The evolution of business knowledge

In an effort to stand out or highlight their progressive and innovative business techniques, many companies place a strong focus on business knowledge. The amount and availability of information regarding successful business practices is widespread, and is often cited as the cornerstone of successful companies and business philosophy. However, in the changing global marketplace of modern times, the old standards of business practice occasionally seem outdated, defunct, and unsuccessful. The proliferation of that knowledge within a new generation of business professionals may not be the best method for producing competent and forward-thinking workers and managers in the mainstream, modern world of business.

The most obvious sources for business knowledge are educational institutions, specifically business schools. Traditionally, graduation from a reputable business school has been the foundation of many resumes and credentials when applying for jobs across a wide range of business fields. The knowledge acquired at that level of education was considered essential to understanding the complex world of both small-scale and global business. What we have seen in recent years has turned that perennial assumption into a debatable truth.

As markets change and business models are forced to evolve and survive, the base level of knowledge must be added to and tweaked so businesses remain contemporary and relevant. Returning to business school to learn new curricula is an unrealistic and logistically impossible solution to “remain current”, so many businesses rely on supplemental courses, training sessions, updated business literature, and dissemination of new knowledge from upper management.

This new form of continual education forces business strategists and professionals to be flexible in their approach, and rigid adherence to traditional business doctrines must be eliminated. “Refresher courses” and seminars are being turned to more regularly to inject fresh ideas into businesses to keep them current, and they do have merit and worth. The advent of social media, the ease of global travel, and advanced forms of communication that connect business people around the world all compound into an economy of knowledge that businesses must invest in, or be left behind.

This may seem like an adaptive solution to stagnation in business ideas, and to some degree it is, yet the speed of modern commerce exceeds even that ongoing knowledge expansion. The idea of ongoing education is not a new one, simply one into which more money and energy is being placed. Business knowledge is not only constantly in flux, it is occurring at the speed of light. As new advancements and ideas emerge on the Internet, millions of people can be exposed to it in a matter of days, or even hours. For example, suppose a software company in Switzerland releases a groundbreaking new product that streamlines data searches online. It can automatically edit all published content run through its’ filters to maximize the content’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Three years ago, the term SEO was unknown to most of the business world, and today it is one of the hottest and most important factors for a company that does business on the web. The fundamental understanding of an SEO is something that takes training and time to share with employees, over the course of weeks. Now, within that niche area of knowledge, a vital advancement has been released that may sweep the Internet and become standard operating software for thousands of companies. A company that wants to stay on the cutting edge of business must have the flexibility to adjust in the moment, rather than relying on the slow spread of knowledge through weekend seminars and quarterly board meetings.

That is just one example, but it is a fitting one for the times we are living and working in. In every company, there must be an understanding between the owners, managers, and workers that every person is responsible for their own base of knowledge. Each cog in the machinery of a company must have some accountability in this, and the hierarchy of business knowledge must be, in some ways, erased. This individual responsibility will help promote cooperation, multi-directional exposure to ideas, and overall growth and functionality in the modern marketplace.

The other important step, and perhaps the one which will be the slowest to develop, is to eliminate the overwhelming importance placed on formal business education as a means of acquiring reliable business knowledge. The chances that formal business schools will become a thing of the past are small, for now. However, it is undeniable that some of the most innovative and successful businessmen do not come from a formal business education. The knowledge that they actively applied to their business models is not born in a textbook or a lecture series.

Although some of these people’s lives are frequently quoted in the arguments against formal education, the significance of that fact has not diminished. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Mary Kay Ash all dropped out of college, never even getting close to business school, and subsequently founded Microsoft, Facebook, and Mary Kay, respectively. John D. Rockefeller, Walt Disney, and J.K. Rowling never even made it to college, yet Standard Oil, the Disney Corporation, and Harry Potter have managed to change the course of industry and popular culture.

It seems that the modern business world is perpetually searching for the next, big thing, and by default, that “thing” will be new, or unique. Following logic, it seems unlike that old, outdated knowledge will produce new, innovative ideas. Becoming successful in business is no longer about following a set path or historical model of success; rather, it is based in ingenuity, creativity, and adaptability. Knowledge no longer trickles down from professors and CEO’s until the last dregs of obsolete ideas finally reach the masses. Knowledge should be shared and spread from within, regardless of its’ point of origin. Knowledge is not locked in textbooks, or shown only to a select few, and it is impossible to predict what the next innovation will be. If a company wants to remain relevant, it must have an underlying philosophy and a flexible infrastructure to immediately incorporate new knowledge into their business model. Business knowledge is evolving faster than at any other point in history, and the ability to acquire, share, and benefit from that knowledge must evolve just as quickly.