There was a hot conversation on Park Avenue the other night.
I was out with friends for dinner, and as we walked downtown after dinner, along that famous New York boulevard, the conversation turned to some of the things we think about in our professional lives. As many readers know, I’m heavily involved in the M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy program at Columbia University. I’m wearing several “hats” relating to the program (including teaching), so the relationship between strategy in the general management community and the specifics of knowledge strategy development are often on my mind.
I was telling about a recent conversation on these subjects, when a colleague had challenged me to describe the two most important attributes of a knowledge strategist.
Without hesitation, I replied that in my opinion the successful knowledge strategist must possess two gifts: generosity and intellectual curiosity.
One of our group, Kevin Manion, who is the Director of Talent Acquisition and Diversity Planning at Consumer Reports in Yonkers, NY, has also had a little affiliation with the program, having consented to be one of the experts in the Experts Interviews we filmed for the students. As he could relate to my interest in the subject – both from that experience and from his own work – Kevin wouldn’t let me get away with that simple statement.
In fact, that might have been why he wouldn’t let it slip by: perhaps my response was too simple, too glib or too “touchy-feely.” Perhaps even simplistic (not good!).
Whatever his reasons, a very animated (and pleasant) conversation ensued. Kevin even gave me permission to share some of his thoughts about what qualities contribute to the success of a corporate or organizational knowledge strategist. Or, as he put, the success of any knowledge worker, information professional, or anyone else who works in this larger “domain” – as we call it – where knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) are critical to success.
The first thing Kevin would seek, he said, if he were looking for someone to be a corporate or organizational knowledge strategist, would be communication excellence. In fact, Kevin got pretty enthused about communication, and the relationship between communication and organizational development (what some call “organizational effectiveness”). He asserted that the KD/KS – communication connection is essential for organizational success.
“As leaders,” Kevin said, “we have a responsibility to ensure that we are creating a culture that not only encourages information sharing but supports the strategic goals of the organization. An organization that is transparent and creates a culture of openness is setting the stage for success by creating the right environment for creativity and innovation.”
Kevin – always himself a good communicator – went on with an example:
“I am working right now on a diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiative for Consumer Reports. This initiative has the potential to shift the culture of the organization in such a substantial way that if done well, it can ensure the long-term viability of this publishing and testing powerhouse and position Consumer Reports to really be a player in the publishing and consumer service industries for years to come.
“How do we accomplish that? The first phase of this project is to gather information from the source, from the people who make this great organization what it is. Over the next few weeks, working with external partners at Jennifer Brown Consulting, we are interviewing almost 10% of our staff in individual interviews and focus groups. These interviews will form the basis of a D&I strategy ultimately aimed at supporting the business of the organization. By broadening the makeup of our staff and creating a welcoming culture for all, we ensure that we better represent the needs and interests of ALL consumers, simply because the more we mirror our society, the more we can understand and support them. But it all starts with information sharing and gathering, analyzing and understanding that information, and then using it as the basis for strategy and action.”
Connect that “D&I strategy ultimately aimed at supporting the business of the organization” with what knowledge strategists seek to do with corporate knowledge strategy. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Next time: More from Kevin about the knowledge strategist, about integrity and leadership and how all this comes together for the successful knowledge strategist.