For many businesses their competitive edge lies in their knowledge. Entrepreneurship Knowledge Services offer a way to maximize your advantage. The Canada Business Network expands upon this concept:
“What Is Knowledge In a Business?
Using knowledge in your business isn’t necessarily about thinking up clever new products and services, or devising ingenious new ways of selling them. It’s much more straightforward.
Useful and important knowledge already exists in your business. It can be found in:
• the experience of your employees
• the designs and processes for your goods and services
• your files of documents (whether held digitally, on paper or both)
• your plans for future activities, such as ideas for new products or services
The challenge is harnessing this knowledge in a coherent and productive way.
Existing forms of knowledge
• You’ve probably done market research into the need for your business to exist in the first place. If nobody wanted what you’re selling, you wouldn’t be trading. You can tailor this market knowledge to target particular customers with specific types of product or service.
• Your files of documents from and about customers and suppliers hold a wealth of information which can be invaluable both in developing new products or services and improving existing ones.
• Your employees are likely to have skills and experience that you can use as an asset. Having staff who are knowledgeable can be invaluable in setting you apart from competitors. You should make sure that your employees’ knowledge and skills are passed on to their colleagues and successors wherever possible, e.g. through brainstorming sessions, training courses and documentation. See the page in this guide: create a knowledge strategy for your business.
Your understanding of what customers want, combined with your employees’ know-how, can be regarded as your knowledge base. Using this knowledge in the right way can help you run your business more efficiently, decrease business risks and exploit opportunities to the full. This is known as the knowledge advantage.
BASIC SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE
Your sources of business knowledge could include:
• Customer knowledge – you should know your customers’ needs and what they think of you. You may be able to develop mutually beneficial knowledge sharing relationships with customers by talking to them about their future requirements, and discussing how you might be able to develop your own products or services to ensure that you meet their needs.
• Employee and supplier relationships – seek the opinions of your employees and your suppliers – they’ll have their own impressions of how you’re performing. You can use formal surveys to gather this knowledge or ask for their views on a more informal basis.
• Market knowledge – watch developments in your sector. How are your competitors performing? How much are they charging? Are there any new entrants to the market? Have any significant new products been launched?
• Knowledge of the business environment – your business can be affected by numerous outside factors. Developments in politics, the economy, technology, society and the environment could all affect your business’ development, so you need to keep yourself informed. You could consider setting up a team of employees to monitor and report on changes in the business world.
• Professional associations and trade bodies – their publications, academic publications, government publications, reports from research bodies, trade and technical magazines.
• Trade exhibitions and conferences – these can provide an easy way of finding out what your competitors are doing and to see the latest innovations in your sector.
• Product research and development – scientific and technical research and development can be a vital source of knowledge that can help you create innovative new products – retaining your competitive edge.
• Organizational memory – be careful not to lose the skills or experience your business has built up. You need to find formal ways of sharing your employees’ knowledge about the best ways of doing things. For example, you might create procedural guidance based on your employees’ best practice. See the page in this guide: create a knowledge strategy for your business.
• Non-executive directors – these can be a good way for you to bring on board specialized industry experience and benefit from ready-made contracts.
EXPLOITING YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Consider the measurable benefits of capturing and using knowledge more effectively. The following are all possible outcomes:
• An improvement in the goods or services you offer and the processes that you use to sell them. For example, identifying market trends before they happen might enable you to offer products and services to customers before your competitors.
• Increased customer satisfaction because you have a greater understanding of their requirements through feedback from customer communications.
• An increase in the quality of your suppliers, resulting from better awareness of what customers want and what your staff require.
• Improved staff productivity, because employees are able to benefit from colleagues’ knowledge and expertise to find out the best way to get things done. They’ll also feel more appreciated in a business where their ideas are listened to.
• Increased business efficiency, by making better use of in-house expertise.
• Better recruitment and staffing policies. For instance, if you’ve increased knowledge of what your customers are looking for, you’re better able to find the right staff to serve them.
• The ability to sell or license your knowledge to others. You may be able to use your knowledge and expertise in an advisory or consultancy capacity. In order to do so, though, make sure that you protect your intellectual property.”