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February 12, 2019

Building a Knowledge-Driven Growth Strategy


Product Manager – NLP and Knowledge Graph/Refinitiv

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It's the beginning of the year and you have already secured the budget and plans for the year. Programs are in motion. Everything is fine, right?

No. Something is bothering you. Despite the fact that you stay on top of the latest technological developments in the news, you still feel you might be missing out.

You think, what are my competitors cooking up that could surprise me? Who are the new players in the market who might disrupt my business?

Finally, you look inward. You wonder whether:

  • You're leveraging the knowledge and insights of everyone in your organization?
  • The activities of people in the company are in alignment with the company's goals?

What are your options?

  1. Move On: One option is to calm yourself and keep doing what you're doing.
  2. Panic and seek help: Another option is to panic and hire a consulting company to help you figure this out. It's not a bad idea. But it is definitely not a sustainable one. You create dependency, you risk antagonizing your employees by using expensive external advisors instead of working and building from within.
  3. Take Control: A third option is to “own” how you acquire and use knowledge to inform your business strategy, achieve a competitive advance and grow the company.

Here are a few actions you can take to help you gain relevant knowledge and make informed decisions on growth faster.


1. Know What's Happening Inside Your Firm


You might think you know what your firm is focused on. You'll be surprised. The official reports, compared to where people actually spend their time, are not always aligned.

Yes, you read the status, roadmaps and project reports. They reflect the planning, but less about what the employees are reading that excites them. What content are they posting/researching that matter most to them (and likely matter to the industry and clients)? What documents do they exchange with colleagues? What themes repeatedly surface in their email?

You want to know what new technologies they explore or read about. What your employees are posting in the internal collaboration tools (jive, Sharepoint, Confluence, slack, yammer, etc). You want to collaborate with your employees and leverage their knowledge and expertise to help you steer your company’s future.

Here are a few examples of how to do this:

  • Mine information from email and collaboration tools: There are technologies that mine this type of knowledge. For example, take a look at and office 365 email exchanges.
  • Technologies to mine and transform this data into knowledge exist today (Natural Language Processing NLP, Machine Learning, etc).
  • Define the vocabulary/terms you want to track: It is important to define the taxonomy to be used (supervised machine learning), i.e. what are the themes/keywords you care about (best is to have a taxonomy expert).
  • Similarly, it is important to use e-discovery (with unsupervised machine learning) to surface themes that are emerging that might not be part of your day-to-day vocabulary – this opens up opportunities for new domains and growth opportunities.

2. Understand What's Happening Outside Your Firm


What is trending in the industry?

You would also want to look outside of your firm to understand what's trending in the industry.

Here’s how you can do this:

  • Similar technologies can be used to mine news, social media, academic research to identify what key themes are being discussed. This is an opportunity to learn new domains – but mostly to compare and evaluate which of these new themes are areas you see opportunity or threat.
  • You can apply Sentiment on your trends to identify whether those trends are perceived as positive or negative. This information is an important part of your review.

What are my suppliers focused on?

The vendors you source from -- and those you don't work with -- are not standing still. They evolve and innovate. You want to be first to know what they are focused on, where are they heading, and to be able to respond quickly before your competitors.

What are my clients focused on?

Your clients and prospects might be starting new initiatives, adopting new technologies, or penetrating new markets. You need intelligence to identify opportunities – and potential threats.

What are my competitors focused on?

You get the idea…

The above questions can be addressed using technologies like NLP, machine learning approaches and search/alerts. To name a few examples:

Entity extraction: identify company names, people names and resolve their identity in the real world. Those companies could be your competitors, suppliers etc. Same with product names, geographies and more. Theme classification: categorize/classify documents into themes. For example: When a document talks about office buildings, retail/restaurants, land, rent, parking, property transaction, capital investment, etc - then it might be classified as Commercial Real Estate theme.

E-Discovery: identify terms that are key to the document and more frequently mentioned in documents - these will most likely cover the emerging trends that are worth looking at. For example: if you are in the plumbing industry, E-Discovery can surface terms like lead, water contamination, lead removal, water filtering, reverse osmosis - this would indicate a demand for lead-removal/filtering products.

Sentiment: If a new technology is referenced/mentioned in a positive way by users, the sentiment will be be considered more positive than negative by consumers.

Related terms / co-occurrences: when a term “A” is typically mentioned together with term “B,” there is strong correlation between term A and B. For example: if evergreen trees (Green Giant, Blue Spruce, Arborvitae) are mentioned more and more together with specific geographic areas, with positive sentiment, this might indicate a growing demand for related products like backyard privacy products, decorative fences, or automatic watering pipe systems.

Performance data: hard data from your CRM platform on growing or decreasing consumption of specific materials is always something you need to look at.

Those methods among others could be applied on news, social media, academic research, and patent applications, as well as your internal employee posts, email exchanges, customer support tickets, customer reviews, CRM data and more.


3. Identify Domain Experts Inside Your Own Firm


Wait! Before you hire a consulting firm, consider using the internal talent in your firm first. Your employees know more than you think. If you ask them, you gain knowledge, foster collaboration, and earn their trust – even increase employee retention! The challenge: how do you know who is an expert and in what domain?

Knowledge Management technologies help resolve this challenge. There are technologies to match the trending/emerging themes you got from the previous steps, and identify who are the employees who best know those themes and have them as your internal expert advisors.

These technologies mine content consumed or produced by employees and build knowledge/expertise profiles around each employee ("find an expert"). Few examples for such platforms are BA Insight, and Sinequa InsightColeman Research is an expert network platform worth checking.


4. Idea Generation /Collaboration Tools


Make thinking and submitting new ideas a part of your firm’s culture. Encourage (prioritize and fund) and praise (personal award) the ideas and their authors. One of those ideas could be the strategic disruption you are looking for.

Use tools to streamline the idea generation, evaluation and award. An example of such a platform: Qmarkets.

So, whether you choose to use a consulting firm or not, follow the steps above, to be in a better position to gain a competitive advantage and drive growth. Combined with your firm's hard performance scores, those steps form a sustainable approach to provide you with the solid knowledge foundation you need to help drive your next move (strategic, or tactic).

Less panic. More knowledge, control and execution. Better results!

Comments? You can contact me directly via my ExecRank profile.

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