Knowledge Management for the 2020s

Date

BY JIM KELLY, CHIEF CONTENT OFFICER

“If only HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.”

When he uttered these words in the 1990s, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt knew what he was talking about. He understood the importance of Corporate Knowledge Management: defining, organizing, retaining, and sharing the experience and knowledge of employees in an organization.

Since Platt’s time, there has been an explosion in knowledge management practices and technologies. As a result, today’s companies are working hard to capture and utilize their institutional knowledge, especially across large organizations with multiple operating units and divisions. 

Ensuring institutional knowledge management as Lew Platt aspired to for HP is only the first step in leveraging all knowledge-gathering opportunities for a corporation. 

Let’s think of this step as merely “Level One” of corporate knowledge management. 

Learning from the Competition

You already know that there is much wisdom within your organization. Imagine adding to that by tapping into what your industry peers also know. By joining their industry associations, companies can expand knowledge-gathering beyond their own company. This opens them up to innovative ways of thinking outside their walls and ensures that they’re keeping pace with the industry’s current state.

While capturing this “Level Two” industry knowledge represents a step up from “Level One” knowledge management, it does have its limitations. Competitors are often reluctant to share their hard-won insights with peer organizations. Information may also be wrapped up in proprietary IP issues that render it unavailable. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, industry-based silos put artificial limits on the kinds of knowledge you ideally seek. Level Two knowledge management helps you understand what currently works in your industry but limits ideas from other verticals that could move your company forward. As a result, industry knowledge management is not the final word in KM best practices either — rather, it is Level Two out of ideally three. 

So what then is Level Three Knowledge Management?

Ultimate knowledge management

While finding solutions and best practices from others within your industry can further improve your operations, it, too is not enough. Ideally, you would like to leverage the combined experience and knowledge from all industries where applicable. 

This would be the Holy Grail of corporate knowledge management.

This approach is already happening more than you might expect. As The Wall Street Journal recently noted, the mining company Rio Tinto has been exploring using a food industry innovation, the rice sorter, to improve the sorting efficiency of ore-bearing rocks potentially. It’s easy to see the appeal. According to experts, their use could lower the mining industry’s energy consumption by 15% and reduce the amount of water used by up to 1,050 gallons per ton of ore processed. However, while the technology has been around for decades, this was the first time it’s been applied in a mining context.

By focusing on the right solution rather than the right industry, Rio Tinto might utilize an unfamiliar technology to improve their operations, boosting profitability and sustainability at the same time. 

Imagine the possibilities. Seemingly unconnected industries and companies learning from each other. Could the cement industry learn from commercial bakeries? Maybe so. How could many strange, unrealized industry bedfellows be out there? 

Finding solutions with Contentree

The question now is, how can your organization make the same kind of jump as Rio Tinto and start taking advantage of cross-industry innovation. The easy answer is Contentree.

Our content library offers over 300,000 case studies from 21,000 vendors across 400 industries covering all equipment, software, services, and materials offerings. All of it is curated to be easily searchable by solution, not just the industry sector. That’s a powerful tool.

In addition to aiding solution seekers, Contentree helps vendors who successfully solve a challenge in one industry with their technology to potentially open up multiple opportunities in new vertical markets with identical or similar challenges.  

If Lew Platt were speaking today, his quote might read:

“If HP only knew what all companies and industries know, we could be infinitely more productive.”

This is Knowledge Management for the 2020s. It’s made possible by Contentree.