable). Outdoors – out of nowhere, low pressure systems met a dying hurricane over the Gulf Stream, along with a cache of other meteorological convergences. Indoors – ??? –

Well this is exactly the point we want to focus upon. Is the perfect brainstorm… unpredictable, happening as if by chance?

Differences – the Perfect Brainstorm becomes attainable… and realistic!

Here is where the knowledge game can become very very interesting indeed. We often think of the great innovation environments as kind of “think tanks” – like Rand Corporation, MIT, Stanford University, etc. – as elite institutions filled with super smart people and working in ideal thinking environments. If you are going to have great cerebral things happen, you need to have a perfect environment, with astoundingly knowledgeable people using superior tools to produce the kinds of intelligence we would label as “superior innovation”.

It is our experience, that this stereotype is exactly where the perfect storm metaphor wanders away from the perfect brainstorm… and becomes a bright, fair weather day!

There are two substantial differences between the perfect storm and the perfect brainstorm:

The landscape and environment in which the perfect brainstorm can occur – is controllable and replicable.

The landscape and environment in which the perfect brainstorm can occur – can be sustained indefinitely.

It was no accident that we used the labels Outdoors and Indoors to respectively compare and contrast these two concepts – The Perfect Storm vs. The Perfect Brainstorm. We all understand that the things that go on Outdoors can be wild and wooly, and for the most part, uncontrollable and unpredictable. Yet it is no stretch of the imagination to grasp that things that go on Indoors are much more susceptible to being controllable and predictable. We create the indoor environment that makes that control much more feasible.And when the indoor environment we are referring to is the human brain – we had all better believe that we can control and predict what goes on in that environment!

The perfect brainstorm happens when the usual human thinking and learning are engendered in a somewhat different way than how it usually takes place. But make no mistake; thinking and learning are ALREADY going on. This thinking and learning however can be modestly redirected – maybe it involves a bit of restructuring of the overall working situation – but the correct conditions for producing the perfect brainstorm can most definitely be controlled and replicated. We have seen it done many times.

Even more encouraging is the understanding that the perfect brainstorm can literally be an ongoing event… not awaiting special circumstances or conditions (in fact, this is part of what we mean by “controllable”). Here again we return to the fundamental point that thinking and learning are already going on anyway – regardless of what the enterprise is doing to help foster, direct, augment, or otherwise influence the process. So when the enterprise and the potential brainstormers come together with an agreed Indoor environment… well magic can happen. In fact, we have seen stellar examples of where the perfect brainstorming process has become an essential part of the enterprise culture.

Examples of the perfect brainstorm results

So why is this metaphor so appealing, and why does it have real world relevance in the 21st Century enterprise? Applied appropriately the metaphorical model actually does help the enterprise draw out that which it already knows. The Perfect Brainstorm exercise simply creates an environment and circumstances that allow the enterprise to more clearly experience its existing knowledge assets.For some excellent examples of the principles of the Perfect Brainstorm put to wonderful results… the interested reader can take a look at the Intelligence-NEXT: Track Record.

The notion of our Perfect Brainstorm exercise was in fact, drawn from past activities in which we have been fortunate enough to participate – situations that have generated outstanding results. We have studied the prevailing business environment (a.k.a. Indoors conditions) to build our model for the Perfect Brainstorm activity. It really does work!