Archive for 'Book Review'
(Harvesting Intangible Assets: Uncover Hidden Revenue In Your Company’s Intellectual Property by Andrew J. Sherman)
Michael D. Moberly January 22, 2014
Let me say at the outset, the perspectives put forth here regarding my assessment of Andrew Sherman’s ‘Harvesting Intangibles’, are dually rooted, first in a careful study of Sherman’s book, and second, a personal conversation (meeting). Unmistakable takeaways of both are clear; Sherman literally radiates a strong passion for intangible assets! Too, he has the requisite practical knowledge, operational familiarity, legal training, and strategic visioning to effectively ‘bring it altogether’ and intersect intangible assets with positive business (transaction) outcomes. Sherman truly recognizes and consistently conveys throughout his book, the increasingly strategic role intangibles play in companies (globally) as contributors to and generators of value, revenue, and sustainability.
To be sure, Sherman has very deservedly accumulated the requisite ‘street creds’ as many readers of this blog recognize him as a much respected, articulate, and forward looking thinker, and practical tactician in the intangibles’ arena, e.g., named by Fortune as one of the ‘Top Ten Minds in Small Business’ and Inc. magazine recognized him as one of the 19 leading resources and advocates for growing companies, of which intangible assets are clearly an important component.
‘Harvesting Intangibles’ is replete with Sherman’s sage counsel regarding the nexus of intangible assets and business. This clearly and most properly positions him to be one of a respected handful of global ‘go to professionals’ on intangibles, particularly the millions of small, mid-size, early stage, and start-up firms, which concurrently form the foundation to the education and training company, ‘Grow Fast, Grow Right’ that he founded.
Sherman built ‘Harvesting Intangibles’ on a distinctive and understandable ‘agrarian’ metaphor platform in which he describes intangibles as being (a.) planted (developed or acquired), (b.) nurtured (cared for and integrated), (c.) safeguarded (protected), and of course (d.) harvested (applied, commercialized, and/or monetized) at opportune times. This sequence is necessary, Sherman advocates, as the most correct path to maximize intangibles’ contributory value and sources of revenue, which most are capable.
Throughout ‘Harvesting Intangibles’, Sherman respectfully pushes many conventions (i.e.,past practices, antiquated attitudes) off the table by demonstrating that (a.) attitudes, i.e., this is the way it’s always been done, and if it doesn’t seem to be broken, why try to fix it, now?, and (b.) practices, i.e., balance sheets are an archaic measure of any company’s true intrinsic value, and are no longer well-suited for operating knowledge (intangible asset) intensive businesses.
Another strong positive is that Sherman uses a distinctively normative, but respectful, style (i.e., metaphors, language, etc.) to articulate his ideas, positions, and perspectives to aid readers, some of whom may be, up to this point, operationally unfamiliar with or disinterested in intangibles. That includes not just c-suites and boards, but business unit management teams as well. Of course Sherman’s objective is to respectfully aid them to more effectively identify, capture, and exploit the value and other contributory elements of (their) intangible assets through better asset management, stewardship, and oversight practices.
Too, Sherman has integrated numerous informative graphics and visuals in ‘Harvesting’ that are not merely modified replications of others’ work. Instead, each graphic/visual can be readily grasped and conveys a positive strategic, rather than a fear orientation, which in my view is precisely the tact to take. Equally favorably, Sherman’s graphics and visuals can be interpreted and framed by management teams for (asset) comparison and/or measurement-performance purposes.
As with many books, relatively small things resonate with readers that collectively set a book aside from it competitors. One such example is that Sherman commences each chapter with a relevant and thought provoking quote which I found especially compelling and relevant to those of us who are truly ‘boots on the ground’ intangible asset practitioners. For example, a quote attributed to Charles Browder (Chapter 6) is a follows…
“a new idea is delicate…it can be killed by a sneer or a yawn…it can be stabbed to death by a joke, or worried to death by a frown on the key person’s face.”
For most intangible asset advocates and practitioners know this caricature represents as unfortunate business reality and have likely experienced it personally on numerous occasions. This example, along with countless others, already eluded to further reveals Sherman’s passion for and understanding of intangible assets. Too, it adds much needed clarity that will respectfully elevate management teams’ operational familiarity with intangibles relative to (a.) their development, (b.) how they can be best exploited, and (c.) the all-important value proposition for a range of business sizes and sectors.
To address this further, Sherman includes countless real and thought provoking examples of actual ‘harvesting intangibles’ to provide readers with practical insights which can be rapidly and efficiently applied by seasoned business leaders who recognize the rapidly expanding (fiduciary) responsibilities associated with managing and exploiting intangible assets.
Those still unfamiliar with Sherman’s work should not conclude ‘Harvesting Intangibles’ merely represents a ‘one hit wonder’. Sherman has published numerous other books and articles of this caliber, many of which press a solidly framed business orientation for intangible assets to forever advance his unique theme of ‘harvesting intangibles’.
As readers of this blog know well, I am a strong advocate of intangible assets. Such advocacy, as Sherman articulates so well, comes with responsibilities which ‘Harvesting Intangibles’ elevates, due in no small part to Sherman’s training and expertise in intellectual property matters.
And finally, who should be reading, not just ‘Harvesting Intangibles’, but other works of Sherman? For me, the answer is straight forward, that is, most all have relevancy in university classrooms as well as company boardrooms!
Ultimately, a message I trust readers of ‘Harvesting Intangibles’ will quickly and readily recognize by page five, is that clinging to conventions of past practice that ignore, dismiss, or otherwise underestimate the role and contributory value of intangible assets and the responsibility to consistently and effectively engage them will lead to business adversity vs. business sustainability and profitability.
To be sure, Sherman’s book is certainly not one of the growing numbers of books that I, not-so-respectfully categorize as the ’10 easy steps from rags to riches in one minute per day’. Instead, Sherman’s book is embedded with relevant, timely, and real knowledge framed in a manner that will not just add reasoned value to readers, but again, provide a viable and strategic path to more complete utilization of most every company’s intangible assets.
Harvesting Intangible Assets: Uncover Hidden Revenue In Your Company’s Intellectual Property by Andrew J. Sherman. American Management Association, 2012 (ISBN – 13: 978-0-8144-1699-0)
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Michael D. Moberly March 12, 2012 (Book review with application to intangible assets.)
The persistent, asymmetric nature, and shear number of risks, challenges, and problems that companies routinely face today with respect to their intangible (IP) assets are not always reflected or addressed in conventional employee – management team training models which tend to ‘push out pre-built training’.
Conventional training methods and how they’re delivered may not be especially well-suited for knowledge (intangible asset) intensive businesses. Exacerbating this is the go fast, go hard, go global, ultra-competitive, and predatorial business environment in which growing numbers of companies operate.
John Hagel, as most readers recognize, is a respected business consultant and author of ‘The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion’ along with co-authors John Seely Brown and Land Davison.
‘The Power of Pull’ describes the very real shift in power, which we’re now in the midst, according to the authors. The ‘pull’ approach essentially creates circumstances which I would describe as being akin to a company culture or knowledge management program in which the right people, the right resources, and the right (relevant) knowledge (information) is easily and quickly ‘pulled’ together whenever and wherever its needed, to effectively meet a current demand or address a problem or challenge.
Too, the ‘shift’ the authors refer to is due in part to the continually evolving knowledge (intangible asset) based global business economy wherein today 65+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue and ‘building blocks’ for growth and sustainability lie directly with intangible assets.
Hagel believes conventional models for delivering company training are largely outdated and less relevant which may come as no particular surprise too many because conventional training:
- tends to focus on the acquisition of knowledge that is already explicit and codified within a company and amongst its employees.
- does not instill a (business) sense of anticipation, i.e., determining what training – information employees will need and when?
- is well behind ‘the need’ curve, therefore little, if any, benefit will emerge to either a company or its employees if the same (push) delivery model continues.
Hagel’s ‘pull’ approach to training allows employees to quickly access relevant resources (information, knowledge, etc.) precisely when they need it, something which Hagel likens to the Google search engine.
Unfortunately, Hagel notes, the primary training model many companies still use is one that pushes, rather than pulls so the authors advocate companies should be building and utilizing ‘pull platforms’ for employees to access – acquire knowledge.
Another un-flattering reality Hagel notes, is that many companies continue to use a training (employee knowledge acquisition) model that does not include the ability to correctly anticipate (predict) when and how the need/demand for new knowledge will evolve in a company or quickly organize – bring the information together to accommodate the anticipated demand.
Hagel adds the need and demand for new information to solve/address a problem or challenge is frequently subject to internal miscalculations in terms of timeliness and accuracy of the information even though much of the needed knowledge – information is open source.
Companies should give favorable consideration to developing (internal) ‘pull platforms’ to accommodate that increasingly frequent and seemingly instantaneous need which, there’s little question, has become the norm for a large percentage of companies globally.
In a ‘pull platform’ as articulated by Hagel and his colleagues, the internal development of talent, knowledge, and expertise emphasizes, or perhaps is dependent upon (a.) on-the-job learning and other informal (learning) structures rather than (b.) conventionally produced (pre-built) and delivered training program.
In other words, ‘pull learning’ provides employees with the ability to rapidly confront the challenges-problems they’re experiencing through their ability to draw and/or pull out the resources needed to design-develop solutions whenever and wherever they’re needed.
Essentially, under the ‘pull technique’ employee learning becomes a by-product of the problems and challenges they encounter coupled with ever increasing requirements for measuring performance. I suspect, and Hagel confirms, as companies take the ‘pull strategy’ more seriously, they will begin re-thinking many of their conventional practices, e.g.,
- how the organization is designed
- what kind of business strategy should be pursued, and
- what kind of technology platforms are necessary to support the company and their employees in a work environment.
In addition to developing learning platforms that enable – facilitate ‘at will – on demand’ (employee) learning, moving to a fully ‘pull’ mindset approach requires, in many instances, redefining leadership. Simply stated, in a ‘push’ world, company leadership develops a program and enlists others to follow it.
Whereas, in a ‘pull’ world, Hagel claims, it’s about helping employees develop relevant capabilities to become leaders in their own context, i.e., business unit, etc. The goal is when employees engage an unexpected challenge or problem and are seeking, or in need of, a solution, they will have already acquired the necessary initiative and inquisitive disposition that encourages them to engage, not sidestep, the problem and find creative solutions to address – overcome it and, in the process learn from the experience.
Hagel sites three factors that are largely responsible for enabling and supporting the evolution of a ‘pull’ environment:
- digital technology
- economic liberalization, and
- global competition.
Hagel suggests everything accelerates in terms of the pace of change in today’s business environment including uncertainty (risk) because, among other factors, new participants (players) have more opportunity to enter a market space and build scale very rapidly.
For further proof of the shift from push to ‘pull’, Hagel points to the long-term decline of return on (physical – tangible) assets for public companies. Since 1965, return has gone down significantly and there are absolutely no signs this trend will reverse itself in the foreseeable future. Replacing that of course, as previously stated, is the economic fact that today, steadily rising percentages (65+%) of most company’s value and sources of revenue evolve directly from intangible (non-physical) assets. For Hagel, this represents ‘a huge red flag’ and all the more reason that the conventional ‘push’ strategy is no longer viable and should be changed.
All that said, many companies still don’t ‘get it’ and thus continue to hold on to the conventional practices and institutions associated with the ‘push’ business world even though it’s yielding diminishing performance.
Creating a proprietary library or body of knowledge in companies, for example, is often bound to fail Hagel argues, because they essentially keep companies and their employee’s knowledge and expertise (intangible assets) in a holding pattern of sorts. Too, such conventional approaches do not recognize most company’s value and revenue sources have shifted from tangible assets to intangible assets, i.e., intellectual and relationship capital, unique know how, and the ability to know when, how, and where to apply (use) such know how.
Instead, Hagel asserts, companies should focus on creating effective and efficient knowledge ‘flows’, e.g., the pull world, that allows employees to not only learn faster as the need arises, but also continually replenish their knowledge stocks, i.e., a company’s internal library if you will, of intellectual capital and unique know how (intangible assets).
A glaring reality today to Hagel’s work is that many things we come to know, at any one point in time, tend to become less useful or perhaps obsolete, given the rapidity of change in business circumstances and conditions. He also claims, if all a company does is hold on to what it already knows and tries to defend it and extract value from (monetize) it, it’s likely to be a losing proposition.
In the current and increasingly aggressive, globally competitive and predatorial business (transaction) environment it’s essential for companies and their management teams to continually seek and find ways to engage (participate) in the diverse and expanding array of knowledge flows. Absent that, Hagel believes, we will surely see more companies falling by the wayside, in many instances because they simply had less capability or inclination to compete in a global marketplace.
Hagel also believes, and so do I, that some of the most profound learning opportunities may not actually occur within a company, rather at the edges of company operations and transactions, e.g., the structural capital found through relationships with partners, stakeholders, distribution channels, and supply chains, etc. In other words, building and sustaining external relationships (structural-relationship capital) are two important strategies to consistently and favorably affect a company’s value, profitability, and sustainability.
So, while it may not be solely about (developing) talent within a company, it may be about a company’s foresight and ability to connect ‘talent with talent’ wherever it is, and build the relationships (structural, intellectual, and relationship capital) so talented employees can learn faster and better together. And, I can’t agree more.
This post was dually inspired by the work of Mike Prokopeak in his article in Chief Learning Officer magazine (August 18, 2010) and John Hagel, John Seely Brown, and Land Davison’s book ‘The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things In Motion’.
Michael D. Moberly February 8, 2012
I recently re-read Ranjay Gulati’s book ‘Reorganize For Resilience: Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business’. It is not, in my judgment, just another of the myriad of books who’s author tweaks or critiques an existing standard or presents a highly nuanced alternative about the re-emerged importance of customer centricity.
Instead, it’s a book about recognizing a company’s customer relationships are intangible assets which can produce ‘relationship capital’. Gulati however, takes this important perspective several steps further. He suggests that in order for customer relationships to be as effective and profitable as possible, there needs to be (a.) consistent engagement, and (b.) high level inquiry with customers. These components, he adds, must collectively extend well beyond the often times siloed boundaries of a company’s products and/or services.
This important perspective prompts me to draw an analogy comparable to conducting intangible asset assessments for companies. A frequent revelation flowing from an assessment is that company management teams may not recognize or they may even be dismissive about the contributory value, competitive advantages, and efficiencies delivered by intangible assets that are routinely embedded in (their company’s) processes, practices, know how, and culture.
Intangible assets as we all know, and customer centricity I might add, lack a conventional sense of physicality. As such, neither is reported on company balance sheets or financial statements. This notable absence from conventional forms of performance measurement contributes no doubt, to the tendency for both to be neglected, overlooked, and often conceived as distanced abstractions, rather than the ‘in your face’ realities they really are!
In response Gulati suggests, if customers’ real needs continue to be unrecognized and unmet, this may influence them (customers-clients) to commence ‘commoditizing’ that company’s products and services. In other words, customers-clients may begin making (their) purchase decisions based primarily on price rather than having developed a personal connection to a particular company’s products and/or services.
In a similar vein, management teams and boards that assume their company’s brand (another form of intangible asset) standing alone, will serve as the perpetual or proverbial life saver, is an assumption Gulati points out, that no longer reflects the realities of a globalized market place that is filled with competing options, products and services. I would add to that, it’s a global marketplace that is aggressive, predatorial, and winner-take-all.
Thus, to compete more effectively, Gulati points out, companies must define themselves well beyond the characteristics of a single intangible asset, i.e., a brand, etc. Thus, being first to identify and address customer – client ’problem spaces’ represents a powerful and strategic intangible asset, offensive weapon if you will, that can produce value, create sources of revenue, and serve as distinctive and long lasting foundations for growth.
(Dr. Ranjay Gulati is a professor at the Harvard Business School with expertise in leadership, strategy, and organizational issues. His book, Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Organization (Harvard Business Press, 2009) explores how “resilient” companies—those that prosper both in good times and bad—drive growth and increase profitability by immersing themselves in the lives of their customers.)
Michael D. Moberly April 13, 2010
The newly published (2009) book ‘Reorganize For Resilience: Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business’ by Ranjay Gulati is, in my judgment, not merely another book that describes an alternative view or re-emerged importance of customer centricity.
Rather, it’s a book about recognizing that customer relationships are intangible assets. And, as intangible assets, in order for customer relationships to be as effective and profitable as possible, consistent engagement and high level inquiry with customers that extends beyond the often times siloed boundaries of a company’s products and/or services, is essential.
There is an analogy here that is not unlike conducting an intangible asset assessment for a company. Wherein company management teams may not fully recognize or be dismissive about the potentially valuable and revenue producing intangible assets that are routinely embedded in (their company’s) processes and practices and contribute to a company’s value and revenue through better products and/or services.
In part due to intangible assets and customer centricity essentially lacking a conventional sense of physicality, and neither being reported on balance sheets, there is a tendency for both to become neglected and distanced abstractions, rather than the ‘in your face’ realities they really are!
An adverse alternative Gulati suggests, is that if customers’ real needs go unrecognized as conveyed in his book, they (customers) will likely commence ‘commoditizing’ a company’s products and services by making purchase decisions based primarily on price rather than retaining a personal connection to a company.
Also, management teams and boards that continue to assume that a company’s brand (an intangible asset) standing alone, will serve as a perpetual life saver, is an assumption, Gulati points out, that no longer reflects the realities of a globalized market place that is filled with competing options, products and services.
Thus, to more effectively compete, companies must define themselves beyond a single intangible asset, i.e., a brand, product, and/or service, especially in the increasingly globalized and knowledge-based economy. Being first to identify and address ’problem spaces’ for clients represents a powerful business intangible asset that can produce value, revenue, and serve as distinctive foundations for future wealth creation.
Michael D. Moberly October 12, 2009
‘The Intangible Asset Handbook: Maximizing Value From Intangible Assets’ by Weston Anson is one of those rare business (management) books that should always be close at hand as a forward looking/thinking reference (reminder) of the sometimes hidden and/or under-the-radar value of a company’s intangible assets.
Essentially, Anson’s book achieves three important objectives to benefit the business community’s recognition, appreciation, and utilization of intangible assets. First, it is an excellent primer for intangible asset intensive company’s and their management teams and boards for defining, identifying, and unraveling, intangible assets through actual case studies. Second, it brings much need clarity, simplicity, and insight to utilizing and valuing intangibles. Third, the book puts forth an important, but underlying, notion that intangible assets are not the sole province of Fortune 500 types of companies, rather, they’re found - embedded in and integral to most every SMM and SME regardless of industry type or sector.
One of the book’s most important take aways is the authors’ characterization of the present state of (global) business as the ‘intangible asset economy’. This very meaningful and timely phrase accompanied by the economic fact that today 65+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, sustainability, and foundations for growth and future wealth creation lie in – are directly related to intangible assets, collectively frame the authors’ perspectives throughout the book.
For a variety of reasons though, some prospective readers (business decision makers) may remain suspect (skeptical) of either of the above premises. For them, they’re encouraged to jump straight to pages 32 thru 35 where Anson makes three important points by (1.) providing guidelines for practitioners to discover, identify, and quantify (intangible asset) value, (2.) conveying that intangible assets are not merely addendums to conventional IP, and (3.) distinguishing intangible assets from goodwill, IP, and intellectual capital which have long served as the catch alls for declaring and reporting intangible assets.
While there are parts of the book that require real study and reflection, the book is very readable and current. The readers’ pay off is understanding the relevance of intangibles and being able to more confidently and effectively execute the many practical concepts that are unfolded.
An important question not thoroughly addressed by the author though, is that its not fully explained in the case studies, why the decision makers for those particular companies were apparently ‘clueless’ about (a.) how to identify the intangible assets their company produced, (b.) how to value them, (c.) how they could be positioned, leveraged, maximized, and value extracted, and perhaps most important of all, (d.) the necessity to protect, preseve (sustain) control, use, ownership, and monitor the value of those assets!
(The Intangible Asset Handbook: Maximizing Value From Intangible Assets. Weston Anson. 2007. American Bar Association ISBN 978-1-59031-743-3)