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To maximize your competitive edge, your company needs a firm understanding of the core differentiators that separate you from competitors.

Like a ship's crew carefully examining the radar for external threats and information, it is necessary to look outward to market trends in order to stay ahead of the competition. However, it is also crucial to examine, document, and utilize the information a crew has attained from within the ship. Your employees have gathered a wealth of wisdom about the work your company does and how to deal with certain scenarios. Strengthen your core differentiators by identifying the information held internally and sharpen another facet of your competitive advantage.

Competitive Intelligence is the outward focus of external research, while knowledge management is the internal collection of company knowledge. Competitive intelligence and knowledge management are two of the key ways your organization can out-maneuver your competitors. This post will be focused on what exactly knowledge management is and how it's critical to the success of your business.

What's missing

In the break-neck speed that markets progress at these days it can be difficult to take a step back and examine your strategy, your methods and your processes. However, not taking the time to look at the internal workings of your company with fresh eyes means you might not be utilizing the assets, minds, experience and overall knowledge that your company holds within its own walls. We've researched this and found that only:

• 40% of participants review their strategy quarterly
• 30% review it monthly
• 20% semi-annually
• 10% annually

Your employees are vessels of information. Each person on a team carries with them the understanding of how your company works from the inside, out. Likewise, each department has specialized information that can help to add unique perspectives to greater internal issues. The danger in not inquiring more frequently about and compiling the information each person knows can happen most drastically when changes within the company occur. If someone who has been integral to a certain function within the company leaves, and there was never a record on the experience, process and information the person had within them, all of that valuable data is gone.

The Knowledge Management Tier

When looking for clarity in the CI process and the importance of gathering internal wisdom, it is helpful to consider the knowledge management tier. The knowledge management tier can be broken down into four distinctions: data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.

Data alone is not useful when collecting internal knowledge or research in general. Information adds a layer of explanation, but still lacks context. Knowledge can influence a direction or decision, but wisdom is the most instructional, and it's the best way to approach future decisions. Wisdom is insight from a trusted source that surmounts data, information, and knowledge to give you the most clarity and path forward.

Gather the data, compile the information and use your internal wisdom as a competitive advantage.

Watch Now: Competitive Strategy Best Practices

Waste not, want not.

Often, companies don't know what they know.

If you're looking for new ways to maximize your competitive advantage within your market, look within your own company to see what is there, waiting to be utilized. Each employee has the expertise of the specific workings of your company. Reach out to employees and gather the information that lives in their brains and stems from their first hand experience.

Knowledge management efforts begin by compiling this internal data and creating a living archive of company knowledge. This resource can be utilized to collaborate between departments, to gain a different perspective on a recurring issue, or when the company is looking to make large business decisions.

As with competitive intelligence, when making large changes it is important to take into account what has happened in the past and where the company is at in the present, in order to inform a strong future plan. Gather your crew to assemble a post mortem of information they have learned in battles past and gain inspiration for the future that is powered by past experience.

Documenting and storing the hands on, personal experience of everyone at your company into a central repository of shared knowledge will strengthen the core of your company and unite your team toward a common goal fueled by varied perspectives.

The difficulty most companies experience when managing the living knowledge within a company is collecting the information and ensuring that knowledge management is then used. This has a lot to do with the way in which this information is housed. It needs to be easily searchable, and live in an accessible place where it will be beneficial to all at the company. Software that houses this knowledge can enable further knowledge management efforts.

You want to make the most of what you have in house before you start searching for answers outside. Effectively and efficiently managing your company's knowledge will bring to light perspectives that will sharpen your competitive edge.

Interested in learning more about competitive intelligence best practices? Watch our recorded webinar on just that.