Governments and researchers are often frustrated that businesses, industries and regional bodies don’t eagerly ‘adopt’ the information being supplied. Research reports, government policy statements and market access agreements and the like are produced, announced and distributed. Before long, these reports are gathering dust while new research, policies and programs are being pursued. The strategy to accelerate change could be described as ‘build it and they will come’. And in most cases it doesn’t work.
In response, we see organisations investing in more sophisticated ‘knowledge adoption strategies’, coupled with communications and engagement plans to help accelerate uptake by users. While this is great, a key risk that can be overlooked is that organisations have deeply held beliefs and momentum around how knowledge systems ‘should’ work. They end up investing greater effort in applying the same fundamental approach in pursuit of different outcomes. This of course, is one definition of insanity.
Our experience is that progressive regions, industries and businesses are eager to access information, knowledge and insights that can help their decision-making. In a fast-moving and competitive business world, the demand for quality insights of business relevance continues to grow.
However, it does not follow that having a supply of quality information and knowledge will translate to businesses and regional bodies receiving, valuing and acting on it. A ‘push’ strategy alone is unlikely to succeed.
We observe three strategic actions that organisations take to adapt and lift their impact to a new level of performance.
Firstly, and most importantly it takes a shift in mindset. Here, it involves moving from a mindset of your organisation as a supplier of knowledge to a mindset of your organisation as meeting demand for knowledge. The difference may seem subtle, but the implications are profound. It causes a rethink of how end users perceive the need for information and the options for how it could be supplied most effectively into their decision making processes.
Secondly, it involves segmenting the markets for information. A piece of new knowledge is not equally important to all industries and neither is it equally valuable to all businesses within an industry or region. The chances of developing interest and influence are greatly enhanced by understanding the demand for information and how the target audience currently accesses that information. This allows you to tailor the content and delivery channels for the different audiences.
For example, established exporters will view overseas market access developments very differently to businesses that have not contemplated exporting. Similarly, larger innovative businesses will tend to access research findings from commercial advisers rather than government or industry bodies.
Thirdly, look beyond direct engagement with businesses. The conventional approach to engaging rural businesses is by direct contact, yet this is not always best even though it is enabled by technology. More often than not, influential intermediaries have trusted relationships with end users and are filtering and adding value to knowledge so that businesses can use it. They may be NRM bodies, industry bodies or commercial players involved in the value chain. Thus, a powerful way of sharing information and accelerating change on the ground is to strategically engage intermediaries that are enablers of change for rural businesses.
The key point is that creating value in the rural knowledge system requires a focus on understanding and meeting the evolving demand for information across participants in an industry or region. The opportunity is to build a reputation as a source of valuable knowledge and information, rather than building capacity and efforts to increase supply.