Explaining the KCE: Knowledge

Several years ago, the GIFT team came together to develop three new GIFT tools: the PRISM (for high-performance teams), PASSION (for running efficient and effective meetings, and the PEQ. The PEQ, or Purposeful Engagement Quotient, was our first attempt at trying to get participants to measure their level of “purposeful engagement” in three different categories: Knowledge, Communication and Empathy.
However, in the many programmes we’ve run since then, we’ve refined our understanding of what purpose and purposeful engagement are. To reflect that, GIFT has revised and revamped our PEQ to reflect our new understanding.
We are still measuring Purposeful Engagement along three different dimensions: Knowledge, Communication, and Empathy, but the details within them have changed.
Thus, in order to explain these changes and how we now understand Purposeful Engagement, please read this series of blog posts with our new definitions and understandings.
Knowledge in our PEQ is connected to the ideas and concepts that people use when they work with others, be they stakeholders, colleagues, customers, and so on. Based on observations over sixty different programmes, we’ve come to understand Knowledge as a combination of three different skills: Strategic Global Awareness, Critical Thinking and Curiosity.

Strategic Global Awareness

We see Strategic Global Awareness as having a breadth of knowledge about society and the wider world, and being able to connect these ideas to one's business. Within this are three main elements:

  1. Reading a wide variety of news stories and publications
  2. Connecting new information to your business
  3. Having “drivers of change” influence new ideas
Participants often admit that they struggle during our classroom sessions through being exposed to new ideas from facilitators and the rest of the cohort. A common reflection we hear by the end of Module One is “I never realised how little I knew.”
We encourage our participants to read from a broad array of sources to get a better understanding of what’s driving their societies, their business, and the wider world. Participants often take this suggestion to heart, with many explicitly making “read more” one of their personal commitments by the programme’s end.
But reading widely — while good in itself — is not enough: we also try to encourage participants to connect what they learn to their personal and professional objectives. Knowing about what’s happening in the world today should guide important business, investment and operational decisions. A new election might signal a potential shift in policy. A new trade agreement might open up new markets. And a new technological development might present risks that should change how businesses operate.

Critical Thinking

We see Critical Thinking as the ability to think carefully about arguments: both their own and of others. Within this are three main elements:

  1. Thinking through the assumptions and arguments that underlie a proposal
  2. Challenging the assumptions behind other people’s proposals
  3. Taking the time to ensure work is of high quality
We want participants to consider how new information might be relevant. Ideas and concepts are too often dismissed as outside one’s field, but deeper analysis might reveal interesting business connections and opportunities. Whether changes are local or global in nature, they may open the path to new business ideas.
Our programmes offer several opportunities for people to present their arguments, whether around our core curriculum in Module One or their own business ideas in Module Two. But the other participants are not passively listening: instead, we encourage to think carefully about what’s been presented, ask incisive questions and challenge when needed.
It can be obvious to state that people need to think through their own arguments. They need to make sure their assumptions are well-founded and their logic is sound when they propose something new.
However, people also need to be ready to challenge the assumptions of others. This requires asking tough and incisive questions, which requires both intellectual heft and the confidence to speak up.
Business leaders constantly have to evaluate arguments and claims in their work, whether it’s a suggestion from a subordinate, a pitch from a supplier, or a proposal from a consultant. These claims need to be properly judged and evaluated: neither accepted without critique nor dismissed without cause.
Critical thinking will become increasingly important in the age of social media, where information now reaches people directly rather than through vetted channels. There is now less quality-control over the information we receive.
There is a lot of discussion about how “fake news” affects politics and communities, but they can be just as dangerous for business as well. Take the tech industry: the success of a few digital companies has led to many hyperbolic proposals of how a particular digital innovation would solve a thorny problem — only for the product or service to fail spectacularly once it hits the market.
But good critical thinking skills will help people drill deeper into these claims: to see what promises are exaggerated, what claims are unfounded and what grains of truth may lie in the hyperbole.


We see Curiosity as the ability to go beyond their comfort zone and search for new information. Within this are three main elements:

  1. Reaching out to stakeholders to uncover their perspective on an issue.
  2. Learning about matters outside of your usual areas of interest or expertise
  3. Seeking the answers when you learn you do not know or understand something
Many educational institutions now aim to foster life-long learning, where people actively try to learn new things throughout their lives. We aim to do the same on our programmes by encouraging participants to read more publications, talk to more people and seek more experiences.
But when it comes to engaging with stakeholders, “curiosity” has a practical element as well. Business decisions affect suppliers, customers, employees, contractors, surrounding communities and the broader natural environment. Businesspeople need to consider these impacts when they make operational decisions. Yet unless they actively seek this information, they won’t know the effects of their decision before it is too late.
If we are to take business’s pledge to improve stakeholder value seriously, this outreach needs to happen before a decision is made, not after.
All of our experiential field projects feature stakeholder meetings. Often these groups have very different backgrounds to your average senior manager in a global company: perhaps a group of farmers in the Indian countryside, or young Vietnamese graduates from a vocational training programme.
Participants leave these meetings with a greater sense of ownership of their work during Module Two: they understand that they are building a solution not for themselves, or even just the partner, but for the wider community. This sense of ownership is part of the reason why our participants work as hard as they do.
We encourage them to take this sense of ownership and the curiosity to uncover what their stakeholders need and want back to their offices by the programme’s end.
KCE is a core part of our unique learning journey, and the underpinning of what we see as effective and purposeful leadership. We measure KCE in a survey we share with participants on almost all of our programmes, and give recommended actions on how someone can improve their Knowledge, Communication and Empathy scores.
To learn more about KCE and our other tools, please visit the following page on our website. And if this discussion sparks interest in how KCE can impact your organisation, please get in touch!
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