Wednesday, 29 January 2014

How steep are you prepared to go? Learning curves

How many times, after undertaking something new, do we hear or use the phrase, “It was a steep learning curve”?
As individuals we use this phrase because we usually don’t like the effort required to go from ignorance to knowledge at an uncomfortable pace.  But what we don’t like is the fact we have been given insufficient help en route - it’s been too much hard work…etc.  But think about this from a company’s perspective – surely any cost-conscious, profit-seeking enterprise would value the ability to accrue knowledge as quickly as possible?

In the business context, a ‘shallow’ learning curve implies taking longer and incurring greater costs along the way.  So, steep learning curves are what ambitious businesses should aim for but how do they think these are going to be achieved?

If out on a mountain, you wouldn’t try a steep ascent without appropriate equipment (e.g. harness, some crampons, ropes and pegs etc.) – indeed, it would be irresponsible to try, foolhardy even.  One would probably fail, at considerable risk of injury en route.

Now, to return to the business environment, we replace climbing equipment with the tools, processes and disciplines of Knowledge Management (KM) – such as Peer Assists, Knowledge Exchanges, Lessons Capture and Communities of Practice etc. 
Using these aids, companies are well-equipped to manage steep learning curves - perhaps whistling as they go.  They cheerfully pass their competitors on the way up – companies that either attempt the same incline without the right kit, at considerable risk, or those that have to make do with a gentler slope, taking their time and incurring greater costs along the way.

Let’s picture this with a graph – Knowledge vs. Time:
Finally, the KM-equipped reach the summit and can finally enjoy the view – noting how far they have come in such a short time. 
For more information on how to get better equipped for steep learning curves, please visit the Knoco web-site.

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