Knowledge is key to the on-going success of your business because knowledge is embedded in everything that you do, and how you use that knowledge can clearly differentiate you from your competitors.

Knowledge was once considered ‘power’ because it was scarce and expensive to obtain. However, the internet, globalisation and mass migration is seeing knowledge becoming more and more dispersed, and easier to access. This means that you can quickly and easily access new knowledge which can lead to new ideas which gives you an advantage in your industry to grow your business.

In order to remain competitive, your organisation must be able to continually seek out and absorb three types of organisational knowledge in new and innovative ways to improve your products/services and processes (Wilson & Doz, 2011).

These include:

  • Explicit knowledge – this is knowledge which is easily transferred from one person to another, eg procedures on how to effectively service customers
  • Embedded knowledgethis is knowledge learned by observing how other people apply their knowledge in a given context, eg the explicit body language used when servicing customers
  • Existential knowledge – this is knowledge which exists in the behaviour and norms of people, and is only learned by doing eg the culture of an organisation which dictates how customers are attracted, serviced and looked after

In order to be proactive about accessing new knowledge, it is important to have processes in place which allow you to cost-effectively stay informed about how your sector, and the economy in general, is functioning and changing.  Accessing knowledge from a variety of locations then needs to be filtered and absorbed into your existing systems and processes of your organisation.

Three ways to do this are:

  1. Attracting: being a knowledge magnet

    CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay - https://pixabay.com/en/photos/magnet/
    CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/en/photos/magnet/

The most cost effective way to access new knowledge is to encourage people to actively seek you out and share it with you.  This requires that you let people know that you are interested in new ways of doing things.

Some of the ways to do this is:

  • Provide ways for customers to easily provide you feedback eg customer surveys or through having a ‘feedback’ or Q&A page on your website,
  • Be open and transparent and let your customers know what you don’t know yet but you would like to improve on to give them a better customer experience eg write a blog/social media post or a white paper which highlights where there are gaps in your marketplace which you are looking for help to solve

Knowledge holders will only be attracted to provide your organisation with their knowledge if they respect and trust your brand, so being professional in everything you do is very important.  Being a knowledge magnet often attracts explicit knowledge, so it is easy to filter useful knowledge and then absorb it by building an ongoing relationship with the knowledge holder. However, this relationship may involve licensing or contracting the knowledge, and it may receive some resistance from your existing staff in using it as they feel that they have little ownership over this new knowledge.

  1. Foraging: going on field trips 

    CC-BY image from Pexel - https://www.pexels.com/search/travel/
    CC-BY image from Pexel – https://www.pexels.com/search/travel/https://www.pexels.com/search/travel/

Some knowledge can only be obtained by just being there to see how the knowledge is used in its original setting, and to then having the time to consider how it can then be reused in a different situation or location.

Some of the ways to do this is:

  • Plan holidays and conferences which allow you to observe and interact with others in different locations to discover new business models
  • Join a business mission to an overseas country – these are usually organised by a government department looking to grow exports

This methods helps to uncover embedded knowledge through explicit observation and questioning, so interacting with local knowledge holders is needed help determine the factors which enable the innovative activity to take place in the first place.  Strategies to enable ongoing contact with local knowledge holders and your team will be needed so to enable them to appreciate the context of the original setting when applying the new knowledge.

  1. Experiencing: living like a local

    CC0 Public Domain - https://pixabay.com/en/photos/crowd/
    CC0 Public Domain – https://pixabay.com/en/photos/crowd/https://pixabay.com/en/photos/crowd/

Some new knowledge can only be discovered by actually being immersed over a longer period of time in the daily activity of an environment to see the norms, social networks and culture which only exists through longer term relationship building.  This type of knowledge gathering also allows you to discover the legal and ethical aspects of how things are done.

Some of the ways to do this is:

  • Strategically partnering with another organisation in a different location which you can visit for extended periods of time
  • Working in another location for an extended period of time

This method of knowledge gathering helps to discover existential knowledge which is harder to replicate by your competitors, however, it is the most expensive method to obtain so it requires a clear strategic direction, possibly discovered through the attracting and foraging knowledge gathering methods mentioned above. Integrating this type of knowledge will require an appreciation of cultural differences by those staff still located in home base who are trying to apply this new knowledge.

 

Note, that these methods are not mutually exclusive and do require carefully thought out goals and reasons for doing any or all of them, however, in a fast paced and changing world, the need to implement new knowledge gathering strategies cannot be overlooked to remain competitive and attract new business.

 

This post was based on the work of Wilson & Doz (2011) called Agile Innovation: A Footprint Balancing Distance and Immersion.

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Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you discover new knowledge to inspire new ideas to grow your business.

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New knowledge = new ideas = new business
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