Michael D. Moberly
The answer to the questions posed in the title, through my lens, can frequently be distinguished by how businesses treat their intangible assets. Are the intangibles recognized and monitored as playing consistent contributory roles to company value, revenue, competitiveness, and sustainability? Are intangibles being routinely developed, monetized, safeguarded, and exploited effectively? Or, are intangibles merely characterized as un-monetized asset distractions, unsure about how, when, and where they are in play and relevant to an outcome?
What I Care About Is Important. What You Care About Is A Distraction…
An interesting piece published in the New York Times Magazine (September 2017) and written by Carina Chocano, came to my attention recently. Chicano titled her piece, ‘What I Care About Is Important. What You Care About Is A Distraction’.
I initially thought the piece was not-so-disguised jocular form of sarcasm directed toward the current administration. On closer reading of this artfully worded article, admittedly through my intangible asset strategist lens, I realized its relevance to my work, writing, and public speaking which, I trust, represent persuasive endeavors to elevate company management team’s attention, awareness, and operational familiarity to the contributory role played by intangible assets in the success of most every business. More specifically, distinguish what’s important (intangibles) vs. what are distractions, i.e., clinging to past practice, absent recognition and exploitation of intangibles.
Obviously, I do not consider intangible assets to be a business – management team distraction. As conveyed here at this blog consistently, since May 2006, intangible assets are important to not just business – company value, but when effectively exploited, serve as sources of value, revenue, competitiveness, and sustainability. Those are critical distinctions, not merely distractions! As such, warrant being routine action items on c-suite agendas.
Respectfully, for some management teams and business strategists, the requisite strategic thought and actions necessary to identify and distinguish things that matter, i.e., developing, safeguarding, and exploiting intangible assets, are subordinated to past practice, and crudely dismissed. In these instances, one often finds favor has been given to ‘this is the way it’s always been done’. But, when adverse events – missteps occur or ‘go south’, and initially appear calamitous-ruinous for a business, I find it is often due, at least in part, to an absence of strategic recognition – consideration to the valuable and competitive advantage intangible assets which are inevitably in play.
Caring about businesses intangible asset is important, lucrative, competitive, and strategic; it is not merely a distraction…
If only business leadership and management teams would pay (more) attention to their intangible assets. After all, it is a universal economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value and sources of revenue derive from intangible assets! Such a significant economic fact – business reality as this, should never be considered or characterized as a mere distraction to business management and company operability. Quite the contrary, administratively and managerially, intangible assets should be recognized, factored, and treated as the origins, underliers, and drivers of business-company value, revenue, competitiveness, and sustainability.
Still, far-too-many management teams routinely find themselves immersed in circumstances in which their energies are consumed by spontaneous and/or re-occurring (adverse) events-actions which manifest as distractions for their time, thought, and business resources. Unfortunately, I, and probably most readers of this blog have witnessed circumstances in which certain management team members exhibit an addiction of sorts, to ‘putting out fires’. That is, in lieu of thinking, being engaged in, and pursuing longer term strategies having to do with their company’s intangible assets.
What I am advocating here, at minimum, is leadership – management teams are (fiduciarily) obligated today (Stone v. Ritter) to devote ‘thought time’ to consequential matters whose outcomes directly impact (business) value, revenue, competitiveness, and sustainability. Respecting the economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value and sources of revenue derive from intangible assets, this is a lucratively advantageous starting point. This (fiduciary) obligation encompasses identifying, developing, assessing, safeguarding, and exploiting (a company’s) intangible assets, i.e., especially, the various forms of intellectual, relationship, and structural capital.
Intangibles are occasionally treated as some sort of existential (undermining) threat…
When characterized as a distraction to business operation and management, intangible assets are often treated as some sort of existential (undermining) threat, since intangibles are assets absent a conventional physical presence, i.e., reputation, goodwill, image, and the application and outcomes of intellectual, structural, and relationship capital. To drive this perspective further, at various points during the 2016 election cycle, political discourse grew more heated and factional with citizens finding themselves less able to agree on what, precisely, was distracting us from what as claimed by Chocano and numerous others.
Soon, in the election cycle, says Chocano, citizens and groups began to predicate their political identity on what was “important” (to them) versus what deemed were “distractions,” (to them). The term ‘distraction’ then transformed – manifested as euphemisms for most anything and everything that fell outside a citizen’s or speaker’s political aims at-the-moment, i.e., personal identity or agenda they sought to project.
The pseudo-magic of dismissing certain issues as mere “distractions” is that it allowed business leadership and management teams to minimize things while assuming little or no responsibility for explaining why. Thus discussions, important and necessary to some, become tabled or outright dismissed, merely because the subject matter is referred to as a distraction. More specifically, one declaring something to be a distraction seldom is required to justify that placement. Ultimately, it becomes more challenging reach agreement or consensus, not just about where attention must be paid, but how it should be paid.
So, for business leaders who still characterize the effective stewardship, oversight, and management of their company’s intangible assets as distractions, may reveal more about the persons making such claims than it does about the business realities and economic facts associated with the development and exploitation of intangibles.
Hopefully a lucid analogy has been made here, in this post, between a willful, perhaps superficial description of a political distraction from the lucrative and competitive application of companies – businesses intangible assets which are not, and never should be characterized as a distraction to business – company functionality, operability, revenue generation, value, and sustainability!
Michael D. Moberly December 5, 2017 St. Louis firstname.lastname@example.org ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’ where attention span really matters!