If we only knew what we know

“If HP knew what HP knows, it would be three times more profitable!”
Lewis Platt, Former CEO, Hewlett Packard

Lew was correct. He could not have summed it better. In this simple quote, he has summed the quintessential reason for the products and services our company, Intelligence-NEXT: offers.

Lew’s comment was not a frivolous comment. He knew well, what he was speaking of. The good people at HP also knew it. And if it were not the CEO of HP, it could have just as well been the CXO or Senior Exec of any number of other Fortune 1000 companies. It is a comment that is profound in its simplicity, simply because when we hear it, we instantly recognize its fundamental truth.

The year that Mr. Platt made that comment, HP’s net earnings totaled $2.4 billion. Given the order of magnitude of this number, why didn’t he go for the 3x? What would keep Lew from going for another $6 billion?

In one sense, it is a silly question indeed to ask “…why don’t they do something about it?”.

Many have tried, many are still thinking about it

OF COURSE: if Mr. Platt knew… how to help HP better know what it knew already… they probably would have made that extra $6 billion. Unless of course, it required a few $Million to improve the knowledge game in the company. Then they would have only made and extra $5+ billion.

In the 21st Century global enterprise this comment is no longer even remotely flippant. In fact, this question is a key to success in the highly competitive, information avalanche that is the contemporary business environment in which we all work.

So what’s the big deal? What is being done? What is NOT being done? And why aren’t we doing it?

There are many, many off the shelf programs available and armies of consultants who are at the beckon of any enterprise that wants to improve its knowledge game. For example, there are over 400 software programs on the market that classify themselves as “Intelligence” applications. Depending on how you define “knowledge management”, there are over 1,000 applications available to support what the market has defined as a range of software solutions used by organizations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness and learning. And there are tens of thousands consultants offering advice on the same topics.

So there is no shortage of suppliers and products to help discerning executives raise the level of performance for the knowledge game in the enterprises for which they are responsible. In 2003, KM World Magazine reported, “The knowledge management market as a whole will continue to be the fastest growing segment of the software market over the next five years, totaling more than $21 billion by 2006.” This is not a trivial market and most of the largest global consultancy firms have entire practices dedicated to this very same market.

And of course, many enterprises have tried, and many more are… well they are thinking about it.

Although it is impossible to accurately describe the history, the current practices, and the future visions of major enterprise players in the knowledge game. There are clearly some brilliant players with innovative solutions and the prognosis could be considered bright, in terms of future solutions.

But for those leaders who are still hesitant to shoot for that multiple of 3 to the bottom line (as Lew Platt suggested)… what’s up with those guys?

The top 10 reasons why NOT:

The Founders and Partners of Intelligence-NEXT: have led and supported knowledge-focused initiatives on a global scale for over 20 years. In that time, we have collected an extensive database of executive viewpoints on the importance of knowledge in the contemporary organization. Ironically, although most executives acknowledge the substantial role and significance of developing knowledge-focused initiatives throughout the enterprise, they very often find reasons to delay or avoid making the decision to proceed.

Here are the top 10 reasons why executives hesitate to initiate knowledge development projects:

1. My leadership team already has an exceptionally full plate we should wait until they have the time and attention to devote to this important project.

2. We have tried to implement knowledge management projects before and have not been successful we need to study the matter further before we start yet another project of that kind.

3. Projects involving new technology are always more complicated and more expensive than first projected.

4. Our enterprise team is already very intelligent, and frankly they have been performing well without the benefit of a new knowledge management capability.

5. Knowledge management projects are very difficult to measure how will we know that performance improvements are in fact attributable to the knowledge management project, and would not have been realized anyway?

6. Knowledge management projects tend to involve much more resource and business scope than are actually needed we are not trying to solve world hunger here.

7. We already have implemented a competency development strategy which includes excellent recruiting, hiring, training and mentoring components any knowledge management initiative might dilute the effort on our competency development projects.

8. It is already the responsibility of each and every enterprise team member to improve their own knowledge and skills for their given job roles so knowledge management is really more their responsibility than it is the enterprise’s.

9. Although my leadership team agrees we should build our knowledge management capability, they all have completely different ideas about how that should be accomplished it is too difficult to get them all on the same page.

10. Our Board of Directors and stakeholders will view a knowledge management initiative as a sign of enterprise weakness and an excuse for past failure

At the time of this posting, we are conducting a survey to update our 10 years of observation. Please feel free to take this 7 minute exercise, with no obligation. Link here for the survey

Also, if you want to know how your results fare with other enterprises, there are options in that survey to contact us for further details. If you would prefer to just contact us directly for more details, click here.


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