Filling in Your Knowledge Gaps

McNabb2Quarterbacking Your Team to Success

On November 17, 2008, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals met in a labored contest that barely featured more total points (26) than punts (21). A tie score forced the game into overtime, where both teams failed to score for another fifteen minutes. According to NFL rules, this meant that the game resulted in a tie, the first time this had happened in six years.

Following the game, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb spoke to the media and was asked how he felt about the result. His response baffled reporters: “I’ve never been a part of a tie. I never even knew that was in the rule book. I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game. But unfortunately, with the rules, we settled with a tie.”

To provide proper context, the overtime/tie rule was not new and McNabb was far from being a fresh-faced rookie in the league. He was in the middle of his tenth season in the NFL and led his team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2005. Fans and the media expected more from someone with his experience, which resulted in McNabb taking a beating anywhere people talked about the NFL. The backlash became so intense, his coach had to come to his defense.

The Danger of Knowledge Gaps

If you’re reading this, you are probably in the role of a decision maker with your company, whether that is a small business owner, corporate executive, or marketing manager. A position like this puts you in the role of quarterback for your company or department. You are in charge of calling plays, making adjustments, and executing the plans that will lead your team to success.

Just like a quarterback needs to know the rules, their team’s playbook, and the tendencies of opposing players, you need to obtain and maintain the knowledge that will lead to success in your industry. This goes beyond what you learned in college, as all industries evolve over time. Any gaps in your knowledge could lead to communication failure, falling behind your competition, or the damaged perception of your company.

Perception is Everything

McNabb’s knowledge gap likely wasn’t to blame for the team’s tie that day in Cincinnati. It also failed to put a damper on his team’s season, as they won four of their next six games, made the playoffs, and fell just seven points short of another Super Bowl appearance. But this event did damage the way that people thought of McNabb and his capabilities as a quarterback. Even today, seven years later, this event often comes up when people discuss McNabb’s career.

The same trend could ring true for your business, with the consequences becoming even more severe. Consumers come to your business to spend their hard-earned dollars on goods or services that they believe will benefit their lives. They expect you to be an expert in your field and answer any questions or solve any problems that they may have. Your inability to fill this need could lead to them looking elsewhere.

Let’s say that you are an HVAC technician and a local resident has contacted you for a quote on a new furnace installation. After you present a possible brand that you would like to install, the customer asks how it compares to a different brand that you are not familiar with. You reluctantly admit that you don’t know much about it and move on with the conversation. But where does the client’s mind go? They are likely to start wondering about what else you might not know and if your business is really worth their time and money. You may be the client’s best choice and will do the best work, but you will never get the chance to prove it.

Keeping Up With The Pack

Another important reason for identifying and addressing knowledge gaps is avoiding falling behind your competition. If other firms in your industry are allowed to make adjustments before you, there could be a number of future business opportunities that will end up in someone else’s hands.

Imagine two manufacturing firms that operate similar facilities to produce the exact same product. A new development is created that would allow them to double production with minimal investment. Firm A takes advantage of this new opportunity while Firm B stays in the dark. It won’t take long for Firm A to find new revenue opportunities and tower above Firm B as the dominant company in their industry. By the time Firm B recognizes the reason behind this widening gap, there will be miles of missed opportunities in their rearview mirror with major ground to make up ahead of them.

Get the Big Picture

As a decision maker, you want to have all the resources you can gather as your make choices that will send your business forward or backward. This information won’t just fall into your lap. You must seek out signals of change within your industry, recent news and legislative announcements, technological advances, and other information related to your business.

Kodak is a prime example of a company that allowed a knowledge gap to derail the progress of a once-powerful company. For most of the 20th century, Kodak was a corporate juggernaut that dominated the film and camera industry. In the 1970s, studies were presented at Kodak that showed a shift to digital photography over the next few decades. Kodak even developed the first digital camera in 1975. But rather than positioning the company to succeed in the digital age, they believed that film was a higher priority and continued to focus on that side of the business. As digital cameras and smartphones made film virtually obsolete, Kodak began to post major losses and job cuts.

No matter what industry you are in, change is inevitable. Make sure you look ahead for these changes and keep your business pointed in the right direction.

Make It Happen

So what can you do to identify and fill in your knowledge gaps? Here are a few ideas:

  • Join a trade organization: This is a simple way to connect with others in your industry and stay current through newsletters and other publications.
  • Attend trade shows and conferences: These events are for more than just exchanging business cards. You will have a chance to listen to speakers and learn about products that pertain to your industry.
  • Keep an eye on social media: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook all provide an avenue where you can monitor the pulse of your industry. The latest blogs and news articles are just a click away.
  • Subscribe to email newsletters: Don’t have the time to keep up with industry voices? Have them sent directly to your email where they can be reviewed in one convenient place.
  • Find out what customers are saying: Read reviews for your own company and your competition to learn what people think is lacking within your industry. You can also take things a step further by talking to customers directly.
  • Find a mentor: If you are new to your line of work or don’t have many coworkers, a mentor can be a great resource. They can direct you toward areas that you may not have considered previously.

With any of these suggestions, it’s important to consult multiple resources to ensure accuracy. Eventually, you will have a great collection of resources that will help you stay current in your industry.