Earlier this year the Medtronic Knowledge Center refurbished its space with a collaborative spirit. The high-ceilinged room off the main lobby of its headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota now opens onto high-top tables with built-in technology so information professionals can work with local and virtual teams on solving their information needs. A map of the world, three clocks showing global time zones, and a snippet from the company Mission statement are visual signposts indicating that the Knowledge Center supports a global workforce.
In addition to the workspaces, employees can have a change of pace in comfortable armchairs positioned next to a selection of literature where employees have published or that are relevant to their work. Office cubes have been moved over the tracks on the floor — the only thing remaining of the physical collection — indicating how the Knowledge Center’s reach has expanded to a truly global audience. As guests enter, they now see a collaborative and welcoming space.
“An executive leader came in recently with one of our founders to show him the space,” says Meghan Turok, a senior technical information specialist, with a gleeful note. “That wouldn’t have happened before. Now we’re a highlight on the corporate tour!”
Key initiatives of the Knowledge Center
At Medtronic, the Knowledge Center is a centralized function serving global technologists, healthcare professionals, engineers and others. It ties heavily into the section of the Medtronic Mission that emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and knowledge assimilation under three main initiatives:
- Library — The library encompasses literature subscriptions and professional research. Clinical, technical and business information are all available through the Knowledge Center website to provide employees with the information they need to discover, learn and support making good decisions.
- Technical development and engagement — The focus here is on employee learning and leveraging internal knowledge. The Knowledge Center energizes the Medtronic technical community by providing opportunities to learn, connect and engage. Through partnerships with technical leaders and societies, they deliver events, education and recognition that foster the internal collection and sharing of knowledge.
- Knowledge management and collaboration solutions — This initiative is about connecting people to people and people to information. The Knowledge Center supports an internal social networking platform called MIX (Medtronic Information Exchange), where employees can join online communities, share what they are working on, and find out what others are doing and what’s happening with the company. One flagship community, sponsored by the Knowledge Center, is Ask Medtronic. It encourages employees to ask and answer questions from across the globe.
“I don’t know of many companies that put as much energy and time into resources that successfully connect people internally as Medtronic does,” says Meghan. “But working this way pays for itself many times over.”
Inviting people in
“Early in the transition from paper to digital the company was going through some challenges,” says Tracy Harmon, the library operations manager who has been at Medtronic for 13 years. “The Knowledge Center had to limit its ability to be open and available to employees. As we came through that transition, we became more strategic, gaining credibility and leadership support. This increased the demand for our resources and allowed us to have a greater impact within the organization.”
Now positioned to span the organization, Knowledge Center employees serve on many councils and committees, and partner with the various business units and functions. They are deliberate in their outreach and are seen as a central hub for employees’ information needs.
In May the Knowledge Center hosted an open house inviting Medtronic staff to come visit. The event highlighted the redesign and provided an opportunity for individuals to discuss and learn from information professionals, and discover how information can add value to their projects. It also included information about in-person and online trainings as an incentive to come visit, start using the resources and work with Medtronic information specialists on meeting business critical goals. As a result of higher demand for information, the Knowledge Center is being requested to extend globally. They are actively sharing and educating employees on best practices, gaining insight into the company’s diverse information needs.
“We are so grateful. Not only for the redesign but for the space itself and the affirmation that we have upper-level support,” says Emily Kallevang, a senior technical information specialist. “This is prime real estate and I can’t imagine it being used for any better purpose than to fuel innovation, collaboration and exploration here at Medtronic.”
Asked whether they had any advice for their information professional peers based on their successful space redesign and the backing it shows, Tracy, Meghan and Emily outlined the following:
Five tips on getting support for your library
- Don’t give up! Have your messages ready that articulate how your work is strategic and business critical so as you are building relationship with leadership, you can advocate for space and resources that demonstrate your value.
- Support the whole organization: Customize your space using brand colors to align to the culture of the company.
- Commit to collaborate: Invite people in to work with you and go outside the library to bring them in. Have collaborative workspaces with virtual options to meet employees where they are and to foster intersections of work groups interested in diverse information topics.
- Diversify your initiatives: Take advantage of the skills of your library staff and extend programs beyond providing information resources to leverage knowledge and expertise.
- Share your success: Regularly communicate with executive leadership and employees. Share how you have helped achieve the strategic initiatives of the organization.