Knowledge network a vital tool

PUBLIC relations companies get it, journalists have always understood it and now it is moving mainstream.

You – and anyone you employ or work with – is as valuable as their network of contacts.

The change from an economic system in which physical inputs are crucial (in the agricultural and industrial economies) to one where knowledge is the most important element is a significant step.

The knowledge any of us has, plus our networks, have become the critical input. In fact in many situations it could be the case that what we know is most important because it allows us to be a part of critical networks.

In a knowledge economy it is people – plus their networks (because no one can know everything about even a specialised area) – who become the generators of ideas and then implement them. That is where income is generated.

In the industrial era capital was the critical part of the chain. It was essential to meet the heavy funding demands that were needed, with mostly semi-skilled labour used to keep the operation running.

The heavy capital investment across all industrial sectors has acted as a hugely negative force on the value of innovation.

Only a minute fraction of innovations developed are put into effect in industrial firms because they are too expensive to implement. As a result, innovation in these sectors tends to be incremental and focused on process rather than product innovation.

That game is changing.

Implementing innovation is now far easier, so everyone is doing it. Combined with the opening up of markets across the world, this means that anyone not so interested in innovating is left with no choice, if they want to survive.

With the explosion in the amount of new information and knowledge being generated – and its ever increasing importance for innovation and other business functions – it becomes more and more difficult to determine what we should and should not spend time on.

Which brings in networks again.

It has always made good business sense to be part of a strong, well-informed network. In a knowledge economy the pay back is even more important.

There are a number of lessons that flow from this:

p because we can’t know everything, and because having access to excellent information and knowledge is becoming critically important, networks and relationships matter;

p because the volume of information and knowledge is growing so quickly and choosing between the wheat and the chaff is vital, but difficult, trust in our networks and professional relationships is critical; and

p because information and knowledge feed on themselves and are dynamic, a person’s or organisation’s knowledge system is their network – your knowledge is your network.

From thinking about networks and partnerships as desirable business assets which generally “just happen” over time, in a knowledge economy they are critical strategic assets on which individuals and companies will either just survive or prosper.

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