The magnificent 7 ‘tentacles of knowledge’

These 7 thought prompts will help you to capture the valuable knowledge in your business (with particular thanks and appreciation to Stuart Browne for helping me with some of the original brainstorming in this area).

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This is an area that is often over-looked and it’s usually of massive importance to your business value. A survey of top S&P 500 businesses suggests that at least 80% of true business value is intangible (and knowledge represents a big element of that 80%).

It is important to understand that the 7 knowledge areas below are not mutually exclusive. These areas often overlap and represent individual prompts for separate brainstorming sessions (ideally properly facilitated and with all your key ‘knowledge workers’ participating).

Remember ! There will always be an element of ‘blurring’ across the different thought prompt areas (like the ‘7 tentacles of a fast moving octopus (with one tentacle missing)’ – and as Stuart Browne once said ‘that’s not a sentence that you write very often’!).

Remember – in these brainstorming sessions you are not (initially) actually trying to capture the knowledge but instead you are trying to identify where it would be really valuable if you COULD. Once you have identified the most important knowledge opportunities your next step is to work out HOW to capture them.

I have identified the 7 key areas below – the first 2 in more detail – to help you get a feel for the type of thinking involved.

1.Technical services – What particular services  can you ‘productize’ or make more ‘solid’ (process driven) and less ‘fluid’ (reliant on individual knowledge)?

 

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For example – one of the things I do regularly at Collabor8 is to help business owners clarify their business direction. I have been helping them do this for many years – and certainly 20 odd years ago I achieved it in a rather ‘fluid’ way.

My approach in those days meant that there was no one fixed method to help the client – and the way I went about it  was typically different each time. I was continually ‘re-inventing the wheel’. The end result for the client was invariably valuable – but it was difficult to describe to them in advance (in the sales process) – difficult to offer them a fixed price – and I was often rather inefficient (in the delivery process).

Nowadays I call this process of establishing business direction a ‘Vision (‘Illumin8′) Day’. This is the standard icon I use -again this helps makes this particular knowledge process feel more ‘solid’ or more ‘tangible’ to the client.

Importantly, I have firmed up exactly what to do to consistently deliver value. The outcome is a very ‘solid’ process – which can easily be described and fixed priced (and sold) –  as well as being more efficient to deliver. More importantly – it is now easy to train others to ‘do a Vision Day’. My knowledge can easily be shared with colleagues- and that knowledge is effectively owned by Collabor8 rather than me personally.

This type of outcome is particularly important for business owners who plan to sell their business – and who need to be able to ‘package their knowledge’ to add value to their business.

2. Sales – How do you ensure that a consistently used sales proposition is totally embedded within the business? How do you ensure that the individual ‘sales hero’s’ style becomes a consistent style for everybody in the business?

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The methodology here is once again all about capturing knowledge and driving a process. Many years ago I was a partner in an accountancy business. This meant that most of the ‘selling’ necessarily had to be carried out by technical accounting people. Accountants are usually not good salespeople (in England that’s called an under statement!).

However, once we introduced a standard process (we called it a ‘Client Service Framework’) which always started with understanding the needs of business customers – suddenly they got dramatically better at identifying sales opportunities.

The key to making that process really work well was to underpin it with measurable key performance indicators – including measures to ensure that we had ‘delighted clients’.

Given that this is a blog (and I am aiming for something closer to a short ‘Gettysburg Address’ rather than a lengthy ‘War and Peace’) – I will try to be more succinct with the remaining thought prompt areas – but hopefully you can see a pattern emerging.

3. Relationships – Who knows who (key customer contacts, work introducers, important external business contacts)? How do you maximize the benefits from individual relationships and ensure that they become a valuable  business asset (rather than a personal asset that the business is ‘renting’ – via payment of wages)?

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4. Processes - How are you going to capture ‘the way we do it here’? What existing processes are outdated? Where do you need to create new processes to ensure greater consistency (in the use of knowledge)? How can we best translate individual knowledge into a business owned asset?

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5. Support systems – Where do you keep all the ‘important information’ in the business? How does your IT work? Can everybody easily access the business knowledge that you want them to use?

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6. Virtual (intangible) assets – What databases, methods, techniques, solutions, brands, values, creative knowledge exist inside the business that could be better ‘captured’ and used more consistently?

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7. ‘Glue’ – What, where or who are the key ‘go-betweens’ in your business? How do you communicate at the moment (and where does it work particularly well – and why does it)? How do you make sure that ‘important business stuff’ happens consistently? Which people’s knowledge would you really miss if they left the business?

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Once you have identified all the critical knowledge areas to capture (via the brainstorming process) – then you can work out where your knowledge capture priorities are – and how best to go about it. But that’s a story for another day!

So – a key rule of strategy – remember – there are 7 ‘tentacles of knowledge’ in a business.

Sometimes in strategy – 3 is not the magic number!

For more information, contact Paul Latham.