In an article by Clippinger on leadership
The role of the visionary leader is to imagine futures, determine what is limiting about the present, and show what is possible in the future. (...)(Italics are mine)
Visionaries play a vital but somewhat contentious role in the military. They are often the first to see weaknesses in prevalent military doctrine, to espouse new technologies and doctrines, and therefore to challenge current leadership and entrenched interests. Consequently, unless they are able to prove themselves during wartime, their ideas can languish for decades. Rare are the individuals such as Napoleon or Nelson, who were both senior commanders and visionaries. In the case of Billy Mitchell (who championed the use or air power), Col John Boyd (the father of the OODA loop) or even Winston Churchill, it was only later in their careers that their innovations were appreciated. However, as the nature of warfare today is in constant transition with respect both to doctrine and technologies, the visonaries will have increased influence.
The parallel with corporate life is obvious to me, and this resonates well with my experience as a corporate knowledge manager. I view myself as a visionary leader in search of corporate battles to fight and win to prove that learning networks play a key role in the success of the company, and therefore need to be given full attention.
The question is: what are those battles? I can think of a few business issues that are clearly knowledge sharing issues, for example competency development, retiring people, innovation, customer helpdesk, post-merger integration, etc. but none of these are "wartime" issues requiring the immediate and full attention of senior managers. They can be delayed for a long time without investors noticing. So what are the "wartime" issues of corporate life where KM approaches could really make a difference? So far, I found only one: Acquisitions. This is clearly when the adrenaline of senior managers starts to flow.
This tends to indicate why intelligence gathering remains the main entry point for knowledge management in companies where the CEO is not himself a visionary. Iit looks like my friend Pierre Sellier, CEO of Salamandre was right after all. This would explain why the French government puts so much emphasis on buiness intelligence ("Intelligence Economique). It is indeed the only knowledge management domain that truly appeals to all leaders, whether visionaries or not.