Competitive knowledge

Knowledge itself is not a great business advantage, and if it were, academic institutions would be running circles around the Fortune 100. It’s what gets done with the knowledge that matters. But there still needs to be a good flow of information and ideas that get tested out in the specific context of the organization, such as its markets and the technology available. Nick Milton describes four types of organizational knowledge: Core, Non-core, New, & Competitive. Moving competitive knowledge into core knowledge is a key part of this flow.

Competitive knowledge. These are areas of new evolving knowledge that the company knows a lot about. This knowledge may well give them a competitive advantage – the first learner advantage. In areas of evolving knowledge, the company that learns the best and learns the fastest, has the potential to outperform its rivals.  The KM focus for competitive knowledge is on the development of best practice. As this knowledge is being applied around the business, there needs to be a continuous capture of knowledge from practice, comparing of knowledge through communities of practice, and development of best practice. Ownership of competitive competence probably lies with the communities and networks.

I have mapped Nick’s Boston Square to the coherent organization to show how communities of practice provide the link between social networks and enterprise work teams to filter new knowledge and find competitive knowledge.

competitive knowledge

One challenge of finding new knowledge is that social networks are comprised mostly of non-core knowledge. There is often more noise than signal. However, given their diversity, social networks are where we can find innovative ideas. This is why curation and PKM skills are so important for organizations today. Testing new knowledge is where communities of practice can be handy. Gaining competitive knowledge is the obvious ROI for fostering internal and external communities of practice.

So here is a clear value proposition. Communities of practice act as filters of new knowledge in order to find competitive knowledge for your organization. People who understand the context of the work teams must participate in communities of practice, as only they can identify what new knowledge could be competitive. That means that those doing the work need time and support to get away from their teams and see the bigger picture. Does your organization provide this time, or is everyone too busy focused on managing core knowledge? The implications of myopic work practices are quite obvious.

2 Responses to “Competitive knowledge”

  1. Alberto Manuel

    Hi Harold.
    Very interesting point about the communities of practice that sometimes block knowledge to evolve, because they do not have the courage to open the clan to fresh ideas, challengers that are going to attack the existing foundations, or simply the fact that people will like to seat on a normalized, stable environment and do not want to make knowledge evolve, until it turns into a crystal.

    It’s challenging these days to measure the type of knowledge that is being played. I do not mean the framework, I mean HOW do you measure based on facts, that for example most of the knowledge is abstract (it can be applied in a broad sense to a multitude of challenges) or concrete (persons built solutions on demand).

    Today, due to complexity of business processes (some are still very structured, but others are loosely structured due to social collaboration) its getting difficult to understand how people use, develop, share and reuse knowledge, even using a pattern based approach. My experience, using process mining technology is helping to find those patterns, but it’s an exploratory journey and this is the reason it’s challenging.

    The trick is to align network structure, knowledge type and processes design approach. I’m making some reflections in this post but the act of helping companies based on facts rather on listening to stories, that most of time have bias and assumptions is still a quest.


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