Knowledge is like a garden; if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.
Opening Case Study:
Encashing Knowledge: Shantanu Prakash
Shantanu Prakash, MD & CEO of Educomp Solutions is the man who made ‘education’, a buzz word for the stock market. This is a story of a dreamer with a difference. He not only achieved his own dreams but also helps many others do it day in and day out. Shantanu Prakash, a middle class boy from Delhi decided to walk the road less travelled. After IIM-A, when most of his classmates opted to lucrative jobs at MNCs, Shantanu decided to set out on his own and 17 years later, he has no regrets and why would he? After founding Educomp in 1994, he has been changing the face of Indian education on a daily basis. Both teaching and learning has become more efficient and easier with technology enabled education system. In India, the trend was started by Educomp who implemented technology-enabled education services in schools for the first time. Shantanu Prakash, founder of Educomp, is the man who is responsible for bringing the much-awaited change in the Indian education system. A first generation entrepreneur who has almost single handedly redefined the concept of technology-enabled education delivery in India; he commands immense respect across the business spectrum for his visionary impact on the education sector in India and across the globe.
Knowledge is extremely important for the growth of any business. All businesses must have access to an extensive pool of knowledge – whether this is their understanding of customers’ needs and the business environment or the skills and experience of staff. The way a business collects, shares and utilizes this knowledge is essential to its ability to develop successfully. It is not merely applicable to huge multinational companies. Knowledge management can profit everyone from a local newsstand to a manufacturing firm.
Let us consider the following areas pertaining to knowledge
- Basic forms of knowledge
- Advantage of knowledge enhancement
- Making knowledge the Pivot of Business
- Sharing knowledge across business
- Crafting a knowledge strategy for business
BASIC formS OF KNOWLEDGE
An entrepreneur’s business knowledge could comprise:
Customer knowledge – The entrepreneur must be aware of the customers’ needs and know what they think of the product or service offered. He must be in a position to share a relationship with customers and to fulfill their future requirements. The entrepreneur must conduct surveys so that he might be able to develop products or services that meet customer demands.
Employee and supplier opinions – By seeking the opinions of his employees and suppliers an entrepreneur comes to know how he is performing. He can make use of formal questionnaire to gather this knowledge or ask for their views on a more informal basis.
Market knowledge – Keeping abreast of the developments in his sector is a must for any entrepreneur. He must be aware of competitors, price strategies, new entrants, significant technologies launched in order to flourish in the market.
Knowledge of the business environment – Any business is impacted by a variety of external factors. Developments in politics, the economy, technology, society and the environment could all affect business’ development, so the entrepreneur needs to keep himself informed. A good option is to set up a team of employees to monitor and report on changes in the business world.
Professional associations and trade bodies – Entrepreneurs can gain a deep insight into business by associating with professional & trade organizations and studying their publications, reports & technical magazines.
Trade exhibitions and conferences – Trade fairs remain flooded with budding entrepreneurs. Participating in these exhibitions and conferences can provide an entrepreneur easy way of finding out what his competitors are doing and to see the latest innovations in his sector.
Product research and development – The entrepreneur must keep himself involved in studying latest scientific and technical research and development in the area of his developed product. Journals can be a vital source of knowledge that can aid the entrepreneur in manufacturing innovative new products and retaining his competitive edge.
Experience of Non-executive directors – One good way of enriching an organization by the rich experience of specialists is by inviting them on board. Specialized industry experience benefits the strategic decision making.
ADVANTAGE OF KNOWLEDGE ENHANCEMENT
Following are the measurable benefits of capturing and using knowledge effectively:
- The most basic advantage is an improvement in the goods or services the entrepreneur offers and the processes that he uses to sell them. For example, identifying market trends before they happen might enable him to offer products and services to customers before his competitors.
- Better customer satisfaction: As the entrepreneur has a greater understanding of their requirements through feedback from customer communications.
- An exponential rise in the quality of his suppliers, resulting from better awareness of what customers want and what his staff requires.
- Enhanced staff productivity, as employees are able to benefit from colleagues’ knowledge and expertise to find out the best way to get things done.
- Increased business efficiency, by making better use of in-house expertise.
- Better recruitment and staffing policies. For example, if the entrepreneur has improved knowledge of what his customers are looking for, he will be better able to find the right staff to serve them.
- The ability to sell or license knowledge to other entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur may be able to use his knowledge and expertise in an advisory or consultancy capacity.
MAKing knowledge the pivot of business
In order to manage the collection and exploitation of knowledge in his business, an entrepreneur should try to build a culture in which knowledge is esteemed across the entire business. One method to implement this practice is by offering incentives to staff that provide useful market news or suggest techniques by which customers can be better served. The entrepreneur can utilize these knowledge management practices throughout his organization to build better processes.
As an essential component of knowledge enhancement, an entrepreneur must make sure that any intellectual property that his business holds is protected. This aids him to stop competitors from copying and also allows him to profit by licensing his business’ knowledge. Protecting and taking advantage of knowledge base will be more effective if the entrepreneur develops efficient systems for storing and retrieving information.
Keeping knowledge confidential is essential too during knowledge enhancement. The organizations employment policies play a central role in this. For instance, the entrepreneur may ask staff to sign non-disclosure agreements, also called confidentiality agreements, when they join the business as this ensures that they understand the importance of confidentiality from day one.
SHARING KNOWLEDGE ACROSS BUSINESS
It’s crucial to avoid important knowledge or skills being held by only a few people, because if they leave or retire that expertise could be lost to business. If the entrepreneur has efficient ways of sharing knowledge across the business, it will be more widely used and its value and effectiveness are likely to be maximized.
- Knowledge sharingis one of the best ways of sharing new ideas and information with staff. Entrepreneurs must conduct regular meetings where they can brief employees and ask them to share ideas and best practice.
- Entrepreneur’s may consider holding innovation workshops or brainstorming sessions at which staff are given the freedom and encouragement to think of ways in which the business could improve.
- Another good way is to create knowledge bank that includes useful information and instructions on how to carry out key tasks. Putting this on an intranet is ideal as it will encourage staff to post news or suggestions.
- Technology alone isn’t the solution to sharing knowledge – it has to be managed carefully so that information is channeled properly. The entrepreneur may choose to hire a senior manager as knowledge champion for his business.
- Keep in mind that offering staff incentives to come up with suggestions for how the business can be improved is often an effective way of getting them to use and share knowledge. Training is a good way to spread key knowledge, skills and best practice across business.
CRAFTING A KNOWLEDGE STRATEGY FOR BUSINESS
An entrepreneur who wants to get the most from his business’ knowledge must take a strategic approach to discovering, collating and sharing it. This is achieved by knowledge strategy – a set of written guidelines to be applied across the business. In order to have an effective strategy, an entrepreneur must make sure that senior managers are committed to it and are fully aware of the benefits it can offer. Discussing with them is the best way of collecting and using knowledge.
When an entrepreneur is drawing up knowledge strategy he needs to:
- consider how effective his business currently is at utilizing its knowledge and analyze his internal processes for gathering and sharing information. He must ask himself the question: Are there successful ways of generating ideas and do staff have a good grasp of what’s happening?
- make sure that knowledge management, acquisition and distribution is a continuing process, so that it becomes central to your business’ strategy
- an entrepreneur must also identify the value of knowledge to his business. Think of ways he could exploit his knowledge for financial gain – perhaps by gaining a larger market share, developing new products, or selling or licensing your protected intellectual property to others.
An entrepreneur must leave no stone unturned in enhancing knowledge. After all it is an element that offers the entreprene