Insight Management Explained

Accelerating productivity and reducing stress in the modern workplace

Insight management is the key to reduced stress and multiplications of productivity within the modern, knowledge-driven organization.

A story of capital management within a modern organization

Imagine an organization where the capital of the organization is locked away in the drawers of each employee's desk.

No one knows how much capital is in any one desk, let alone how much capital the organization has at its disposal as a whole.

Whenever an individual employee needs more capital than they possess on their own, they have to go around interrupting their coworkers asking them to check their drawers for available capital.

No bookkeeping is done when capital accrues, meaning that no one knows if key indicators are trending upwards or downwards, nor by how much. And as a result of the capital being inaccessible, it does not compound over time.

When people go home, they bring the capital home, and when they leave to a competitor, they bring the capital along with them.

If this scenario sounds unrealistic, it’s probably because you’re assuming that capital in this story refers to financial capital.

If you, however, consider the drawers as metaphors for people's brains and that the capital refers to intellectual capital, you might realize that I'm describing a very common scenario in most modern organizations.

What is intellectual capital

Intellectual capital is a term used to describe the collective knowledge/insight available to an organization or team.

Intellectual capital consists in part of structural capital, which is the knowledge that remains in the organization when the people go home, and the human capital, which is stored inside the heads of the employees.

Intellectual capital is arguably one of the most valuable assets of any organization and, without a doubt, the most valuable asset in knowledge work.

Subsequently, it may appear strange that intellectual capital is not managed anywhere near as deliberately nor as carefully as financial capital.

Why aren’t modern organizations more productive?

In 1999, the famous management consultant Peter Drucker made the following estimation:

Productivity in the industrial sector has grown by 50x during the last 100 years.

This unimaginable growth is attributed mainly to the fact that we in the early 20th century realized that if we got serious about constructing processes around the building of things (an assembly line, for instance), we could build products better, faster and cheaper.

At the same time, Peter Drucker pointed out that no such revolution had yet to take place within knowledge work, and that knowledge work productivity in 1999 was comparable to industrial productivity in 1900.

It stands to reason that if we want to see anything resembling the 50x productivity boost experienced by the industrial sector, we need to start managing the manufacturing of knowledge products the same way we started managing the manufacturing of industrial products over 100 years ago.

What is insight management?

Insight management is the process of proactively and deliberately organizing insight to ensure the best return on investment of the intellectual capital available to an organization.

The definition might sound a bit hoity-toity, but the practice of insight management is quite straight-forward:

Insight management means writing useful stuff down and making it easily available to others who might find it useful.

Insight management is nothing new, nor is the value limited to the organization.

When I was younger, I remember there being a more prevalent culture of home makers writing down and trading or passing down their cooking recipies. This too is insight management.

Insight management is measured on to which extent relevant insight is accessible and utilized at the right time by the right people in the right format and the right context.

At its core, insight management consists of improving human capital and gradually converting it to structural capital in order to make it more easily accessible, reusable and improvable.

The need for insight management within an organization is perhaps most clearly summarized in this famous quote by the former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt:

If HP knew what HP knows, we'd be three times more productive.

What makes insight management relevant today?

Making sure that great insight is available to the right people has always been relevant in any human endeavor, but probably never more so than today, as workers during the last 20 years have come to increasingly expect autonomy, flexibility and transparency from their work.

The expectation of autonomy was primarily ushered in by knowledge work, leaving each individual knowledge worker or team to organize themselves, regardless of their organizational skills.

Next came the expectation of flexibility, represented by the option of working from home, a trend cemented as the new normal for knowledge workers during the COVID pandemic. In the current market it has also become increasingly more common for people to take on work as free agents within an organizational ecosystem rather than signing on as a "fixed" employee.

More recently, a new generation of workers (Generation Z) have raised the bar when it comes to expecting transparency and social responsibility from the organizations they’re associated with.

All of this makes the need for information to be easily available, scrutinizable and reusable without having to be at the office or bother a coworker more relevant than ever before.

Why practice insight management

Practicing insight management leads to a well of both organizational and individual benefits. Here are some of the them:

Pains alleviated

  • Constant interruptions are drastically reduced because people have access to information they would normally have to interrupt their coworkers for.
  • Mistakes are not repeated due to the ability to codify solutions into repeatable processes.
  • Much less time is spent looking for insight. No more spending hours each week sifting through emails, Slack posts or documents to find relevant information.
  • Less stress and better retainment of best practices when people leave the organization.
  • Confusion and misunderstandings are avoided because expectations and best practices are clearly communicated and easily available.
  • Reduced risk of errors and accidents because expectations and best practices are easily reusable.

Gains produced

  • Increased productivity due to not having to reinvent the wheel and doing things right the first time.
  • A better understanding of how and why the organization works allowing employees, free agents and vendors to come aboard and produce more value more quickly.
  • Better and more predictable quality due to work being done consistently and following clear expectations.
  • Better traceability allowing us to go back and find out why something went wrong (and fix it).
  • Better decisions by tapping into the power of collective intelligence and facilitating thorough and thoughtful decision processes (as opposed to decisions driven by whim or intuition).
  • Ability to continuously adapt and improve our best insight around a single source of truth about how we work.
  • Produce better outcomes by reusing the collectively best understanding of roles and practices.
  • Increased accountability by making it clear who is expected to do and take care of what.
  • Increased visibility into the production and actual usage of insight.
  • Free up creative capacity by spending less energy storing ideas and more time having them.
  • Free up time for focused work by having fewer interruptions.

What does it take to practice insight management?

Enabling insight management within an organization is not something that can be done solely by throwing a piece of software at the problem.

Here are the components that need to be in place in order for insight management to predictively produce productivity:

1. Time

If people feel pressed for time and they have not been advised otherwise, they will focus their efforts on doing work, and downplay the facilitation and improvement of future work.

Making time is a matter of putting insight management on the agenda in order to make it a priority. This, in turn, frees up more time for doing productive work surprisingly fast.

2. Tools

Insight management revolves around one or more tools where insight can be collected, shared and improved. An insight management system within an organization can consist of a collection of various information systems working together to form a whole, or a specialized insight management platform dedicated to promoting an insight management culture (like the Wecomplish Platform).

3. Culture

Insight management requires an organization-wide mindset that we do not retain insight about how we work in our own heads, as that makes the insight less accessible, reusable and improvable, as well as easier to lose.

4. Skills

Insight management skills include understanding basic insight management terminology, sharing an organizational vocabulary around the information types the organization needs to manage and the ability to convert organizational problems to solutions, and solutions to reusable insight exposed at the right time.

5. Incentives

In order to keep a culture of insight management alive, incentive structures need to be put in place so that people are rewarded for making work easier for the next guy, regardless of whether that next guy is themselves or a coworker.

Facebook is a great example here, once tying 50% of management bonuses to to which extent roles were easily transferable to others.

In conclusion

Insight management is the key to reduced stress and multiplications of productivity within the modern, knowledge-driven organization.

To which extent is insight deliberately managed within your organization today? What do you believe are the consequences of not managing it more closely? Consider discussing these questions at the next meeting of the board or management team.

If you need help getting the discussion started on insight management within your organization, feel free to get in touch and we will connect you with one of our insight management consultants for a free introductory session.