A recent global study by the IBM Institute for Business Value1 identifies an unfortunate and persistent knowledge gap in business. The gap is the distance between what the C-Suite believes is critical to the success of the organization, and what the employees know is critical.

What’s particularly unfortunate is that Sidney Yoshida described this “Iceberg of Ignorance” in 1989, and it continues to this day. The gap is something we at MBM Marketing talk about all the time, and we want to point out two of IBM’s specific findings:

  • 74% of executives believe they’re helping their employees learn new skills needed to work during the pandemic, yet only 38% of their employees believe the same
  • Nearly 80% of C-suite executives say they’re supporting the physical and emotional needs of their workers right now, but only 46% of employees agree

Even with the effects of the pandemic decreasing, it’s frustrating that knowledge gaps between the top and the bottom of companies uncovered over 30 years ago still exist. And what’s more, these gaps are centered around employees’ ability to do their jobs — from both a skills and health perspective.

These gaps are the difference between a company’s ability to deliver 100% on its brand promises, or not. And if a company is unable to deliver on their brand promises, they’re going to lose customers, employees and market share. The company will stagnate and, without intervention, lose money and possibly fail. It’s a distressing situation too many companies are blind to.

But there is good news!

The gaps are often easy to fix. And as Yoshida and IBM found, the employees in the organization know what the issues are. It’s just a matter of asking the right people the right questions.

MBM Marketing’s Smart Branding™ process continually confirms the Iceberg thesis: A lot of really important information never makes it to the top. And when tiers and cohorts in an organization aren’t aligned, the effects can be awful. Consider this imaginary example of misaligned objectives …

C-Suite: We make the best athletic apparel and shoes in the world.

Manufacturing: This new sole material is probably good enough, and will really help our budget.

Sales: Top line goods are great, but we really need a $99 shoe to fit peak demand.

Customer Service: Customers don’t understand our brand anymore, and 30% of what we sell is coming back.

That is an organization trapped in an Ignorance Iceberg.

If you’re a CEO, don’t take the Iceberg of Ignorance personally. We’re sure you WANT to know everything about your organization and your people, but you have a full plate already. That’s why the information uncovered by an independent consultant can be so valuable.

MBM’s proprietary four step Smart Branding process is designed specifically to uncover the gaps (and hidden strengths) within an organization. We’ve found employees more than willing to share with us what they really see happening within their organization. And we provide strategic recommendations to act on what we find.

In fact, we recently worked with a client who was painfully aware of a division between the key departments in his organization but wasn’t sure how to solve it. During our Smart Branding discussions with his people, they also pointed out the division and that they wished it weren’t the case. But they also offered a simple, inexpensive solution!

The suggestion was presented to the CEO who didn’t realize he was contributing to the problem and responded with a resounding “yes, I can do that.” Now the CEO presents his state-of-the-organization presentation to both departments at the same time, eliminating suspicions that departments were hearing different messages and insights. The resulting cohesion within the organization allows them to focus all their energies back on their clients again.

That’s a small step with big results. It originates with identifying and closing the knowledge gap, and then aligning levels of the organization so that everyone is working toward the same goals. Only then can a company deliver 100% on its brand promise and work effectively for future success.

MBM Marketing supports the best companies by aligning their brands to deliver 100% on their brand promise. 

1   https://www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/c-suite-study