Being ready for tomorrow

In a dynamic world dominated by economic, social and political change, you cannot wait for the luxury of things to settle down. You must use your know-how to anticipate and respond to the specific changes affecting ˜your world. In business, this means being ready to anticipate what may be happening next . This may involve exploring the changing needs of your customers, varying market conditions or any other factor that may threaten the future or success of your business.

Dorothy Leonard the author of Wellsprings of Knowledge discusses how our capabilities and expertise can be both helpful and a hindrance. That is, our knowledge can quickly become a problem if it fails to adapt to changes and challenges. A business rigidity like a capability can be in the form of skill, managerial system or a belief, but what gets a business or career into trouble is when the expertise and know-how we have is at odds with where we need to go next. Let us take Polaroid, the once proud international business which ceased trading in 2001, as an example.

Polaroid could not change its core expertise from on negative film processing to the world of digital imaging, the result being that Polaroid s core capability had reached its use by date. As Leonard also explains, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is another prime example of how capabilities must change. The abilities that got a man on the moon in 1969 are hardly those they will need to land a human being on Mars.

The lessons of Polaroid and NASA are transferable to every business in society, whether it is growing crops on a farm, changing the menu in a food bar or revamping the curriculum in a university. Our desire to modify our thinking and advance our capabilities is essential. However, what makes this discussion on capabilities so important is that the habits of individuals and the abilities of business are not easily changed. Even with clear evidence for change, we must be motivated to make the change and reposition our knowledge.

One of the joys and burdens of winning the knowledge game is that our talents and abilities are often deeply hidden in our minds. It is easy to say that the success of a business is the brand, the location or an innovative design, but it is understanding how these abilities are maintained and sustained that is most important. Is it the understanding of adhesives at 3M that makes them special, or is it their business leadership that actively encourages ideas to come from anywhere at any time that makes them so special? Such business self-awareness is priceless!

Leonard suggests that one practical way to map your capabilities in your business is to examine the last five innovations that you have implemented. Where did you draw your knowledge from and what form did it take? What physical asset, specific expertise or attitude is driving your success? Asking and answering such questions well help you to identify and learn from your business experience and be more successful in uncovering deeper knowledge and insight.

It is amazing how many managers are insulated from an honest assessment of their capabilities, whether it is in the private or public sector, in large or small businesses. Decisions are often made with insufficient knowledge and scanning of the environment and a lack of awareness of strengths and weaknesses, the result being a series of biased , subjective and filtered conclusions and a very poor action. As will be discussed in Chapter 6, many decision- makers are decades behind in how they screen and scan their competitive environment. This is particularly the case for small and medium- sized businesses, where the cost of such analysis and thinking is often seen as too expensive, time-consuming and complex. However, this may not be the case.

Competitive intelligence and deeper thinking about our capabilities with the right level of planning and implementation can pay for itself with better results and business advantage. Although market signals are rarely easy to read, asking the right questions can make a big difference, particularly if more effort is spent gaining quality data and insight from the right people. Needless to say, relying on a few trusted friends or just reading a one-page news summary is hardly sufficient in today s marketplace . We need to be much more clever and sophisticated in order to be successful. Finding out too late is a luxury no one can afford. We need to build a business attitude where everyone keeps their eyes and ears open to important signals in the marketplace so that our capabilities are relevant.

To do this requires us to stretch our imagination from the likely and predictable to the unthinkable or non-predictable. In a practical sense, drafting a plan for learning and action is a great start. To do this, you should be asking yourself which capabilities you wish to have in twelve months time. Then go about listing and completing actions to help get you there. Such planning can be a beautiful safeguard for an ever-changing world.

We only need to ponder for a minute some of changes that have affected our lives during the last few years . Who could have predicted the attack on World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001? Interestingly, General Electric did have a contingency back-up plan in the event of such an incident occurring. Within thirty minutes of the attack, the systems and data that were lost in the attack were backed up and replaced from alternative sources. All this planning was done in their scenario thinking well in advance.

In the modern business world, everything can be rosy and then in the blink of an eye your whole future can become very, very cloudy. It was only five years ago that Bill Gates said Microsoft had two years to change otherwise it would be out of business. Now the life cycle in the software industry is much shorter. It is not unusual for businesses in this industry now to talk about three-month scenarios when it comes to planning. What a difference five years can make!

Take, for example, book and music shops . These are finding they must have a web presence if they are going to compete with the Amazons of this world. Such queue-jumping in the supply chain has now become very common in modern business, where access to instant information via the World Wide Web is common-place. These profound changes have created a whole new marketplace dominated by e-commerce, branding and cyberspace rather than by where you live and which building or home you work in.

Certainly with modern change, it places a whole new pressure on our ability to grow our know-how. Being a market leader is increasingly meaningless if customers can discover and find better options elsewhere. A year can now feel like a lifetime. It was recently expressed to me that we are now living in dogs years. That is, for each of our human years it now feels like we are living seven. Everything seems to be happening at a million miles an hour . Such a pace of change can make us feel out of control. However, it is not all bad news! Living in change can also be incredibly exciting and invigorating, particularly if we are motivated enough to learn smarter and pool expertise to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

So the message of adaptability, agility and flexibility is central to winning the knowledge game. Take another issue like public health; here government employees are under constant pressures to meet the expectations of the media, voters, politicians and legislation, often with very limited resources and budgets . Then, depending on the issue of the day, the priorities can change overnight and the employees and health professionals must be ready to adapt and respond without a moment s notice.

Winning the Knowledge Game. Smarter Learning for Business Excellence
Winning the Knowledge Game. Smarter Learning for Business Excellence
ISBN: 750658096
Year: 2003
Pages: 129 © 2008-2017.
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