What Do You Know? Knowledge Mapping and Management

Have you taken stock lately of what you know and the potential value that your knowledge can bring to clients? Those of us who work in the Knowledge Economy are advised to periodically examine, catalogue, package and communicate to prospects, clients and referral sources the types of knowledge that we provide and the value of that knowledge, that is, the benefits that would be received by clients who pay to receive the knowledge.

Martin Ihrig, Associate Professor and Director of the Strategic and Entrepreneurial Management of Knowledge Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Ian MacMillan, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Wharton School, encourage Knowledge Workers to take an accounting of the full spectrum of their strategic knowledge assets: core competencies, talents, intellectual property, areas of expertise and deep experience. In order to effectively present ourselves to prospective clients, we must first understand and communicate what we offer to them and why it matters.

Step 1 is to list your strategic knowledge assets and group them according to categories. For example, if selling is the basis of your consulting practice, then your categories of core competencies, expertise and experience would likely include sales skills training, management of sales teams, sales distribution expertise, developing and nurturing client relationships, the success of new product launches, both individually and of sales teams that you’ve led, etc.

Think also in terms of your structured and unstructured knowledge. Structured knowledge that you possess would include your educational degrees and certificates; specific job experience; quantified intellectual property; technical proficiencies (maybe you speak another language, or are fluent in a certain relevant computer software); or specific methodologies used to provide services. Unstructured knowledge usually centers around your experience and expertise. Unstructured knowledge would, for example, include the deep experience you possess that allows you to accurately and relatively quickly grasp the big-picture as well as the nuances of challenges and opportunities that clients typically hire you to address.

Step 2 encompasses the primary goal that Ihrig and MacMillan assign to cataloguing and categorizing your knowledge asset categories, which is to enable you to visualize and consider them fully and position your consultancy for maximum profitability and sustainable growth. How can you advantageously leverage what you know? Are your categories primarily stand-alones, or might you combine them in ways that make you better able to meet the emerging needs of current and prospective clients? In Step 3, examine the business model for each of your high-level categories and the organizational systems and practices that you currently follow to efficiently enable their delivery.

If you love geometry, in Step 4 you can map your structured assets along the x-axis and unstructured along the y-axis (or the reverse, if you like). Simple list-making works, too. As stated above, you may discover ways to combine competencies, structured or unstructured, that will add to the services that you provide, or you may reconsider a seldom used structured or unstructured competency and realize that it may now be marketable.

Once you’ve listed your mission-critical knowledge assets, the challenge is to decide how best to package, message and promote them. If you carefully map and manage your knowledge portfolio, you may discover lucrative competitive advantages that otherwise may not reveal themselves to you.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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