Archive for November, 2014

Reputations’ risk of risks, the holiday retail season!

November 28th, 2014. Published under Reputation risk.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly    November 28, 2014    ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

I suspect the economic fact (business reality) that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for growth, profitability, competitiveness, and sustainability lie in or evolve directly from intangible assets may have been, at least, one factor to influence The Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EIU) to produce a ‘global risk briefing’ paper titled Reputation: Risk of Risks.

Obviously, reputation is a highly prized and increasingly acknowledged as a valuable (intangible) asset which, not so coincidentally, a high percentage of respondents to the EIU survey conveyed, i.e., ‘sustaining a positive company reputation is a main concern for risk managers’, exceeding, for example…

  • regulatory risk
  • human capital risk
  • IT network risk
  • market risk, and
  • credit risk.

In the U.S., ‘risk to reputation’ is akin to a fiduciary responsibility that prudently extends beyond conventional risk management, ala Stone v Ritter, 911 A.2d 362 (Del. Supr. 2006).

Unfortunately, there are far too many examples that suggest a holiday retail season will elevate probability that (reputation) risks will materialize because vulnerabilities will be probed, exploited, and manifest as costly and potentially irreversible reminders of reputations’ fragility and the overnight gestation period for risk materialization.

As always, reader comments are encouraged and respected.

St. Louisan’s Perspective About St. Louis’ Reputation!

November 25th, 2014. Published under Reputation risk.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly    November 25, 2014    ‘A long form blog  where attention span really matters’!

A St. Louisan’s perspective about St. Louis’ reputation!

The events of August and November, 2014 have long surpassed merely being a public relations issue which can be remediated and eventually dismissed through boastful and ‘chest thumping’ rhetoric.   The events have now materialized as full blown reputation risks that will be long lasting, costly, and perhaps irreversible.  Perhaps that is the only path to influence policy makers and/or business management teams to first ‘listen’ to citizens or consumers and engage in serious, necessary, and hopefully permanent change!

You pick the city and I’m confident you will find its reputation evolves not from a single asset, rather from an array of predominantly intangible (non-physical) assets which collectively meld together to intellectually and emotionally influence – distinguish our memories, experiences, and feelings that influence residents, visitors, or consumers favorably or unfavorably. Remember the adage, ‘first impressions last a lifetime’.

In other words, a cities reputation is embedded with many different intangible assets, some etched firmly in history, that is, they may flow from long held practices which have become institutionalized or emerge from single or multiple events, acts or behaviors, perhaps in concert that can alter (favorably, unfavorably) one’s previous sentiments or memories.

St. Louis city and St. Louis County, unlike its downriver cousin New Orleans’s, possesses an array of intangible assets upon which its reputation has firmly been laid and continues to be assembled. Arguably, New Orleans’s reputation will forever be rooted in two intangible assets, three property-based assets that deliver many intangibles, and one horrific weather event, i.e., Cajun cuisine and music, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, the ‘lower 9th ward’, and hurricane Katrina. On the other hand, St. Louis’ and St. Louis County’s racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity are embedded intangibles, more so than designated pieces of real estate, a single cuisine, or it’s newly polished steel structure along the river.

Now, many in this city are resurrecting their memories and veiled sentiments or endeavoring to add their heartfelt voices into the milieu of intangible assets that flow from institutionalized practices which, in some instances, have become documentable injustices. The latter, where and when it exists, has been, by most any objective assessment, negligently tolerated so long as ‘it’s not in my neighborhood’.

There is an important, but often overlooked component to intangible assets, particularly our memories or experiences. If generationally repeated, intangibles are apt to accumulate and fester, as they have in numerous of the 90+ municipalities that comprise St. Louis County, particularly the north city-county real estate which the national and international media do not distinguish, nor perhaps should they. So, what transpired in Ferguson, Missouri in August, 2014 also transpired in the south, east, and west neighborhoods of St. Louis City and St. Louis County.

But, whether it’s a company or a city, a reputation will inevitably lie in interwoven collections of intangible assets which individuals and/or entities do play and have a role as do tragic events. It is here we begin to see some commonalities between reputations’ of cities be they St. Louis or companies like GM, Takata, and BP. In the latter, not unlike the former, we know there were years of culturally embedded neglect and poor, if non-existent mismanagement and turning the proverbial, convenient, and expedient ‘blind eye’, i.e., a culture for doing so!

These culturally institutionalized practices that festered were absent just, sincere, and impartial oversight which we know represent the key factors in the materialization of reputation risks, but not merely emotional rhetoric padded with offers for ‘beginning a conversation’ which frequently translates as quick fixes may on the way, but unfortunately, seldom do they permanently reach the emotionally embedded roots of the complex generational challenges before us.

Individuals and organizations who want to and believe they can make a difference and alter which intangible assets are dominant are also obliged to reflect on how they conceive their strategy to achieve change, i.e., as a conventional ‘public relations’ issue, or a city-county wide reputation risk that continues to adversely affect all citizens of the city and county. Let’s be clear, should anyone elect to interpret/conceive the challenge as the latter, that is a fresh coat of paint can be applied to conceal long standing structural flaws and weaknesses, should continue reading.

Perhaps, one distinction between a public relations issue (problem) and a materialized reputation risk for a county, city, or company for that matter, is the time frame in which a challenge either can and/or will ‘fester and/or exacerbate’ among its residents, consumers, and stakeholders until someone, often a previously voiceless individual, group, or whistleblower effectively articulates the issue and its underliers and is a force to execute the necessary changes. Seldom in my experience in elevating awareness among company decision makers about their reputation risks, are those risks difficult to identify and reveal. The difficulty, as a consultant, comes in reaching agreement they exist and consensus about strategies to achieve permanent change and mitigate the probability for relapse.

But, for government institutions and their leaders who are unaccustomed to listening or trying to understand underliers, to be sure, as a well known individual once suggested and I paraphrase, ‘stupidity occurs when one continues to do the same over and over while expecting different outcomes’. In the circumstance before us, reputation risk to St. Louis city and county has indeed materialized largely because well intended organizations and individuals have continued doing the same thing, but with little or no expectation or hope that change would be imminent.

Using ‘consumer – resident festering time’ as a metric for distinguishing challenge resolution in a public relations context vs. a reputation risk context assumes the players share the capability to genuinely assess – distinguish public relations issues for their near term gravity and criticality, i.e.,

  • through a lens exclusive of the lens of consumers, visitors, prospective investors, and other would be (future) stakeholders, and
  • possess a clear understanding of the various intangible assets which collectively comprise a company or city’s reputation.

Exacerbating problem resolution further is another reality, which is, the various voices and decision makers’ inclination to calculate the already adverse affects in quarterly or quick fix contexts. Let’s think about that. Does anyone believe the challenges that enveloped GM, Takata, or BP fall into a ‘quick fix’ category? I don’t believe so. Quick fixes in companies, and I suspect, cities as well, are seldom permanent, or really very useful unless and/or until there is a strong commitment to ‘listening’ and changing the underlying culture that tolerated and permeated the challenge in the first place. Through my lens, for companies anyway, calculating adverse affects of materialized reputation risks in quarterly – quick fix contexts is certainly more aligned with a public relations patch and not a characteristic of strategic reputation risk thinking, management, or listening.

As always, reader comments are encouraged and welcome!

Public Relations vs. Reputation Risk: When Does The Former Become The Latter?

November 24th, 2014. Published under Intangible Asset Value, Intangibles as strategic assets, Managing intangible assets, Reputation risk.. 1 Comment.

Michael D. Moberly   November 24, 2014   ‘A blog where attention span really matters;!

Admittedly, having worked almost exclusively on the intangible side of businesses for 20+ years, this question still is not an easy one to answer, nor perhaps, should it.

In part, I suspect, it’s because a company’s reputation is the epitome of an intangible asset, and unfortunately, for far too many company management team members…

  • intangible assets have yet to be operationally integrated into their lexicon.
  • have yet to cross the ever narrowing chasm which distinguishes conventional PR issues and the ‘over night’ rapidity which they can transform into full blown, costly, and irreversible reputation risks.

Perhaps, one distinction between a public relations issue (problem) and a materialized reputation risk is…

  • the time frame in which either can and/or will ‘fester and/or exacerbate’ among consumers, shareholders, stakeholders, and investors to the point,
  • someone, often a previously voiceless individual quantifies its adverse affects – impact to the company’s reputation and articulates the connection.

But, using ‘consumer festering time’ as a metric for distinguishing public relations and reputation risk assumes each company has the capability to correctly assess – distinguish public relations issues for their near term gravity and/or criticality, i.e.,

  • through a lens exclusive of the lens of consumers, investors, and other stakeholders, and
  • possess a clear understanding of the various intangible assets which collectively comprise a company’s reputation.

Exacerbating the issue further is another reality, which is, decision makers’ inclination to calculate adverse affects in quarterly contexts, regardless how an event is being characterized, i.e., as a public relations or reputation risk problem. Through my lens, calculating adverse affects in quarterly contexts is more aligned with the notion of assuming there are quick public relations ‘fixes or patches’ versus more strategic reputation risk management!

As always reader comments are welcome and respected.




Frugal Innovation: A New Paradigm For Business!

November 17th, 2014. Published under Frugal Innovation, Intangible asset focused company culture., Intangible asset strategy. 1 Comment.


Michael D. Moberly    November 17, 2014    ‘A blog  where attention span really matters’!

‘One cannot solve a problem with the same mindset that created it in the first place.’ (Albert Einstein)

Frugal innovation is much more than a mere twist to a previous strategy. In fact, frugal innovation transcends the much clichéd paradox of ‘doing more with less’. Frugal innovators generate business and social value (intangible assets) through more effective – efficient use of limited and/or scarce resources.

Frugal innovation is now expanding at a time when companies are more receptive to commitments to ecologically enlightened consumers and governments to create products and services synchronized with (a.) affordability, (b.) sustainability, and (c.) quality.

Frugal innovators embody a strong sense of managerial flexibility that do not characterize resource constraints or evolving preferences of consumers as being singularly insurmountable or necessarily incapacitating. Instead, frugal innovation advocates view these circumstances as potential opportunities – paths for growth. In other words, minimal/scarce resources can serve as catalysts for frugal innovators to resolve such challenges through their proclivity to be innovative.

Frugal innovation, the secret weapon of emerging markets…

Carlos Ghosn is credited with coining the term ‘frugal engineering’ having been inspired by Indian engineers’ ability to innovate cost-effectively (and swiftly) under extreme resource constraints. Emerging market countries such as India, China, Africa, and Brazil are representative breeding grounds for frugal innovation.

In these countries, creatively minded entrepreneurs are innovating in resource-constrained environments to create ‘frugal solutions’ that deliver more value to customers at lower cost. Innovators accomplish this by assuming a distinctive mindset called ‘jugaad’ which is a Hindi word meaning an ‘innovative fix or an improvised solution born from ingenuity and cleverness’ that enables…

  • recognizing opportunities in adverse circumstances, situations, and then
  • concocting (frugal) solutions using minimal resources.

Examples of frugal innovation include…

  • M-PESA is a service that enables millions of Kenyans to save, spend, and transfer money using their cell phones without having a bank account…
  • SELCO provides solar energy at very low prices to over 125,000 households in remote Indian villages, debunking the myth that poor people can’t afford clean technology…
  • an Argentinian farmer with dual challenges of scarcity of land, and skilled labor, and successfully dealt with both by subcontracting his farming work to networks of small firms, and scaling up his ‘asset-light’ business model to boost his agricultural output without adding more resources or tangible assets.

Shifting the west’s corporate mindset…

In the West, when management teams face significant challenges and/or lack resources to fully execute a project, there may be a tendency to surrender too quickly. In the end, frugal innovation is not merely different way of innovating or new way of operating a business rather, it’s about fundamentally shifting one’s managerial – operational mindset.

Inspiration for this post is ‘Reverse Innovation” a book written by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, and “Jugaad Innovation” by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja

Economic Espionage, Can There Be A Rationale?

November 15th, 2014. Published under Economic Espionage, Insider Theft of IP and Intangible Assets. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly   November 15, 2014   ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

Peculiarly perhaps, economic espionage has been an arena which I have devoted consistent interest and work for 25+ years when I began designing and conducting independent investigative research projects into global economic – competitive advantage adversaries stealing intellectual properties belonging to university-based R&D and their spinoff companies.

One obvious outcome to my work in this arena is that I would be hard pressed to conceive of any rationale whereby economic espionage would be portrayed in other than the most negative context, particularly how it has morphed today as becoming consistent and sophisticated barrages of cyber theft.

Industrial (economic) espionage and its close cousin product piracy and counterfeiting are certainly not new phenomena as each have presented consistent challenges since man first began etching distinguishing (trade) marks on their products.

I remain intrigued however by the boldness of Drs. Whitney and Gaisford (then) of the University of Calgary, in their 1999 paper titled ‘Rationale For Economic Espionage’. While their perspective is thoughtfully articulated, and not without some merit, economic espionage remain as acts which most countries’, institutions, and companies find repugnant and devote substantial resources to combating.

Whitney and Gaisford posit economic espionage can yield strategic, competitive advantage, and cost savings to the beneficiaries. On that point, no argument here! So, when technologically advanced entities are targeted and spied upon, it’s feasible, Whitney and Gaisford suggest, that both may ultimately be better off. The ‘better off’ in this instance, translates as the ‘transfer of technology’ which some argue has become the primary path to world’s greatest transfer of wealth.

As always, readers comments are welcome and respected!

Three Things Business Leaders Should Know About Intangible Asset Risk

November 13th, 2014. Published under 'Safeguarding Intangible Assets', Reputation risk.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly    November 13, 2014    ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

Risks to intangible assets can materialize rapidly and cascade throughout an enterprise and its supply-value chain to adversely affect a company’s reputation, brand, competitiveness, and sources of revenue. With growing frequency materialized reputation risks are long lasting insofar as returning to operational normalcy and have become a costly and time consuming endeavor. It’s clear now, in a growing number of instances significant reputation risks can be, quite literally, irreversible. As an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist, companies operating in today’s aggressively competitive, predatorial, and winner-take-all global business environment, it is essential to recognize that company value, competitiveness, and primary sources of revenue are dominated by intangible assets, as such…

  1. intangible assets should not be construed as merely constituting new business jargon with responsibilities and/or tasks which can be dismissed or neglected based on the misapprehension it will get done as time permits, when the resources become available, or when competitors are seen doing it!
  2. the responsibilities associated with managing and safeguarding intangible assets, i.e., preserving their control, use, ownership, and monitoring their value, materiality, and risk are very much akin to fiduciary responsibilities as described in Stone v. Ritter, 911 A.2d 362 (Del. Supr. 2006).
  3. in today’s increasingly ‘flat world’ (Thomas L. Friedman) in which R&D, global business transactions, and company operations are routinely conceived, driven, and executed by the interconnected flow of data and information, i.e., intangible assets in the form of intellectual, structural, and/or relationship capital, it’s all the more important that management teams converge their expertise to ensure the intangibles that are in play, are effectively safeguarded and positioned to realize the economic and competitive advantage benefits which they are capable of delivering without succumbing to risks, challenges, or other forms of asset compromises.

To enable this to occur, business leaders and management teams are obliged to execute the necessary and effective practices, processes, and strategies, along with a (enterprise-wide) culture which (a.) recognizes and appreciates intangible assets, and (b.) possesses levels of alertness and skill to sustain key assets’control, use, and ownership.

As always, readers comments are encouraged and most welcome!



Intangible Asset Literacy

November 12th, 2014. Published under Intangible asset strategy, Intangible asset training for management teams.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly    November 12, 2014     ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

Avoid being a management team member or business decision maker that is reluctant to engage or is dismissive of their company’s intangible assets!

Unfortunately, I still routinely find management team members and business decision makers who convey an inclination to interpret the phrase ‘knowledge-intangible asset based global economy’ to be more (a.) cliché than reality, and (b.) relevant to Fortune 500’s, presumably rich in intellectual property, know how, and R&D, than small, medium size and entrepreneurial companies..

Obviously, I do not share such ill-fated perspectives, rather, I advocate this reality…unless and until more management teams, c-suites, D&O’s, shareholders, investors, and growing numbers of stakeholders begin recognizing…

  • intangible assets comprise 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue and foundations for growth, profitability, and sustainability.
  • the prudence of consistently engaging the intangibles their company produces or acquires and practice effective stewardship, oversight, and management.
  • the necessity to develop practical strategies to sustain control, use, ownership, and monitor asset value, risk, and materiality

…otherwise, these companies will not experience the growth, which most are capable, instead will find themselves in a downward and perhaps irreversible trajectory relative to their (a.)  competitors and market space, and (b.) value, sources of revenue, and strategic ‘building blocks’ for growth, profitability, and sustainability!

In addition, should such intangible asset illiteracy and dismissiveness persist, numerous other potential adverse outcomes will likely occur, among them being…

  • significant unrealized (asset) value and exploitation opportunities are left on the proverbial table
  • assets will remain vulnerable to the myriad of economic and competitive advantage adversaries (globally) to acquire and exploit to enhance their company or client.

As always, reader comments are most welcome!

Reputation Risks vs. Public Relations

November 5th, 2014. Published under Enterprise risk management., Fiduciary Responsibility, Reputation risk.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly     November 5, 2014   ‘A long form blog where attention span really matters’!

‘Houston, we’ve got a problem’!  The problem, in my view, is that there are far too many business decision, makers, c-suites, boards, and management teams who persist in framing and seeking resolution to their company’s – businesses’ public persona through conventional public relations lens and not as, in most instances, they should, through a very nuanced and sector specific reputation risk lens.

There seems to be no end to the number of globally operating companies, irrespective of sector, which have taken substantial ‘direct hits’ to their reputation of late. To be sure, reputation risk is certainly not the exclusive domain of Fortune designated firms. And too, there is no indication the number, or the criticality associated with reputation risks will diminish, at least in the near term.

Relevant U.S. Congressional Committees are consistently geared up for investigatory hearings, and yes, numerous have political underliers. That notwithstanding, they all essentially seek answers to the proverbial questions, i.e., who knew what, when did they know it, and what, if anything, did they do about it upon first learning about it’.

Collectively, this should prompt us to ask, and quite correctly so in my judgment…

  • are these mere public relations issues which presumably can be adequately managed through various conventional and social media platforms and public statements and presumptively dissipate with no long term detrimental – adverse financial and/or competitive advantage affects?
  • or, are adverse acts, events, and/or oversights that materialize, the inevitable outcome of dispersed manufacturing and operational (quality control) failures, which, when they come to light, have a higher probability of manifesting as substantial, long term, and potentially irreversible (semi-permanent) risks to a company’s reputation which conventional public relations initiatives may exacerbate instead of ameliorate.

The intangible asset ‘risk of risks’ is a company’s reputation!

Company reputation is an intangible asset of the first order.  So, perhaps it would be useful to say again it an economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for growth, profitability, competitiveness, and sustainability lie in or evolve directly from intangible assets, of which reputation is one.

Respectfully, I suspect this economic fact may have prompted The Economist’s Intelligence Unit (EIU) to produce a ‘global risk briefing’ paper titled Reputation: Risk of Risks.

Company reputation is defined (in the Economists’ report) as ‘how a business is perceived by stakeholders, including customers, investors, regulators, the media, and the wider public’.  To be sure, a company’s reputation ‘declines when things fall short of expectations’.  When not one, but multiple consumers – users expectations are not met by a company’s products or services, then it’s unlikely comprehensive and long term remediation will come through conventional public relation strategies.

Company reputation is a prized and increasingly valuable, yet vulnerable and even sometimes fragile asset which the respondents to the EIU survey agreed by stating that sustaining a positive company reputation is a main concern for the majority of risk managers, ahead of, for example…

  • regulatory risk
  • human capital risk
  • IT network risk
  • market risk, and
  • credit risk.

It’s fair to say now that company reputation risk has risen to the level of being a fiduciary responsibility (and concern) that extends well beyond senior risk managers to being permanent fixtures on company management team dashboards, i.e., Stone v Ritter.

In most instances, companies would be well advised to acquire a deeper appreciation, clarity, and understanding of the asymmetric nature (elements) of reputation risk which can be summed up as…unsatisfactory (poor) company reputation can rapidly, and often times irreversibly and adversely affect a company economically and competitively, aside from the embarrassing and probing questions that will be inevitably posed by the media Congressional Committee members, especially, those who have constituent(s) who personally suffered due to a company’s obvious absence of understanding and correcting reputational risks in a timely manner.

Preferably, reputation risks are identified, assessed, and remediation is commenced in a manner that meets or exceeds regulatory agency oversight, statutory requirements and before unwitting consumers die or become injured as a consequence.

As always, readers comments are most welcome!

New Drivers of Computer/IT Security: Contributory Value, Materiality, and Risk!

November 4th, 2014. Published under Cyber security, Enterprise risk management.. 1 Comment.

Michael D. Moberly   November 4, 2014   ‘A blog where attention span really matters’!

Achieving efficiencies by differentiating the information and data being safeguarded…

Aside, for the moment, statutory and regulatory mandates, I am increasingly confident the day is quickly approaching (in many instances, it already has, in my judgment) when it becomes impractical for companies to assume the costs and time of installing ever bigger, one size fits all, snap-shot-in-time firewalls and data/information security – protection systems and products to try to thwart the growing numbers of intensely sophisticated and global economic and competitive advantage adversaries and legacy free players, aka hackers.

There are two key and inter-related reasons why I believe this to not only be true, but an inevitability.

First, it is a globally universal and irreversible economic fact that rising percentages – 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for growth, profitability, and sustainability lie in – evolve directly from intangible assets, primarily in the form of intellectual, structural, and relationship/social capital and other forms of intellectual property.

Second, data/information generation, storage, and archival needs are continually ratcheting up from megabytes, gigabytes, to terabytes+, particularly in intangible asset intensive and dependant companies and R&D sectors.

So, out of necessity to achieve cost efficiencies and a more specified return on investment, technologies must be developed with heretofore unique capabilities to differentiate company information and data that should receive the maximum IT/computer safeguards, which initially I propose, encompass the following four factors, i.e., the (intangible) assets…

  • contributory value to a particular project, product, and/or the company’s mission.
  • continued materiality to a particular project, product, and/or the company’s mission.
  • level of assessed risk to theft, infringement, misappropriation, etc.
  • relevance to a company’s reputation (image, goodwill, brand) etc.