Reading between the Lines: Gain Strategic Advantage by Managing Information and Transforming It into Knowledge

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Gain strategic advantage by managing information and transforming it into knowledge

In his book, Canada's Best Careers Guide, Frank Feathers makes several important observations: "At the rate at which knowledge is growing, by the time today's newborn child graduates from college, the amount of available knowledge will be five times as great as today. When that child reaches age 50, the amount of available knowledge will be 40 times as great as today. Conversely, today's knowledge will account for only two per cent of all knowledge in 50 years time."

In the face of such daunting predictions we can only muse that it's not "a little knowledge that is such a dangerous thing," only that a little knowledge may be all our generation will ultimately have.

At CIBC we believe it is knowledge about our customers and their needs that attracts new clients to us and satisfies existing customers. It is knowledge of capital markets that structures the financing for globally competitive companies. And it is knowledge about the ways and means to hedge and balance risk which ensures market corrections become progressively less traumatic. How we manage information and its transformation into knowledge has become the strategic advantage in financial services today.

Yet defining an organization's intellectual capital does not even begin to address some of the issues of how to leverage it. At CIBC, we are aware that the knowledge era raises some big issues such as:

1 If knowledge is power, who is going to willingly share it and once it's shared, what - if not knowledge - will then be wielded in its place?

2 If information is everything, how do you begin to sift the relevant from the useless? Technology today too often demands that we manage more than we need, not the dilemma of less than we want.

3 If intellectual capital represents true value, how do we measure it when brains can't be reflected in the balance sheet and employees walk out the door each night?

There are some ways to deal with the implications of knowledge and how it must be managed. Firstly, leadership is crucial element of senior management, but in a lot of ways it's not management at all. Leadership is not about telling people what to do and then making them do it. Neither is it capturing, coding or disseminating information. Rather, leadership is about applying knowledge to business challenges and encouraging others to do the same. It requires an ability to first articulate business strategies and structures and then align the corporate culture and empower employees in a way that best achieves them. …