Leveraging Support Systems for Unparalleled Performance

Tacit-explicit interactions largely determine the extent to which participants make use of others’ knowledge, build on others’ creative insights, and harness the synergistic potential of product-innovation settings (Biscaccianti, Esposito, & Williams, 2011).  While the authors were expressly referring to product innovation, this conclusion is equally applicable in nearly all organizational situations where knowledge exchange occurs.  This universality is the direct result of the need for those who possess greater experience – who thereby possess greater tacit knowledge – to then share this with those who may possess greater explicit knowledge – such as those acting on the cutting-edge who are perhaps less experienced yet aware of emerging trend.   The meeting place of the tacit-explicit interaction is therefore a situation where at least two participants part ways sharing collectively deeper levels of understanding in the nuance of current, experience-supported technical expertise.

Support systems, such as this interaction where an innovator supports another, is a source of unparalleled performance based on a mutually beneficial relationship.  Once a particular passion or interest is unleashed, constant interaction among group members, with their varying skills and talents, functions as a kind of peer amplifier, providing numerous outlets, resources, and aids to further an individual’s learning (Thomas & Brown, 2011).  On the scale of an organization, this same amplification is seen at a collective height where an individual’s benefit is multiplied many times over.  This distinction becomes inherently crucial when regarding organizational performance, as the focus is normatively on the proper comprehension & execution of a strategy and its objectives.  Yet in situations where a strategy is poorly articulated or understood – or in situations where workers are charged with conjuring their own plans of attack – gaps in the collective knowledge of an organization begin to amass as portions of the organization advance in disparate directions to satiate the same goal(s).  As remarked by Merchant (2010), “In Silicon Valley, we call that gap an ‘Air Sandwich’: the empty void in an organization between the high-level strategy conjured up in the stratosphere and the realization of that vision down on the ground”.

Support systems, in this instance referring to any opportunity for the knowledge/skills/abilities of one to provide benefit to another, can unlock potential stifled by these structural and communication-based barriers to execution and therefore performance.  One such strategy includes building an advice-and-counsel network of trusted advisers within and outside the organization with whom to talk through what you are experiencing (Watkins, 2003).  Additional strategies include mobilizing organizational change by setting the fast zebras free, and melting the frozen tundra by seeding a movement and ultimately proving the movement works (Katzenbach & Kahn, 2010).  In nearly every instance, a terse summary of the suggested approach for eliminating the void and driving unparalleled performance requires a collective representation of knowledge both in storage and in use.  This knowledge, as well as opportunities to identify positive deviance such that they may be communicated as best practice which will ultimately drive structured efficacy toward pointed, consistent organizational measures of performance allows for an evolved lens with which to view performance toward a single, holistic purpose.

– Justin

Biscaccianti, A., Esposito, M., & Williams, L.C. (2011). The M3C model of cooperative contextual change. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing & Enterprises.

Katzenbach, J. R. & Khan, Z. (2010). Leading outside the lines: How to mobilize the (in)formal organization, energize your team, and get better results. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Merchant, N. (2010). The new how: Creating business solutions through collaborative strategy. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Thomas, D. & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.

Watkins, M. (2003). The first 90 days: Critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.


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