The competitive edge and why you shouldn’t keep your knowledge to yourself

I think almost everyone has felt it at one time or the other. The need to keep information or knowledge for themselves. It happens amongst competing organizations on all levels, it happens interpersonally both at home and at work. Knowledge is power and why should I share the powers when sharing almost likely means losing it? Shouldn’t you protect your competence making use of it for your own customers? Protect your turf or someone else will make use of it and you lose.

Now, here’s a common mistake. This perception may be true when it comes to construction or inventions where the edge is important and time to market is crucial for success. But applying this way of thinking in the knowledge industry I consider to be a huge mistake.

Sharing knowledge isn’t like sharing a cake. Sharing it doesn’t mean only half is left for you and your customers. You will give the whole cake away while eating it and STILL have it all left! It’s a win-win-win! Sharing your knowledge also has another important effect. If you share, you are also a likely target to receive others knowledge, adding it to your own, reinforcing your own profession. More cake for everyone.

If you work in the industry of knowledge, whether you are a consultant or permanent, do not consider exchange of competence even with competing companies or consultants as losing edge. Consider it an excellent opportunity to acquire more knowledge in your area of competence adding more quality to your delivery. It will benefit both you and your customer.

You may argue that if you share your specialties with a competitor, they might steal your customer. This might be true if you have a bad relationship with your customer or if the customer is dissatisfied with your delivery in any way but then again, if you lose your customer to competition for those reasons, it is highly unlikely that you would have kept them anyway. By sharing and acquire knowledge you are actually better prepared to protect your customer relation. Instead of reinventing the wheel over and over again while invoicing your customers for those hours, why not deliver quick results even if they are lessons learned from a competitor? Your customer won’t notice! They will only note your ability to solve problems at a rate higher than expected. Confidence will grow and you will be on top of the list of talents considered for further projects. You just sharpened your edge.

I know this is true because I am on the customer side. I do not care how knowledge of solutions on problems are obtained. I do not care what networks or channels you make use of to gain the knowledge required to solve my problem. I care about the hours spent and the quality of the result because that’s what is important to me. I also know that I do not like to get new people for every new project having to start travelling the social road from the beginning again. Having to watch hours spent to get to know the company to be able to deliver. I prefer if you are already up to speed. I do not switch supplier if I am not forced to.

As most customers I am not totally uneducated either so I will notice if you spend a lot of time reinventing wheels. I might even mention it the first and maybe the second time. But most likely, if you fail to build your own competence and sharpening your edge by making use of informal or formal networks and other people’s knowledge, I will exchange you for someone who do because this is in my best interest. And at that point, this customer is lost forever.

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