Competitor Knows Best, Customer Is King, What About You?
Knowledge Management and Communicating it with clients/partners:
- The competition – knowledge that brings business by sharing experience
- The business – to leverage experience by having a knowledge base
- The experience – to deal with the competitors by establishing/pioneering business trends
There existed no invention till someone saw the market and invented the product or service. Whether it is Windows OS or iPod or Bluetooth – there is always a product that comes in to capture a waiting audience and change not just trends and business but how people use technology in their daily lives.
PSP, BluRay, MobiBLU are other examples of innovating by offering something that the existing products such as Playstation or DVD or MP3 players didn’t offer. The market was there and they found something that could change the market all over again.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
Example: People thought the DotCom boom had come and gone. The giants such as Amazon.com and Google.com and then the social networking trends had done all they could. Yet we see new services that target a niche audience and dotcoms continue to innovate. www.comgateway.com provides people outside USA to order from multiple websites, store it at their warehouse and ship it together to save shipping costs. www.vjbooks.com sells Signed First Editions of popular books to readers who want a piece of their favorite authors. www.ted.com promotes and makes accessible “Ideas worth spreading” – a premier site showcasing “Thought Leadership”. While these niche audiences do well, even wide targets get nailed, for example: Twitter saw a staggering 1,382% growth in 2009, to take away the social network crown from the erstwhile fastest-growing Facebook. Apple’s iPhone has higher operating profit than market leader Nokia in Q3 of 2009 – making Apple the “most profitable cell-phone maker in the world”.
Basically, the global market offers such a wide and varied clientele, that it should be easy for any business to establish a customer-base and for that – you need to generate a product/service/ strategy that is not already in place by competitors.
Here is where utilizing a knowledge-base and doing the homework of analysis/ research/ documentation/ conversation/ etc. results in seeing what your competitor does not see. Opportunities are found not just when you know your market, but also when you know what your organization is capable of delivering to the market. What the big businesses do, can be replicated for the small players’ in IT market as well.
Create opportunities instead of seeking them.
Thought Leadership aims at leveraging knowledge and the foresight based on that knowledge to not only boldly go where competitors have not gone before, but to take an entourage of clients along to discover new markets, new opportunities and revived demand-supply curve. Growth, possibilities and success are as unlimited as human thought – let’s multiply that through collective capacity.
Thought Leaders and their Management by Knowledge
“A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
What you say and what you sell
To know what was the problem, what is the current situation and then how you can provide a better future – that ensures a leadership position. Everyone has problems, many suggest solutions, but the one who can know the “now” to present a lucrative future is the “thought leader”.
- A Knowledge Management team dedicated at securing the capture of your organization’s knowledge-base
- A Knowledge Management team to understand, analyze and document industry/ sector/ economical trends, news, reports and other information, to…
- …convert that into your organization’s knowledge-base
- Gain from experience of self and others in the organization for your business-knowledge-base
- “Forecast” the SWOT in your own team’s meetings
- Brainstorm with Knowledge Management participants to seek opportunities in existing markets
- Foresee the trail of the market trend to know where businesses are heading
- Be a Thought Leader by offering a solution for an expected near-future problem
- Be an industry leader by providing analysis on solutions required for long-term
Y2K is a simple example. People in the IT industry in the 1970s never expected to find computers in every office cubicle, forget about having them in every home. That’s not short-sightedness; it was simple need-based developments in IT at that time.
But to identify this well in advance of year 2000, know the technologies that need transition and then securing the client’s present & past data – that requires vision and more importantly a knowledge-base that can tell you “what’s missing”.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
Who are you?
Well, we don’t need to get all Shakespearean nor ponder Greek philosophies. While the Greeks had the aphorism “Know thyself” inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, Shakespeare’s Hamlet extended its scope to integrity with the words “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” In India we called it “Jñāna” – which in literal translation from Sanskrit to English can be used as a synonym for the word “knowledge”.
- Realize the full extent of possibilities in your:
* job role,
* scope in the team/ department/ organization,
* client interaction,
* existing skills,
- Realize full extent of possibilities of your:
* team/ department/ organization’s skills,
* their job roles,
* their daily interactions in business,
- Account for, document and audit:
* your personal knowledge-base,
* your team/ department/ organization’s knowledge-base,
* your ability to capture your client or competitor’s knowledge-base,
- Knowledge Management for you is ensured by capturing learnings from projects, bids, meetings and the regular documentation, reports and news
- Knowing your group’s capacity, capabilities, experience and making it available in a structured manner for opportunities assures that you are ready for future solutions, for future business problems
- Innovation follows from knowing what’s there, to make available what isn’t there
- Leadership is established by those who know more than the market’s established players
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates
The Rotary Clubs setup back in 1905 in USA was a group of businessmen who “rotated” their meetings at each other’s offices. They had an honorable motto of “Service above Self”. Their second motto is like a prophesized snapshot of 21st century business, for it says: “They profit most who serve best”.
The customers are empowered not just by a choice of multiple suppliers, but also the varying media informing them of available alternatives/ substitutes/ enhancements/ etc. So the customers have the “knowledge to discern” and thus create a buyer’s market scenario (despite of more customers existing than sellers). This intensifies competition and the only seller who can break ahead of this overcrowded rat race is the one who can best serve his prospect.
And the seller who leads is the one who profits by making his client maximize the profits, through either: strategy/ technology/ vision/ innovation/ analysis/ etc.
- Knowledge that ensures your client’s success.
- Enable businesses, empower people, extend scope
- Knowledge that works now
- Knowledge that assures client’s empowerment in present and future
- Knowledge to secure the ideal/desired future
- Accessible, simplified, classified knowledge – ensuring a feasible, preferable, structured growth
- Don’t offer change, offer opportunities instead
- Deflect resistance by bolstering your view with quantified, measured, validated knowledge-base
“It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.” – Adlai Stevenson
Well if the shoe fits, you wear it. If you are in a flock, you are that bird. To be able to represent your organization or your product/ service/ solution as better or as a pioneering effort, you need to be able to create its identity by its presence alone.
- Find security in your knowledge-base
- Be comfortable with your scope of knowledge
- Lead in what you know and do
- Build products/ services that your knowledge-base says you can and…
- …that the market competition ensures you should
- Capture the team’s successes to assure them about their expertise
- Verified data, quantified analysis, measured market trends, listed skills, etc are your armor
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Pioneering Thought by Managing Knowledge
Life is a big long lesson. A person who is a student for his entire life benefits by his own experience and that of others. A knowledge management function ensures that a corporate entity learns forever in its business life from people, market, competitors, customers, economy, laws/ policies, technologies, etc.
- Knowledge Management is a learning tool
- Everyone needs to learn and upgrade know-how and skills in business
- The business environment is an important teacher that can reprimand and reward alike
- Leaders learn more than others in an organization by virtue of their scope of operation
- A business head may not necessarily be a thought leader; but a thought leader guarantees good business
- Know to manage and manage to lead
- Learning is fun when you get to teach your competitors new lessons in business
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell
A thought leader does not stand as a beacon in the sea of business. He simply helms such a lighthouse that can point the way for its business. Knowledge Management is such a lighthouse. It can stand the storm to direct opportunities in all corners of the business sphere.
- Share to verify and update the knowledge-base
- Make clients by offering them the benefit from this knowledge-base (whitepapers, case studies, sector/industry analysis, technology news, etc.)
- Within the company – let your people see the horizon through such a knowledge-base…
- …so they can go beyond this horizon to deliver innovative products/ services
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton
Thought Leadership delegation
- Thought Leadership is not the responsibility solely for the business heads
- Every skilled employee has the relevant experience and knowledge to lead in his domain
- Assign Knowledge Management responsibilities to the team/ department
- The external sources for knowledge need to be distilled, verified and categorized as required – delegate that by assigning the sourcing to respective function/ department/ team
- Let the team members know possibilities, let them make it happen
- Every sector/ technology/ function specialist can be a thought leader in his domain
“A general is just as good or just as bad as the troops under his command make him.” – General Douglas MacArthur
Every thread in your net matters, and they are there because they have the skills. So employ them efficiently to capture your clientele. And then along with the clients, reel in the threads too – so that its folds (project learnings) are noted for future clients.
- Ensure knowledge capture within your team
- Review lessons learned to have updated knowledge-base
- Leading in skill/ experience capture makes it possible to lead in applying that knowledge
“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Management needs to be suggestive, directional and collaborative to get people on board the agenda of developing a functional knowledge repository. People need to be convinced of the changed processes that ensure knowledge capture. Thought Leadership addresses the issue of Knowledge Management efficiency by presenting the expanded opportunities as incentive to move ahead.
- Resistance to change is a natural reflex
- So don’t react to that; don’t aim at enforcing activities
- Instead “sell” the Knowledge Management concept to them
- Convincing your team automatically ensures their participation
- Familiarity with this concept would dissolve doubts/ concerns
- Incentive should be quantified by projecting expected gains in business
- The attraction for Knowledge Management needs to be created by “marketing” the concept within the organization and by its key influencers (business heads)
- Knowledge is its own reward – offer learning opportunities
“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.” – John Maxwell
KRA? Or maybe you know the way!
Do because of a reason, and let that reason be “to excel”.
- Knowledge Management by individuals in the organization is not done due to mandatory KRA element
- It is done to exceed those list of KRA elements
- To provide a foundation stone for the organization’s expertise in that function/ technology/ service/ etc.
- To build upon this foundation to reach new heights of excellence
- The thought leader aims not at fulfilling obligations, but to redefine client/market expectations
- Any domain/topic in Knowledge Management is always a collective endeavour – ownership to drive it lies with the one who can grasp this repository to envision better business
- Scope of the thought leader is limited only by his desire to think about those domains
“Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men — the other 999 follow women.” – Groucho Marx
Getting Results: Carrots, sticks and inventing wheels
- Incentives are secondary – primary is the opportunity for everyone
- Opportunities in: growth of business, expansion of clientele, skills gained and individual’s learning, increased profitability, brand visibility, market recognition, customer appreciation, industry leadership, and of course the output from all these – monetary reward for individuals
- There is no reinvention desired – only innovation in delivery/ product/ customization/ marketing/ use of technology/ strategy/ etc.
- Material desires of the various players need to be realized from their material output
- Wishing is childish; thought leaders have goals and set targets
About the Author: Ujjwal Dey is a Life Coach, Motivational Speaker and Corporate Trainer. Call +91 9322005050