The proverbial ‘what’s important vs. what’s a distraction’ debate…is representative of what I often refer to as ‘perspective’ challenges, which many of us periodically encounter as we endeavor to encourage business-company leadership to acknowledge, treat, and act on substantive issues which we find important, but, at that time, may be foreign to and therefore characterized as a departure from their agenda.
In this instance, of course, what we seek to draw leadership attention to are…intangible assets, i.e., how and ways we believe they should be regarded, applied, developed, safeguarded, and exploited relative to their contributory role and value, i.e., as sources of revenue and competitive advantage, etc. Broadly speaking, a company’s intangible assets emerge from – are embedded in a company’s intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.
When company leadership and management teams characterize their intangibles as distractions…is this genuine dismissiveness, or, merely an absence of clarity about when, where, and which intangible assets are in play relative to a specific (company) initiative or transaction, and how they have a bearing on the outcome?
Unfortunately, there remain a not insignificant percentage of company – business leaders who cling to…the mistaken perspective that intangible assets are mere distractions, not dissimilar to some of their counterparts who also under-utilize, leave their intangible assets un-monetized, and wholly fail to capture and exploit the assets’ value, revenues, and competitive advantages.
Initially too, I held some concern this post may be interpreted by some, as not-so-well-disguised political sarcasm…directed toward the current (U.S.) administration. While I would make no apologies should that occur, its not! (This post is adapted from a close reading of an artfully written article, similarly titled, published in the New York Times Magazine, September 2017, by Carina Chocano.)
I sensed the premise of Ms. Chocano’s article is relevant…to my (and others) business strategies, embedded in – commence with persuasion, i.e., designed-intended to elevate business leadership and company management team’s operational familiarity about the contributory role and value of their intangible assets.
The persuasive language – presentation style I rely, is designed – intended to…respectfully introduce – (bring) measurable clarity to the importance of the intangible asset side of business operations. My various experiences in these matters, suggest, issues which are (cautiously) perceived by leadership as constituting distractions, often do so (emerge – surface) when leadership and management teams are reluctant to dis-engage from past practice, i.e., this is the way its always been done, so why change?, absent desire – foresight to recognize and execute on their intangible assets.
Obviously, I do not consider intangible assets should ever be relegated to mere distraction status…as I have consistently conveyed in this blog since its inception in May 2006. Intangible assets are important to not just business – company value, but when effectively exploited, can manifest as – become substantial sources of revenue, competitiveness, and sustainability. These are critical distinctions, not merely distractions! As such, they warrant being routine action items on c-suite agendas.
Respectfully, for some business strategists and executive vice-president (EVP) suites…the requisite strategic thought and actions necessary to identify – distinguish the plethora of issues-initiatives that matter to a company, e.g., developing, safeguarding, and exploiting intangible assets, are unfortunately often subordinated and crudely dismissed. It is less challenging of course, to exhibit little interest to seek – pursue alternatives to past practice.
But, when adverse events – missteps occur, or certain business operations do not materialize as planned…and become potentially calamitous, if not ruinous for a business, I often find the originating challenge lies in the absence of strategic recognition – consideration of the contributory role and value of a company’s intangible assets which are consistently in play irrespective of whether they have been formally acknowledged as such.
Caring about businesses’ intangible assets is important, lucrative, competitive, and strategic…to be sure it is not merely a distraction. If only business leadership and management teams would pay (more) attention to their intangibles, after all, it is a…
- universal economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, competitive advantages, resilience, and sustainability lie in – emerge directly from their intangible assets.
At best, it is poor judgment by business leadership when such an all encompassing economic fact – business reality…is relegated as mere distraction status versus being recognized, factored, and treated as the origins, underliers, foundations, and drivers to most businesses success.
Still, far-too-many management teams routinely find themselves immersed in circumstances…in which their energies are consumed by spontaneous or re-occurring (adverse) events-actions which frequently manifest as temporary distractions that ‘suck up’ a lot of personnel time, thought, and business resources.
Unfortunately, I, and probably many readers of this blog have witnessed – became involved…in such circumstances, wherein leadership variously (internalize) exhibit an addiction, of sorts, to ‘putting out fires’ in lieu of thinking about, being engaged in, and pursuing longer term strategies regarding their company’s intangible assets.
What I am advocating here, at minimum, is business leadership – management teams recognizing their fiduciary obligations…today (ala Stone v. Ritter)…
- to devote, at minimum, ‘thought time’ to consequential matters regarding intangibles whose outcomes directly impact (business) value, revenue, competitiveness, and sustainability.
- while respecting the economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value and sources of revenue derives from intangible assets which is a lucrative and competitively advantageous starting point.
- too, 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 existential…relative to the dominance of past practice and the notion of being a distraction to daily business operation and management. Perhaps, in part, that’s because intangibles are absent a conventional physical presence, i.e., reputation, goodwill, image, and the application and outcomes of intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.
To apply this perspective to various points during the 2016 (U.S. national) election cycle…political discourse became heated and fractional with many citizens finding themselves less able sometimes, literally unable, to agree on what constituted a distraction as Chocano and others have suggested.
Soon however, in the 2016 election cycle…as Chocano points out, citizens began predicating their political identity on what they perceived was “important” (to them) versus what were deemed “distractions’ to their perceptions. The term ‘distraction’ then transformed – manifested as a euphemism for most anything that fell outside a citizen’s or speaker’s political aims at-the-moment, i.e., the identity, associations, or agenda they sought to convey on a given date, time, or audience.
The pseudo-magic of dismissing certain issues as mere ‘distractions’ to business operation…no doubt contributed to leadership and management teams to (similarly) minimize and/or outright dismiss certain issues, initiatives, and project management, while assuming little or no responsibility for explaining why, i.e., the centrality of intangibles to successful business operation.
Thus, discussions important and necessary to some, become permanently tabled…merely because the subject matter is characterized as a distraction. And, when one declares something to be a distraction, its likely they may not asked for justification, leaving it all-the-more more challenging to (eventually) reach agreement or consensus, not just about where attention must – should be directed, but how it should be directed.
So, for business leaders who are steadfast resistant to acknowledging…utilizing – leveraging their intangible assets, instead characterize them as distractions, may reveal more about those 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 description of a political distraction and the lucrative and competitive application of company’s intangible assets which are not, and never should be, characterized as a distraction to functionality, operability, revenue generation, competitiveness, value, and sustainability!
Michael D. Moberly August 2, 2018 firstname.lastname@example.org ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’ where attention span really matters! St. Louis