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Wed 1 Aug 2007 12:00 AM

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Intangible wealth

"Knowledge is power" - so the saying goes. CEOs in these days of increased ease of communication, with ever-greater access to mobile technology, blackberries, email, and internet proliferation have tools at their fingertips that their predecessors could never even have dreamed possible.

"Knowledge is power" - so the saying goes. CEOs in these days of increased ease of communication, with ever-greater access to mobile technology, blackberries, email, and internet proliferation have tools at their fingertips that their predecessors could never even have dreamed possible.

Yet, as always, this can present a two-sided coin of obstacles and opportunities. On the one hand employers have to guard against possible abuse of the technologies available; whether it be corporate espionage or the more mundane but none the less damaging proliferation of internal memos, strategies or even rumours, by staff to friends outside the organisation - even if the intention is not badly meant. User-content driven web applications such as Facebook and MySpace are also facing criticism that is increasing in line with their popularity, with complaints that employees spend too long logging in to ‘their' pages or are disseminating confidential information on open forums. This is weighed up against potential, or current, employers' ability to ‘research' potential staff's habits, pictures or pastimes online.

The brighter facet is the use to which technology can be put to encourage knowledge-sharing within the company itself. Lars Safverstrom, CEO of GAC, is a firm advocate of this aspect of information management. So much so that, through his championing, the group has now instigated a company-wide e-learning scheme that manages to bypass the complexities of the geographical distances separating the various students. Not only are employees from different departments and locations encouraged to meet online to share experiences and knowledge but, of the total 7,000 staff, 2,000 are expected to have undertaken at least one set of classes by the end of the year.

More traditional methods of knowledge dissemination are also still making headway in the workplace, as demonstrated by Dubai's Road and Transport Authority chief Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer. As well as gleaning inspiration from management books, the mastermind overseeing the blueprint to Dubai's transport infrastructure gains empowerment from his personal meetings, especially with the man he considers a personal and business mentor, Dubai's Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Al Tayer disseminates his corporate vision amongst the staff at RTA headquarters by encouraging the reading of Sheikh Mohammed's works and the adoption and sharing of personal goals.

In the final analysis what matters is not the medium by which it is done but that managers realise the increased importance that employees place on knowledge dissemination in the ever-shrinking global marketplace.

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