Critical Knowledge

Are we prepared for the future?

Critical Knowledgeby Caspar van Rijnbach

In the Age of Knowledge, the competitiveness and future of companies, is becoming more and more dependent on the knowledge companies possess and how they use, share and protect it. It is not that hard to agree with me on this. However, it is not that easy to manage. In the end, what knowledge needs to be managed? And how should it be managed?

We do know that not all knowledge is important and that different types of knowledge need different forms of management. Some types of knowledge are much more critical to organizations than others. To know how to fly an airplane is much more important for an airline company than knowing how to serve the employees in the restaurant, although both are important and required for the company to function well. Also, knowing how to fly an airplane can be critical today, but hypothetically, may not be so much tomorrow (in case flying becomes even more automated). Moreover, some knowledge a company already masters and will continue to do so for a long time, while other knowledge it might be in short supply already. Find below some common issues at organizations regarding knowledge:

  • No professionals with the required knowledge are available in the organization or in the market
  • People with critical knowledge are retiring
  • Knowledge is spread in the organization and badly organized
  • Some knowledge might easily leak to the competitor
  • The introduction of new technologies in the market requires development of new knowledge to be able to compete, but the company is not prepared to map and capture this knowledge
  • Development and internal dissemination of knowledge does not keep up with expansion and growth of the company or market.

In these situations, an organization encounters risks if critical knowledge is not mapped correctly. Risks that can turn into serious problems in the short and medium term if not acted upon. To prevent this from happening it is necessary to define strategies for each of the company’s types of critical knowledge, such as:

  • Train coach people within the organization
  • Implement knowledge transfer tools
  • Search professionals outside of the company
  • Create platforms for sharing and organization of information
  • Create policies to protect knowledge
  • Implement tools for foresight to capture and create new knowledge

A company will need to use a systemic view of the whole knowledge creation process and focus on what is really critical. Only then it will able to diminish the risks that might compromise its future.

In your organization, do you know what your critical knowledge is? Do you really manage this knowledge? Are you ready to compete in the Age of Knowledge?

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Caspar van RijnbachCaspar van Rijnbach is a specialist in innovation management and partner at TerraForum Consulting in Brazil – and Co-author of “Innovation: Breaking Paradigms” and “Management 2.0’’ (in Portuguese).

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