Original photo by Flowizm
It’s easy to see the benefits of knowledge management when its applied to a support function. Problems are solved more quickly, customers are happier, analysts are less stressed. It’s almost a no-brainer to look here first for improvements to knowledge flow
Knowledge management has application across the whole lifecycle of a product or service, though—from strategy, to design, to delivery and operations, to support, to continual improvements, and finally, to sunsetting (and even failure).
So, imagine the wobbly movie image as we flashback to the early days of a new service offering when it was just an idea in the CEO’s mind. She heads up a successful organisation servicing a healthy niche, and she’s looking to the future to offer a new kind of service in hopes of deepening relationships with existing clients and broadening market reach to gain new clients. A CEO that doesn’t look for new opportunities, isn’t a good CEO.
If you were the CEO, what you do next? (Is there a market for Choose Your Own Professional Adventure books?)
I want to focus on the organisational knowledge that’s locked away on your side of that equation for now, so we’ll assume that the customer’s context, in terms of your existing service offerings, is well understood. You gain competitive advantage when you understand your market intimately, you see and sense the market trends, and you know your competitors well enough to differentiate your service in way that makes you more attractive to the people you want to sell to. You have to understand what your particular mojo is and draw that connection to the new service/product, especially when it seems a little distant from what you presently deliver.
How does our imaginary CEO do that? How would you do that? Well, we’re all guilty of making assumptions, and they happen pretty regularly in businesses that aren’t big enough to fund a research team. When you gather your people together to surface the unknown knowns, articulate your particular kind of mojo (the combination of internal skills, passions, mission and values), and then co-create the strategic positioning for your new offering, that is knowledge management applied to strategy.
When you use knowledge management practices at the strategy phase you have:
- A “stickier” product/service, as a result of mindful positioning
- Better decision-making along the way
- Broader buy-in from the in-house expertise who will be delivering the new offering
- Increased speed to market
The entrepreneurial culture has glorified failure, but if we embrace a knowledge culture from step one, we’re taking one big leap towards mitigating that risk. And I think we’d all rather succeed, right?