Thought experiments are a useful tool for trying things out for size, before you actually commit money and resources. Of course, they aren’t always as highly predictive as a well-designed pilot, but they can be very valuable — in the right hands. If you don’t believe me, ask Walter Isaacson who made the following observation in his biography about Albert Einstein:
Based purely on thought experiments — performed in his head rather than in a lab — [Einstein] decided to discard Newton’s concepts of absolute space and time. It would become known as the Special Theory of Relativity. [And, resulting from this thought experiment, he proposed an addendum in which] he posited a relationship between energy and mass. Out of it would arise the best-known equation in all of physics: E=mc2.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to be Einstein to perform a successful thought experiment. You just need to set aside a little time and really probe a question (or group of questions) to see where the answers lead you. It’s not necessarily about finding a single solution as much as it is about sensing a new direction and opening new vistas for your planning
So here’s today’s thought experiment: What if you had a knowledge management R&D budget?
(And what, you might ask, is a KM R&D budget? It’s an amount of time, money and resources set aside for research and development, which in our case means to try new tools and techniques in a sandbox before you get to a proof of concept or pilot. It’s a way of expanding your horizons and seeing if an approach that’s worked elsewhere will work in your environment. It’s an experiment without a huge price tag. It’s a chance to do an end run around the mandatory six to 18 months of IT business analysis so that you have some relevant evidence on which to build your business case. It’s a chance to explore, a chance to play with purpose.)
So let’s resume the thought experiment: What if you had a KM R&D budget?
– how much would you need?
– how would you justify it?
– what would you do with it?
– who would you involve?
To do this right, you should set aside at least 20 minutes to think this through. At a minimum, it will be diverting. If you’re lucky, this thought experiment could push your knowledge management effort in a whole new and productive direction.
As was once said, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth. Save yourself from the rut (and an early grave) by indulging in this thought experiment often. It might well give you and your law firm knowledge management effort a new lease on life.