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What is a CKO?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Short for chief knowledge officer, there are those who dismiss a CKO as nothing but a glorified information officer. This is a particularly incorrect assumption these days. An information officer focuses on one segment of the operation of the company, most often areas that have to do with the maintenance, function, and enhancement of information systems within the company structure. The role of the CKO is much broader, allowing this type of executive the ability to become an expert in all facets of company life. He or she is also involved with any aspects of the company that he or she feels requires extra attention at any given time, based on what her or she sees as current and future needs that must be met if the company is to grow. .

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CKOs will differ in method and purpose from other corporate executives. As an example, the CKO must be an organizational leader that is able to not only look at the overall operating structure in the here and now, but also see where that structure needs to be a year, two years and five years from today. To a degree, this may align the CKO with the founders, who had to exercise some degree of vision in order to conceive of and found the company in the first place. One may say that he or she is the means that the vision of the founders stays alive and ever looks toward the future, rather than resting on its current laurels.

Often, someone in this position may have to work within conditions where there is an element of opposition, if not outright antagonism. People tend to want to leave things alone when they are going well and not change anything. The CKO, while able to appreciate the status of today, also will be looking to the future as well. By gathering knowledge on ways to perform the same tasks more efficiently, being prepared through study and training to add personnel that can immediately handle new tasks, he or she often sees the need for change ahead of others who have more specialized tasks with the company.

In fact, many a CKO is not fully appreciated until long after the need for changes and enhancements has been recognized and implemented. It is when this awareness of future needs is coupled with an understanding of obviously developing industry trends begin hit home that the work of the CKO becomes appreciated by first the management team and then the rank and file of the employee force.

A competent CKO may call for departmental creations and reorganizations, the establishment of new positions and the elimination of others, diversification of goods and services offered by the company, even a complete overhaul of the corporate and operating structure. This usually involves establishing a logical thought process, educating others by offering learning modules, and promoting a vision of the future that may initially be shared by only a few. In this sense, the CKO is that element of change that all companies need in order to stay fresh and cutting edge.

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