Recent events have shown us that intelligence about the world at large can be, to put it politely, malleable. If the people responsible for operations provide and shape their own intelligence, they will tend to produce information and analysis that fit their preconceptions. The same is true for corporate intelligence. Especially as companies and industries mature, they may face decisions that their operating executives find difficult to confront. These companies–indeed, all companies–need a chief knowledge officer, someone who provides honest, unbiased intelligence about the world around a company and where the company stands in that world.
In our increasingly knowledge-based economy, every company will eventually have such an officer, and those that get there first will have a competitive edge. Just what this person will do is still being invented and will differ from industry to industry. The CKO’s duties may be as varied as recommending whether a company should buy, sell, or make its technologies, or determining where technology is going and where new competitors may arise. But there is no better example of the need for a chief knowledge officer than the necessity for some companies to manage decline skillfully.