I believe the big breakthrough value with adaptive case management (ACM) will come from people who can’t spell ACM. That is, from executives. Before I get accused of writing an article saying executives can’t spell, let me explain that I see ACM solutions being driven by those who are technology-agnostic, who simply want the business results that adaptive case management can deliver. In this article I explore how forward-thinking business leaders will use adaptive case management, including some of its social business aspects, to help foster knowledge worker innovation and win market share.

A Common Theme of Serving the Customer

As I work with organizations to improve their business outcomes, I get to see firsthand the solutions that are helping them successfully navigate though the current economic and market pressures. I’ve shared some of those case studies in my series on adaptive case management to illustrate where adaptive case management is being used by business leaders who are:

One common theme emerges from these process improvement examples. The business executives in these studies do not fixate on the technology or even the methodology; they focus on serving the customer better. Furthermore, these executives are asking “How can you help me differentiate my business to gain new customers and win market share from competitors?” Here is where I think adaptive case management can shine by helping knowledge workers to be better innovators.

Disruptive Innovation and Knowledge Work

Innovation and the role of knowledge work have long been explored in research and a wide variety of books on the subject. We were introduced to the notion of disruptive innovation more than a decade ago by one of my favorite thinkers -- scholar, author and speaker Clayton Christensen. In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen explained how disruptive innovation occurs when long-standing assumptions in a marketplace are tested and successfully challenged by upstarts. And as far back as the late 60s, Peter Drucker was writing about knowledge work as a disruptive force in The Age of Discontinuity.

The points made by Drucker and Christensen are very much as relevant and current today, especially with the rise in the importance of knowledge workers as business has evolved. In fact, I just read a great article I recommend about Teen Knowledge Work that considers the coming innovative disruption from the youngest influx to our “workforce.”

How does all this relate to adaptive case management and the business leaders I think will drive its acceptance?

The connection is suggested by the recent book Managing Knowledge Work and Innovation that explains how knowledge work depends primarily on the behaviors, attitudes and motivations of those who undertake and manage it and not simply on the implementation of information systems technology. This idea is reflected in the Persona-based solutions that are becoming so important to business process effectiveness.

And, while automation is necessary, it is certainly not sufficient to drive knowledge work productivity. Yet, we see that many of the more traditional business process solutions focus solely on automating to remove (what is usually repetitious or non-value add) activity from the hands of workers. In contrast, adaptive case management seeks to enhance the knowledge worker’s ability to perform their highly skilled, highly nuanced and often ad hoc and unstructured work activities. It is in this enhanced work performance by key personas that the seeds of innovation can lie for an organization.

Helping Knowledge Workers to Innovate

How exactly does adaptive case management assist knowledge worker innovation? First you need to accept the premise of the newly published Innovator’s DNA by Jeffrey H. Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen that innovators aren’t just born, they can be made. A Harvard Business School Review of the book explains that innovation skills can come through learning -- from first understanding the skill, then practicing it and ultimately gaining confidence in our capacity to create. Anyone can become more innovative by practicing five skills:

  1. Associating: drawing connections between questions, problems or ideas from unrelated fields
  2. Questioning: posing queries that challenge common wisdom
  3. Observing: scrutinizing the behavior of customers, suppliers and competitors to identify new ways of doing things
  4. Experimenting: constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge
  5. Networking: meeting people with different ideas and perspectives

These skills map to the enabling capabilities of the best adaptive case management solutions! Collectively, the five knowledge worker skills that constitute the innovator's DNA are the code for generating, and I believe with the help of ACM for implementing business innovation.

For example, associating happens as the brain tries to synthesize and make sense of novel inputs --or deal with all the artifacts of “business as it happens” as devotees of ACM might say. ACM can help innovators discover new directions, serving up an increased volume of building blocks from which innovative ideas spring.

Innovators are consummate questioners who show a passion for inquiry. They love to ask, "If we tried this, what would happen?" ACM and its related simulation capabilities can enable these questions to provoke new insights, connections, possibilities and directions.

Finally, innovators are also intense observers, networkers and seekers of interactive experience. Innovators spend a lot of time and energy finding and testing ideas through a diverse network of individuals that can be enabled by the social and collaborative capabilities of ACM.

Achieving Better Business Outcomes

Delivering cost efficiencies and improving governance are significant achievements, especially in today’s difficult times, but I continue to see the most successful organizations also focus on markets and customers to drive profitable growth. For these initiatives to succeed, executives will want to better equip their knowledge workers, and I maintain they will increasingly use adaptive case management solutions to enable more informed and inspired decisionmaking, increased vertical value chain competitiveness, and, ultimately, to deliver innovative business change.

What do you think? Your insights, ideas, and novel thoughts on the subject are most welcome.

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