Politicians love the phrase ‘the knowledge economy’. They seem to think we need to build a knowledge economy and that a knowledge economy is the key to future success. We have a phrase that ‘knowledge is power’, but is it really?
Today, knowledge is commoditised, cheap and widely accessible. Most people can find out most things with a simple web search and a little research. If lots of other people, organisations and businesses can access most of the knowledge that exists, how can this really create sustainable competitive advantage? The Internet makes it much more difficult to protect and control knowledge – it is more difficult to limit and manage knowledge and information.
The value of knowledge comes from having the capability to exploit it. Some organisations are highly skilled in how to exploit the value of data and information that they collect by converting it into high value knowledge assets. Organisations like Tesco have adopted a sophisticated approach to data and knowledge management by working with data management specialists like DUNNHUMBY to make use of what they call BIG DATA. Tesco knows who buys what product, when, how often and much more besides. This knowledge asset feeds into and underpins its management decision-making and strategies. This is the true power of knowledge.
I am not saying that knowledge is not important, that would be folly, but knowledge alone will not make our economy or organisations more competitive the key is having the skills to be able to exploit and maximise the value of knowledge. This leads me on to speaking about the five skills I think are crucial for tomorrow’s manager. None are new, but all will carry increasing importance in 2014 and beyond and organisations that improve employee capability in these areas will be ahead of the curve.
1. Self-directed learning and enquiry
The pace of change is fast and accelerating. Instead of learning new skills and knowledge periodically, organisations, managers and team members need to learn and make use of new knowledge and skills continuously. The ability to recognise knowledge and skills gaps, find ways of addressing these gaps enabling the rapid absorption of use information will be highly valued by employers. The organisations that empower and support it’s workforce to ask questions, search for new models and solutions and to create value through unique knowledge assets will be the ones that gain and sustain competitive advantage.
2. Data and Information Analysis
One of the problems I often encounter when working with clients is a lack of real time information most have real time data, but not information. Data is processed into reports after the event, but in time for meetings and periodic reports (well in most cases).
In the fast paced environment in which we all work and live, organisations need managers to be able to design and deploy analytical tools to give them real-time information and knowledge to support decision making.
The fast growing organisations are fuelled by data, which is captured and converted into continuously updated knowledge assets. These knowledge assets inform managers of emerging trends and patterns, shifts in tastes and fashions enabling tweaks and changes well in advance of competitors.
Your organisation does not need to adopt an approach as sophisticated as Tesco, but all organisations need to find a way to enable managers to access high quality information so that they can make decisions based on real time knowledge. This means that managers need to ensure they develop high level analytical skills so that the value of data can be fully exploited.
3. Process and Synthesis
Most innovation is not about creating something wholly original it is about applying learning from one area to another. There is a particular skill in being able to match up pieces of information, products or services from different areas and combine them into something new.
Tomorrow’s manager must be empowered and free to cast a wide net for potential sources of learning, information and knowledge. They then need to be able to understand how to process and synthesise this information into knowledge assets that underpin decision making.
4. Process design
Managers need to have the ability to design and redesign business structures and processes based on the knowledge assets. Time spent discussing and lengthy decision-making processes can erode the value of knowledge assets very quickly speed of implementation can be and will be critical as competitiveness intensifies.
Managers and organisations need to be equipped with the right skills, tools and processes to empower managers to take action. They need to know how and to understand how to re-engineer systems and processes, implement continuous improvement strategies and to manage and lead continuous change.
5. Communication, Share and Collaborate
None of the above matters unless managers have the capacity and capability to communicate with colleagues, customers, team members and stakeholders. Increasingly, I am finding communication is becoming more frequent as a major factor inhibiting growth.
Today, with the vast array of communication and collaboration tools that we have at our disposal, there can be no excuse for ineffective communication and ‘silo’ working. Just take a moment to reflect on the quality of and the effectiveness of the communication, co-ordination and collaboration strategy adopted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): it has a media arm with a digital strategy that is the envy of many business organisations and Governments. ISIS adopted a sophisticated use of social media as insurgents use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to recruit fighters and promote messages of violence. Why, if organisations such as ISIS can embrace and exploit social media, are so many organisations and managers reluctant or unable to do the same?
Managers need to become expert communicators in a digital world. No longer is it sufficient to rely on emails, face-to-face meetings or presentations to get the message out there. Managers and organisations need to embrace, learn and understand how they can use social media tools and apps as part of their day-to-day management and communication plans.
I am amazed at how few managers understand or even know of simple tools and apps that can support communication, collaboration and performance – check out How Appy are You?
Knowledge is no longer power as knowledge is so freely and widely available. The power comes from creating unique real time knowledge assets, being able to act on it by innovating and synthesising new and novel solutions and being able to communicate and engage people quickly and effectively. Tomorrow’s managers already exist in some organisations – do they exist in yours?