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16 December 2005

Becoming a Knowledge-driven Organization in response to more knowledgeable customers in the luxury market

Customers increasingly demand more personalized products and services. When the chosen product is relatively standard (mass-produced) they demand a personalized service around it. When the service is relatively standard (non-differentiating) they demand the resulting experience(s) to be unique.

In the World of luxury, this will not sound particularly new and challenging. For instance, the Richemont Group “Maisons” (French term used to represent the Brands owned by the Group) have been aiming to provide personalized product and services since their creation. However, even for them the context and the rules of competition are changing. Richemont customers, as much as for any other organization, do have increasingly access to more specific on-demand and interactive information. Customers are more knowledgeable about luxury products and services and about our competitor’s products and services. As a direct result, they have also more choice, or more precisely, they are more aware of having a choice.

Of course, one key medium at the origin of this phenomenon is the World Wide Web. It is now common for Cartier customers to download from a non-official web site a detailed product spec-sheet; and bring a printed copy to a Cartier boutique in order to be shown the product. Another illustration is the frustration of Panerai Management faced with a totally legal web site selling bracelets for Panerai watches. Even more worrying is the fast growing so-called “grey market” for watches, already a significant problem in North-America (these are genuine Richemont watches bought by wholesale accounts to be diverted onto a parallel network to be sold – usually on the Web - at discounted retail prices).

Traditional luxury companies will also face new types of competition. One of the most successful among wealthy people is fractional ownership. This is based on the old concept of time-sharing: Luxury products such as yachts, private jets, upmarket properties or luxury cars are shared by individuals who probably could afford to buy them outright, but find it much more cost-effective not to do so. What should be a concern for the traditional luxury brands is that this concept is starting to be available for fashion products as well such as ladies bags (http://www.bagborroworsteal.com/). Furthermore, existing or potential customers can easily share experiences and opinions on a specific luxury product and its related services, therefore at best, entering a point of sale with more pertinent knowledge; or at worse, deciding to opt for the competition before a sales-executive even had a chance to promote his products. For instance, there are very successful independent websites dedicated to luxury watches and watch-making where existing and potential owners of these wonderful time pieces can share related information. Jaeger-Le-Coultre benefits from such a website exclusively focusing on its products. It includes a Forum where customers, dealers and even JLC employees exchange experiences, ideas and opinions on various models (http://www.thepurists.com/). The key fact to note is that the website is independent: JLC management did not create it, has no input and even less control on its content.

This new competitive environment indicates that luxury Brands should focus on bridging the gap between them and their customers through co-creation of value with the customers (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, The Future of Competition, 2005). The idea is to organize companies in such a way so that all their valuable human resources based knowledge is leveraged through the creation of value for our customers and for the organization. This is done best in co-operation with the customers themselves. When a customer submits a problem at a point of sale of a particular international Brand name, the customer is in fact asking the whole company, not just the front line employee. Now can the organization ensure that the right person with the right knowledge is solicited at the right time to satisfy the customer? This is what becoming a knowledge-driven organization is ultimately all about: satisfying our customers faster and better and increasing revenue and profit as a result. A Knowledge-driven organization is focused on providing all the knowledge tools and assistance each of its front-line collaborators could benefit from, in order to deliver a better service. A knowledge-driven organization is inherently a customer-focused organization.

Typical Product and/or Market-focused Organization schematic representation:



The Organization/Customer Gap is reduced through product design assumed to satisfy the customers and through market analysis to adapt to each markets. The rationale is that the organization “knows” best what its customers need/want.

A Knowledge-driven and customer focused Organization simplified schematic representation:

A Knowledge-driven Organization sees its customers at the top of the pyramid with the whole Organization at their service. The goal is to co-create with the knowledgeable customers valuable and personalized experiences. In other words, such an Organization does not sell only products and services anymore but sells experiences.

Peter-Anthony Glick
Leveraging Organizational Knowledge

Read Verna Allee's comment to this post.

12 December 2005

The Human Capital Formation

Click on diagram to enlarge.


THE VIRTUOUS PROCESS OF HUMAN CAPITAL FORMATION.

Tom Stewart in his book “The Wealth of Knowledge” (2001) demonstrates how the building and leveraging of organizational knowledge assets can be at the heart of value generation. In chapter 14 (pages 311-313) he refers to Nick Bontis excellent work (http://www.nickbontis.com/ ) on human capital formation (see Nick's comment to this post). Based on this, I have devised a diagram illustrating the virtuous knowledge-driven processes that an organization should emphasize and consciously leverage upon.


The 3 goals are to:

  • Reduce Human Capital depletion.
  • Increasing Income per Employee.
  • Company performance in line with Strategic goals.

This virtuous process is to be maintained through a creative tension between the Company performance and both a Knowledge-Driven Organizational Culture and Knowledge-driven Organizational Capabilities.

This diagram might seem a bit too theoretical at first but it is in fact a pragmatic model. The process starts at the top of the diagram with common-sense and practical principles such as a strong charismatic leadership, recognition of individual and team performance, proactive career development or knowledge-driven recruitment process. An important fact to note here is that the implementation of these principles usually does not require very time-consuming and costly projects/initiatives. They tend to “pay for themselves” in the early stages, providing that they are recognized as strategic and benefiting from top-management support.

Peter-Anthony Glick
Leveraging Organizational Knowledge

Read Nick Bontis' comment on this post.

08 December 2005

Open question: What does a flatter World mean in terms of organizational Knowledge Management?

This is to start a discussion thread on the impact of our World getting flatter - mainly due to technological advances - on Organizations and their efforts to leverage their value-added Knowledge.

Note: To get a really good sense of this flattening of the World, I advise you to read "The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century" by Thomas Friedman (2005).

http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/worldisflat.htm

Reem Saied gives a good short analysis of Freidman's book. http://reemsaied.blogspot.com/2005/05/world-is-flat.html

An initial assertion: A Flat World increases the power of individuals through their specific knowledge.

Technological advances have made the World become “flat” and successful organizations of the future will be the ones that embrace this fact and take full advantage of it before their competitors. This increasingly flat World is described by Thomas Friedman as “[…] a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration – the sharing of knowledge and work – in real time, without regard to geography, distance, or, in the near future, even language”. In such a World, it is clear that the span of influence of each individual is virtually the entire World.

The key value-adding differentiator for individuals is their specific knowledge (as the sum of their skills, competences and experiences, modulated by their interpersonal qualities and cultural background).

Peter-Anthony Glick
Leveraging Organizational Knowledge

05 December 2005

Why all this fuss about KM now?

Knowledge Management is about how an organization makes use of its intellectual property. It is about leveraging the knowledge produced internally or acquired externally, to add value for competitive advantage.

BUT WHY ALL THIS FUSS NOW?

Organizations always produced knowledge and this knowledge must have been used to add value somehow => TRUE
However, knowledge was not managed explicitly, formally, systematically because, until the 90's, it didn’t really need to be in order to add value.
In the increasingly Flat World we live in - with weaker geographical and political borders - individual and organizational knowledge is the most rewarding asset to leverage.

Find below examples of key benefits of Knowledge-driven initiatives in an organization:

  • Stop “reinventing the wheel”.
    => Similar or different solutions are applied to identical problems by different teams throughout the organization, when one solution could be applied for all.
    What are needed are processes and tools to facilitate knowledge encoding and accessibility.
    It must be facilitated to find out what has been done and who has done it.
  • Induce a “Knowledge is power when it is shared” culture.
    What is needed is a top-management will and drive for a knowledge sharing culture, in which individuals, departments, teams, companies are encouraged, valued and rewarded for sharing their specific knowledge.
  • Effective replacement of experienced staff through knowledge acquisition and transfer.
    A fraction of the significant costs associated with staff turnover could be directed towards proactive knowledge transfer from senior staff to more junior ones. Training, Coaching, apprenticeship, documentation are only some of the methods that could be generalized.
  • A company-wide team spirit or the systematic involvement of all the relevant stakeholders in projects and activities, all sharing specific and valuable knowledge and experience.
    When knowledge gained somewhere doesn’t move elsewhere, that’s not a learning organization; that’s just a bunch of projects” (Jac Fitz-Enz, HR analyst, founder of the Saratoga Institute).
    What is first needed is for individuals and groups of people to be encouraged and valued for using their own knowledge and experience to constructively challenge the production of others. Furthermore, positive and negative feedback from all parties involved in projects and activities should be formally collected and made freely available to all for re-use (this relates to first and last examples as well).
  • Stop making the same mistakes twice (or many more times).
    The risk of repeating mistakes can be considerably reduced with the generalization of relatively simple processes and tools, all centred on the principle of proactive knowledge sharing. In other words, the reasons and impacts of a mistake along with what was done about it is to be systematically recorded in a database available for others to consult.


I found on Pera the Innovation Company's website (www.pera.com) this very good support for knowledge-driven stategies:


"Global Knowledge
A Knowledge Based Business...
The best businesses today recognised a long time ago that their use of knowledge would be key to making them successful and they did something about it!
These businesses:
Thrive on chaos and uncertainty because it confuses their competitors
Welcome globalisation because it gives them access to customers and capabilities that their competitors are yet to comprehend exist
Welcome reduced product lifecycles because they know they are agile enough to get in and out of these new business spaces at speeds others can only imagine
Can be sure that China is not a threat because they know that the value they create comes from the man and not the machine
But what did they do?
Divorced themselves of the corporate mindset and released the spirit of the individual
Developed their human capital first and then watched their financial capital multiply
Looked across the business and to the world at large for inspiration not just to their leader
Realised that they exist in an ecosystem, not linear world
And then what did they do with this self-empowered, self-motivated, self-aware and profit hungry bunch of individuals?
They fed them knowledge and they made them money……"

Peter-Anthony Glick
Leveraging Organizational Knowledge

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