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I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News
No. 34: November 1999


What Kind of K-Supplier are You? - David Skyrme
Knowledge Economy '99, Beijing - David Skyrme
Singapore: The Knowledge Island - David Skyrme
ENTOVATION International: A Quick Update - Debra Amidon


Welcome to this edition of I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News. We move on to another of the 7Ps of Internet marketing this month - Positioning. There is also a report of the International Conference on the Knowledge Economy and China. Watch out for our forthcoming special edition on Knowledge markets.

For those in the USA - Happy Thanksgiving.

I3 UPDATE is also available by email. See the administrative information page.

David J. Skyrme
Managing Editor

What Kind of K-Supplier are You?
Positioning Your Knowledge Offering

David J. Skyrme

In earlier I3 UPDATEs we considered packaging knowledge (No. 32) and knowledge portals and pathways (No. 31). This month we look at the third of our 7Ps of Internet Marketing - Positioning. I suggest that there are three objectives to pursue:

  1. Claim a distinctive niche in the marketplace (unless you have millions of dollars to go for market saturation in a segment)
  2. Make your web site distinctive and stand out from among the 80 million or more other web sites.
  3. Support your overall marketing and business objectives.

How can you achieve these aims in practice?

First, you have to have clear in your mind the target customers or potential customers your are targeting. It may well be that you need to develop different positioning strategies for different market segments e.g. existing customers, people who are unaware of your products and services, corporate buyers, or (increasingly profitable) business individuals (e.g. department heads with specific problems and budgets to solve them). Do you really understand their needs, wants, how they use the Internet, what information they seek for what purpose and what knowledge they value? If you do, you are probably a minority, since the majority of web sites are producer, not user-centric. By that I mean you can more quickly discern the structure of their organization and product portfolio than you can their intended audiences.

Second, you have to decide what you are best at doing in the overall knowledge value-added system in order to excel in meeting your target's needs. It might be that you are a good knowledge creator, but need partners to help with marketing and distribution. Or you might be a good knowledge synthesizer, where you seek access to good content for input, and again the appropriate channels for output. A review of your packaging and how you want to position yourself as a supplier leads to the following possibilities (or combinations thereof):

  • K-Content Originator - you are an original creator of compelling content. You have knowledge that others seek out.
  • K-Content Publisher - you are a publisher of E-zines and E-journals; or perhaps you have traditional publications that you want to promote via the Web.
  • K-Aggregator - you consolidate other knowledge or information, and package it for resale under your brand name. Some of the traditional on-line services such as Dialog initially positioned themselves like this.
  • K-Mall or K-Shop - Essentially you are a retailer, select what you will sell and not sell and take your commission. In the world of digital music mp3.com is a good example of this.
  • K-Market (open) - you provide a complete set of facilities for knowledge trading, and as long as buyers and sellers follow the rules, they can trade what they like - though you do have to keep your eyes open for illegal or disreputable practices. The auction sites e.g. QXL (http://www.qxl.com) and Ebay (http://www.ebay.com) are rather like this.
  • K-Market (closed) - here there are more formal sign up procedures, which bind members to certain rules. Iqport (http://www.iqport.com - "the knowledge market for people in the know") also adds a guild structure, which accredits and rates specialized knowledge assets.
  • K-Communities - you provide a set of useful information and opportunities for dialogue e.g. through Web conferencing, for a special interest group.
  • K-Infomediary - you provide useful information (hard statistics and 'how tos' are generally high in demand)
  • K-Activity - you engage the user with an interactive quiz or applications. The way that Karl Erik Sveiby helps you assess your intellectual capital at http://www.sveiby.com.au is a good example, as is the drug pipeline game by Searle Health (http://www.searlehealth.com/pipeline.html)
  • K-Anything - invent your own term, since there are many unrealized opportunities in innovating new kinds of positioning!

Third, having got clear your source of added value, you need to articulate further what makes you distinctive or unique. A good approach here is to think of a strap line that portrays your positioning in terms that are meaningful to the user e.g.

- "the site for xxxx professionals in a hurry"
- "everything you need to know to do yyyy"
- "the essential guide to zzzzz"
- "your route map to yyyzzz"

where xxxx, yyyy etc. are more powerful if they are action and decision verbs rather than nouns. For example "buying electrical goods", "making outsourcing decisions" rather than "electrical goods" and "outsourcing".

Fourth, reflect your analysis in the way that your site (or part of your site) portrays itself.

  • Clarify its purpose (to you) e.g. is its primary focus to generate leads, improve customer service etc.
  • Clarify its purpose for the user up-front (e.g. through your strap line)
  • Why should readers visit it - how will the information you publish or the connections to knowledgeable experts, help them perform the tasks in hand better?
  • Since the emphasis should be helping users to do something better, then consider a metaphor, such as "your planning assistant", or "your buying assistant"; this is where some interactive application (e.g. in Javascript or accessing a database) can be very useful.
  • Why is it distinctive - your USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) - perhaps this should be UKPs (Unique Knowledge Propositions)
  • Develop partners in your web e.g. affiliates, reciprocal links, joining a web ring (http://www.webring.org)
  • Consider whether you need a separate Web brand (for example Proctor and Gamble have set up a site http://www.reflect.com for providing customized advice on beauty products, while http://www.trainline.com is actually Virgin trains

This last point suggests that you may need several domain names (if they are still available!) to reflect different market segments.

Fifth, check how it is working, and modify your approach accordingly. This means not only checking actual user responses (e.g. from the emails or orders generated), but sampling users for their opinions, observing users, and searching for your distinctive positioning on search engines to see if your own site comes near the top. As in any promotional campaign, it is useful to develop a set of metrics that you can monitor, before and after your new positioning.

In summary the five step approach to better web positioning is

  1. Have clear customer segments in mind - be user-centric.
  2. Develop your general k-position (creator, aggregator, market site) for each user segment
  3. Articulate your value added and distinctive niche
  4. Develop your site to reflect your market objectives, customer segments and value-added.
  5. Constantly review your positioning and how your site(s)' positioning is perceived.

Not much of what we have discussed is very much different to planning a conventional promotional campaign. The biggest differences are that you must use portals and pathways to attract your potential users, and once you have attracted them, you must make your site 'sticky' - you have to engage your user in the first few seconds, else they will simply click-away somewhere else. In a recent workshop the sites that kept the users attention exhibited the following characteristics:

  • good clean design, effective layout, minimal but good graphics (not big images)
  • relevant words jumped out of the page i.e. addressed users' needs
  • helpful navigation (site map and/or search, menu, drop down lists)
  • excellent content: timely, relevant, thoughtful, quality
  • some intrigue: another click would get you more relevant information
  • encouraged user interaction e.g. "find a wine that goes with xxxx"

It's a case of Positioning for Progression - but that's next month's P!

What is your K-Anything? What positioning methods do you favour? Let us have your feedback.

Email: david@skyrme.com

Update - Other articles in this series The 7Ps of Internet Marketing cover Portals, Packaging, Page Impressions, Progression and Payments.

China and the Knowledge Economy (KE99)

David J. Skyrme

As we move into the next millennium, almost every forward-looking country on earth wants to build a "knowledge-based economy" (see for example I3 UPDATE /ENTOVATION International News features on the UK (No. 26) Brazil (No.29), and other countries). China is no exception. Following her visit to China last May, ENTOVATION Founder Debra Amidon wrote (I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News No. 22) "governments and academic leaders are studying - systematically - the implications of the knowledge economy challenge". Further progress on this work was revealed at the "International Conference on the Knowledge Economy and China", organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and held in Beijing 1-3 November.

Speakers from within China and overseas gave their assessments of how the knowledge economy was developing, factors that are needed to succeed and the challenges facing China. In a key report presented by Professor Li Jingwen, the opportunities to build on their knowledge assets (e.g. 1.6 million scientists and engineers) and a burgeoning high technology and industrialization infrastructure are clear. It is to reduce the gap in per capita GDP from $800 in China to $20,000 or more for a typical developed country. However he saw a major challenge as that of tackling the building of a knowledge based economy at the same time as the country was moving from a rural to an industrialized economy. Some of the actions he advocated were to continue to develop high technology industries (the presence of some of the world's hi-tech companies, ranging from Motorola to Microsoft, and Siemens to Sony was very evident to a visitor like me); to continue with structural reforms, to develop Chain's innovation systems and to strengthen its research base (including social science). Other speakers from China gave more insights as to how a knowledge economy should develop and also confirmed the main challenges. For example:

  • Lu Xiaodong (Shanghai Junlin Ltd) - the knowledge explosion is leading to confusion and competition as traditional industries struggle: "we need vision".

  • Wang Xuan (Director of Institute of Computer Science and Technology, Beijing University) gave an excellent example of how the Chinese publishing industry had leapfrogged directly from lead type production to full electronic production, using special software to overcome the problems of generating pages of iconic characters. Their expertise and software were now being sold to Japan.

  • Zhou Xiang (Ministry of Finance) - considered some of the obstacles - loss of talent abroad, inability to turn knowledge into value-added, the need to "speed up the industrialization of knowledge".

The Outsider's Perspective

Invited experts from overseas gave examples of how other countries and organizations were developing knowledge-based businesses, and also of their links with China. For example:

  • Michel Pommier described the development of knowledge management at the World Bank

  • Kenneth Hunter described the infrastructure for high-tech industry development (e.g. via incubators) in his state of Maryland. As director of the Institute for Global Chinese Affairs at the University of Maryland he outlined their programme in educating Chinese managers in the new skills for the knowledge economy - how, that at the same time businesses will be building systems of the future while they are using the system of the past.

  • Geoffrey James (Institute for Business Wisdom) described how many organizations get themselves into a blind spot and are therefore sidelined by the actions of innovators and entrepreneurs.

In my own talk I described different ways of commercializing knowledge and how many of the key players in the knowledge commercialization space did not exist just three or five years ago. (Click here to read the full the paper - Word format). will be published shortly on the web site. Interestingly one of the sponsors of the conference was a highly innovative company (Shegzhen Reality Planning Company) who described an innovative new mobile phone service.

An interesting contrast was provided by John Wong of the National University of Singapore. As a nation its GPD is $28,000 per capita and has for many years promoted itself as a knowledge-based economy (see next article). 40 years ago, it was in worse economic straits than China is today. Initially it sought labour intensive industries, but over time has shifted to high value added ones. It promoted its vision and built the necessary knowledge infrastructures, putting great emphasis on education and lifelong learning.

Developing Knowledge

An interesting feature of the conference, and one that other conference organizers could usefully emulate, was that of having a discussant after every talk. The discussant summarized the highlights and added some of their own perspectives on the topic just presented. This added a level of knowledge richness not normally available in the traditional conference format.

New insights were also gained by open discussion of the differences of perception of different speakers. For example, one debate that emerged was whether China had to go through industrialization e.g. attracting and developing hi-tech electronics businesses, before it could build knowledge based businesses. Some felt that with its deep cultural heritage, and exploitation of the Internet, some new knowledge-based businesses could be developed quite quickly. Nevertheless, high-tech investment, particularly when combined with leading-edge knowledge transfer was seen as a knowledge lever for traditional goods and services.

In summing up the proceedings Mr Wang Pufeng of the China Pacific Regional Forum welcomed the "practical and theoretical exchange of views". The participants were agreed that the cycle of commercialization in the knowledge economy was shorter. He summarized: "innovation is the soul of progress for a nation. A nation without innovation will find it difficult to be prosperous in the world.". There was general agreement that China needs to continue structural reform and develop a state innovation system. China has many talents on which to build. Professor Wang Tongsan in his closing remarks summarized four learnings from the conference:

  • basic theories - there are many examples from around the world of the economic development process. A solid base of international research offers experience on which to build.

  • scientific and conscientious discussions and important insights were given; there was great openness about the challenges that China faces in closing the wealth gap

  • useful ideas on how to develop a knowledge-based economy were exchanged e.g. need for systems changes, role of education, international exchange and global cooperation

  • specific recommendations for China, including developing market mechanisms, role of social sciences, how to commercialize knowledge, and in particular exploiting China's vast resource of scientific talent.

It was this last point that was the most telling for me. If you look at indicators of a knowledge-based economy, China has many of the key inputs e.g. talent, a fast developing information and communications infrastructure. It clearly has a long way to go in achieving the outcomes of wealth as has been achieved by Western economies or Singapore. The missing ingredient is clear. It is the 'knowledge recipes' to convert the inputs to the outputs. This conference helped highlight some of these mechanisms.

Email: david@skyrme.com

Singapore - The Knowledge Island

David J. Skyrme

While en route to China, I stopped over for some meetings in Singapore. Some of the things that impressed me most (apart from the fact, that I could see the grounds of the Singapore cricket club from my hotel window!) were that from the early 1990s (even before) Singapore had a vision of the "wired island", based on a high bandwidth infrastructure and flows of information and knowledge. In 1991 the vision IT2000 was published. Today, that vision is coming to fruition in the form of Singapore One and other developments. In recent years it seems to me that Singapore has always had a very clear vision of where it is heading. For example, a report Vision 2000 for the National Library Board, written in 1994, openly emphasized the vision of a knowledge-based economy and the role of learning within it. What government departments in other nations were even using such language at that time? Likewise the Economic Development Board is forging towards a knowledge economy through its "Industry 21" economic blueprint (http://www.sedb.com.sg/industry21/in.html).

Everywhere you go the knowledge language is pervasive. Singapore's libraries have 'knowledge islands'. I just happened to pick up a copy of "Investment News" (October 1999). The headline: "Singapore to become a talent capital: Continuous learning will help meet needs of knowledge-based economy". An indication of this level of learning comes from a book I was presented with during my visit to EDB (Economic Development Board). Called 'Strategic Pragmatism', it is a description written in 1996 by Edgar Schein about the development and culture of the EDB since its inception. He was given free rein to interview many people associated with the EDB, ranging from employees, other government agencies with which it liaises and overseas companies who have considered or have actually set up in Singapore.

Such openness to learning is symptomatic of my day-to-day experience while there. Participants on a course I ran asked many questions (too many in fact, such that I was revamping the next day's material in my hotel every night!). At every meeting I attended, there was great inquisitiveness about what other organizations were doing in knowledge management. To the fore were many questions on the 'how tos', and "what have others leant", and "how do you overcome these problems". Never mind erudite theories. Singapore is clearly a nation of doers, but what I might call "intelligent doers" or "thinking pragmatists". It is very clear that they seek the best ideas from overseas (they are very open about attracting foreign talent). For example, I was very pleased to meet ENTOVATION colleague Gerald Yearsley (of Leading Edge), who has developed his own knowledge-based business in Singapore after first moving there over a decade ago with a high-tech multinational company.

Singapore does, however, face certain challenges, particularly as neighbouring countries and regions, like Malaysia, and China with High Kong, also seek to build knowledge-based economies. These countries also have physical space, which is in shorty supply in Singapore. Undaunted, Singapore has built upwards and has also introduced electronic road usage charging during peak periods, something that many governments in the west are fighting shy of so as "not to upset the voting motorist". Other challenges seem to me perhaps an overemphasis on learning from others rather than encouraging their own creativity and innovation. Also, are opportunities being missed because some of its most talented individuals are attracted to careers in government rather than entrepreneurial businesses?

Whatever its shortcomings, Singapore is place which is buzzing with activity, both physical and intellectual. It's no accident that it come top or near the top on international competitiveness surveys. It's definitely a country from which others embarking on building knowledge economies can learn a great deal I felt privileged to be in the midst of "the buzz" for a week.

Email: david@skyrme.com

ENTOVATION International:
A Quick Update

Debra M Amidon

Dear ENTOVATION Colleagues,

Life has been so hectic. The Knowledge InnovationTM bandwagon is rolling and I'm having to run fast to keep it on track!! Since last writing in depth - about Austria's work towards the knowledge economy at Alpbach (see the last I3 UPDATE /Entovation International News No. 33), I've talked at several conferences and have visited Latin America, including Mexico twice.

There are exciting developments afoot about ENTOVATION's presence in Latin America. However, even as this goes out, details are being finalized. So rather than delay this edition of I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News, we are sending it out before Thanksgiving., when I shall be taking a break in Canada with my family, as well as meeting other ENTOVATION colleagues!

In early December we shall be publishing a special edition on knowledge markets, and especially on iqport (http://www.iqport.com) where you can find some insightful knowledge assets written by myself and other ENTOVATION colleagues. The regular December edition - No. 35 and the last edition of this millennium (!!) - should (I hope) contain updates of our work in Latin America as well a report by colleague David Skyrme on Knowledge Summit '99.

Update (January 2000). The special edition on knowledge markets was not released owing to the decision by NatWest bank, the main backers of iqport, not to proceed to commercial trading. However, for the record, click here to see an edited version of the planned edition plus an iqport updates. Hectic activity at ENTOVATION also meant that the Latin America report was not published until Feb 2000 (see PDVSA).

In the meantime have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Best Wishes


Email: debra@entovation.com


23-25 November. Knowledge Summit '99. The Fourth Annual European Event, London. David Skyrme is Speaking on K-Commerce. The 4th in a series of highly respected events. Business Intelligence.

6-8 December. Enterprise Intelligence International. KMCI’s Annual World Summit, Orlando, Florida. An impressive line up of quality speakers as well as exhibits and award ceremony.

7-9 December 1999. Online 99. An extravaganza aimed at information professionals. London. Learned Information.

28 Feb - 3 March, 2000. 2nd Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning Conference, London. A bevy of well known speakers including Drucker and Nonaka. Linkage International. http://www.linkage.com

© Copyright, 1999. David Skyrme Associates Limited and Authors - All rights reserved.

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I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International News is a joint publication of David Skyrme Associates Limited and ENTOVATION International Limited - providers of trends analysis, strategic advice and workshops on knowledge management and knowledge innovation®

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