Michael D. Moberly February 15, 2017 ‘A business intangible asset blog where attention span really matters’!
The manner-in-which companies – businesses, and their leadership, approach, prepare for, and ultimately respond to the potential for and/or the materialization of risk(s) to their IA’s, as one may expect, varies considerably. Practically speaking, I find the most significant variable is learning whether business leaders I have engaged even conceive of risk (exposure) in threshold or tolerance contexts. With little doubt, there is far more attention paid to the cost of premiums and total dollar limits to the occurrence of a specific adverse event. So, it becomes more of a matter of business-company leadership equating or assuming their threshold and/or tolerance for risk is reflected in the insurance plan and/or insurer in which they have struck a deal. However, truth-be-told, in a large percentage of conversations between insurers and insureds, the words ‘intangible assets’ seldom, if ever, are a distinct-separate aspect to such discussions.
Of course, there is a percentage of forward looking – thinking business leaders and management teams who recognize the absolute importance of anticipating and trying to mitigate IA-specific risk, which is what we are about here. After all, it is economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, competitive advantage, and reputation lie in – emerge directly from IA’s. Experience suggests however, that IA specific risk, if-when it is distinguished from other (general) types-categories of risk, many of which remain fixated on tangible-physical assets, is likely to be-a-reflection of and addressed relative to (subjectively) pre-determined (risk) thresholds and/or tolerances of insurers and underwriters. This conventional approach of course, is generally weighted toward the type and content of a company’s physical-tangible products and services vs. the contributions of intangibles.
It is after all, the manner-in-which the company’s IA’s are integrated and applied to those products and/or services that individually or collectively elevate their value, competitiveness, and revenue generation capacity. Ironically, it is those same intangible features and characteristics, i.e., inputs, which simultaneously find attractivity-appeal to global cadres of ultra-sophisticated economic and competitive advantage adversaries.
This leads to another facet of IA risk management which is emerging with consistent frequency and is a consequence of a management team’s felt obligation and/or necessity to ‘get to the market space first’ with their innovation, product, or service. In other words, the go fast, go hard, go global phenomenon is itself a driver of risk to IA’s. In these circumstances, risk is likely to materialize at a very rapid pace commensurate with the accelerated investment, innovation, and product development-launch cycles, etc., which are necessary to the race to be first. Therefore, IA risk is indeed relevant to the globally predatorial and ‘legacy free’ entities, operating at each stage of product-service development functions, which includes drawing economic-competitive advantage information from targeted-companies’ value, supply, and distribution chains, which…
• adversely affects the fragility, stability, and defensibility of
• renders IA’s more distinguishable and thus, their content, more vulnerable
to (specific, targeted) compromise, infringement, competitive advantage
undermining, and value dilution.
• creates more fertile ground for reputation risk(s) to materialize.
Still, another (third) facet of IA-specific risk management lies within company leadership who (mistakenly) assume IA’s constitute infinite resources which are readily and fully renewable, retrievable, recapturable should they be subject to compromise, infringement, or undermining, etc. Those holding such perspectives usually find fewer distinctions between IA’s and tangible assets, even, sometimes, espousing the former are mere extensions of the latter which presumably can be repaired, restored, and returned to productive – operational status in relatively brief periods of time following an adverse act or event. In this reality, IA’s exist primarily-variously in the form of intellectual, structural, and/or relationship capital and often are more fragile and diverse. Thus IA’s tend to be more challenging, costly, and time consuming to replicate, i.e., develop and exploit in a manner that is equally collaborative, competitive, and profitable as before.
For these reasons, I am suggesting, it would be prudent to characterize any one, or combination of the risk management issues cited above, not in contexts of if, rather, in context of when they will materialize and the specificity, depth, and/or breadth which the risk will manifest. Corollaries to these particular-characterizations of IA risk management is another aspect which I call ‘risk illiteracy’. I define ‘IA risk illiteracy’ as an absence of operational awareness-familiarity for the need of having, at the ready, rapid and effective mitigation – intervention measures specific to a company’s valuable and competitive advantage IA’s.
IA risks that do materialize will, in most instances, alter the parameters of a businesses’ tolerance, threshold, and literacy of risk, irrespective of a companies’ – businesses size, sector, maturity, and/or financial health.
To be sure, risks to IA’s, representing most all types and categories, are persistent and can materialize even in circumstances in which experienced and talented management teams are in the lead. Of course, a percentage of business leaders, whether they acknowledge it, or not, signal their thresholds and/or tolerances for risk to the IA’s under their (company’s) control, use, and ownership. Of late, this is especially relevant to IA risks that can materialize at ‘keystroke speed’ to adversely impact (product-service) value, revenue, competitive advantages, sustainability, and equity, ala reputation risks.
Ultimately, a company’s thresholds-tolerances for IA risk, which each presumably signals or establishes, should never be of the one-size-fits-all variety. That’s because, in large part, the materiality of IA’s can fluctuate, ala their fragility, defensibility, sustainability, and contributory values. Instead, company leadership and management teams are obliged to consider (assess – factor) IA risk management variables such as…
• speed of (risk) materialization and its expansion – embeddedness
throughout an enterprise.
• criticality of risks to all or specific parts/units of a company and its
products and services.
• a company’s current capabilities and speed which it can mitigate –
• a company’s overall resiliency, ala recuperative capabilities as a target
of a materialized risk vis-à-vis customers, clients, consumers, and
As such, business leadership and management teams are obliged to approach and engage IA risk mitigation and management as integral to structuring (engaging, undertaking, negotiating, and executing) any new business initiative, transaction, product-service rollout, R&D, etc.