Friday, 13 January 2012

Intellectual Harvesting with MindGenius

Welcome to 2012!

I hoped you enjoyed the festive season. However, all good things must come to an end and normal business resumes, or as we say -it’s ‘back to porridge and old clothes’. We have another saying in Scotland – “Out with the Old and In with the New”. A new year brings with it an opportunity to plan for the coming year and to identify what we need to achieve in the coming months in order to translate our desires and dreams into reality.

So have you made your New Year resolutions, or plans for the coming year? If you haven’t set any objectives shouldn’t you be considering doing so? Do you really want to drift through the coming year and fail to attain the objectives you want and/or need to achieve?

And if you have a set of objectives, are they the right ones? For you? For your organisation? For your stakeholders?

In this article I am going to discuss a methodology we use with MindGenius called Intellectual Harvesting and how this can help you with objective setting.

Intellectual Harvesting allows people to capture their own, or others, knowledge and experience, and then readily organize it in ways that make sense and can be put to good use. It allows individuals or teams to tap into their personal and organizational knowledge, experience and creativity in order to gain a broader understanding of a given scenario. It surfaces what needs to be achieved and helps identify the best way forward. As a result, people can manage their challenges more effectively and benefit from a sustainable approach to identifying, managing and overcoming challenges on an ongoing basis.

In its simplest form, Intellectual Harvesting is a template which prompts people to ask themselves some fundamental, yet simple, questions in relation to objective setting.

Subject Matter

Intellectual Harvesting can be used to address a specific subject or a wider, more general subject by an organization/team/person.

I will illustrate this article using “Work-life balance” as an example. By this I mean how a person chooses to spend their time and energies between work related activities and personal life activities (e.g. family, leisure, enjoyment)

Who are the Stakeholders?

Stakeholders can be a person, group, organization, or system who directly, or indirectly, dictate, influence or be impacted by the subject matter. By identifying who the stakeholders are and the nature of their interest, you will better understand what is expected of you.

In the figure below I’ve recorded some stakeholders associated with Work-Life Balance. The “Children” parent branch is shown expanded to reveal the nature of their interest.

What is the current situation?

Now let’s understand the current situation. After all it is Point A, the launch pad for your journey to your desired destination, Point B. To document your understanding of the current situation, view it from a positive as well as a negative point of view.

Taking a positive view, what are the strengths of the current situation? What works? What is going well? What are the things that you do not wish to change, or perhaps you would want to build on as they would give you a firm foundation?

To balance this, take a negative view of the current situation. What doesn't work? What are the weak areas in the current situation? What activities are being performed but not effectively? What are the things that should be in place but are not?

Unfortunately you often find that the negative list will be longer than the positive one. It seems easier to come up with negatives rather than positives as we tend to assign a higher weighting to negative information than positive information.

What would be the ideal/desirable situation?

Let’s take another viewpoint and shift the timeframe to the future. If your desires and aspirations were to be realised, what would the future look like and what would possible objectives be?

Look forward to desirable future events/ways of working/achievements with pleasure and anticipation. Don’t be constrained by how you would achieve these. What would it feel like to be in such a situation? What problems, irritations would be alleviated?

Consider how such objectives might fit with, or be derived from, your stakeholders’ interests. Also consider the criticality of such objectives. How long could you go without realising them before some irrevocable, adverse impact occurs or you miss a key window of opportunity to reap a benefit?

Now you have identified potential objectives.

What are the barriers, obstacles to progress?

We need to introduce a touch of realism. What would be the obstacles in the way of achieving such objectives? What barriers would you have to overcome? How might you use your current strengths to overcome such obstacles? By doing this you will start to have a clearer idea as to the feasibility of your objective, or a way to achieve it.

On completion of the Intellectual Harvesting map you will have documented your understanding of the subject matter, you will have a better understanding of the challenges that you face and what you have to achieve to have a successful outcome.

So if you don’t have any objectives currently set, have a go at Intellectual Harvesting and use it to help you to identify objectives to give you purpose and direction in the forthcoming year. If you already have objectives, use Intellectual Harvesting to sanity check that they are the right ones.

Hope you have a successful and prosperous 2012.

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