Archive for 'Design thinking.'

Intangible Asset Expertise

July 19th, 2017. Published under Design thinking., Fiduciary Responsibility, Intangible asset training for management teams.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly July 19, 2017 A business intangible asset blog where attention span really matters.

Intangible asset expertise allows professional service firms to legitimately guide business leadership to overcome their reluctance to engage their intangible assets.

Reluctance and/or hesitancy to engage a company’s IA’s…is attributed in large part, at least in the U.S, to limited opportunities for business leadership and management teams to acquire operational familiarity (with intangible assets) at strategic-decision making levels. This includes university coursework in which intangible assets, for various reasons, still largely elude many MBA, business, and law school curricula.

Having made numerous presentations to business and law school students and faculty…in various contexts and venues about IA matters, their questions and comments suggests the preparatory familiarity and research regarding intangible assets is often rooted in context related to conventional accounting practices. Treating IA’s solely through the highly structured and rules oriented lens of conventional accounting and valuation, leaves little receptivity or incentive to examine IA’s in practical and contributory role and value contexts, i.e., impetus-momentum necessary to create competitive advantages, new sources of revenue, value, and efficiencies, etc.

It is little wonder then, current generations of entrepreneurs…business strategists and decision makers devote more time, attention, and resources the pursuing IP (intellectual property) side, i.e., patents, trademarks, copyrights, assuming they are the dominant, if not, only strategy for innovation conversion, revenue production, creating leverage, competitive advantage, and business sustainability. Notably absent from this strategy is recognition that all paths leading to intellectual property are paved with contributory and inter-connected intangible assets, i.e., various forms of intellectual, relationship, and competitive capital.

When I conduct seminars-presentations…on the contributory role and value of IA’s, it’s rewarding to introduce practitioners, most of whom are already variously successful, to practical recognition-application side of IA’s, especially those which have been produced by and embedded in a company’s products and/or services, but still may be variously overlooked or familiarity falls short of the assets’ effective-profitable-sustainable exploitation. For these and multiple other reasons, this contributes to consistent interest in and high attendance for my seminars and presentations. Both are supported of course by broadening realization that intangible assets are essential to business competitive positioning, thus important to learn about.

It’s instructive to recognize also, how business leadership and management team reluctance to engage their intangible assets manifests – is conveyed, e.g.,
• skepticism about outcomes and/or returns.
• concern that doing so would be (too) disruptive to a company’s
operating culture and processes
• satisfaction with current (past) practice.

I am not inferring…companies-businesses will never become successful, profitable, or sustainable without first thoroughly and consistently engaging their intangible assets. Experiential observations do indicate however that in numerous instances, if-when a company achieves success financially, or otherwise, such success will likely occur at a slower pace and unnecessarily incur various starts, stops, re-starts, wrong turns, missteps, miscues, and missed opportunities. Some missteps can be clearly and legitimately attributed to…

• operational unfamiliarity how to exploit and safeguard their
intangible assets.
• holding conventional and misleading assumptions about when, where,
and how company value, revenue, and competitive advantage

To draw a finer point on this issue, my experiences as an intangible asset strategist indicate company leadership who exhibit indifference to their internally developed IA’s, become fertile ground for…

• reputation – brand risks to materialize, and
• employee disenchantment influenced by confusing, redundant, and/or
cross purposed use of intellectual, relationship, structural, and
creative capital, thereby contributing little, if any value, revenue,
competitive advantage, or sustainability to a company.

Intangible Assets and Design Thinking

July 17th, 2017. Published under Analysis and commentary, Design thinking.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly July 17, 2017 ‘A business intangible asset blog where attention span really matters.’

Design-thinking is an ideology which emphasizes a practical, user-centric approach to problem resolution which, in turn, can lead to (potential) innovations which differentiate businesses, companies, products, and/or services through competitive advantages produced. In other words, design thinking represents an ideology to problem resolution that is supported by accompanying processes.

There is nothing particularly new about design thinking, in fact, it has been variously practiced for literally, hundreds of years. Design thinking was coined in the 1990’s by David Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO, along with Roger Martin, and incorporated methods and ideas into a single unified concept.

On the business side, ‘product design’ has often manifested as afterthoughts, i.e., touch ups applied to create distinguishing aesthetic features, components and/or qualities to products as ‘topical design applications’ which not infrequently, fail to meet customers-users-clients’ real needs.

Good design thinkers are inclined to engage – approach their work through creative processes which are user-centric which elevate the probability that solutions (outcomes) will be more effective, in part because meaningful, and memorable intangibles have been inserted. Two early examples of design thinking include…

• Charles and Ray Eames who, in the early 1900’s, practiced “learning by doing” in which they explored a range of needs and constraints before designing the famous Eames chairs.

• 1960’s dressmaker Jean Muir was well known for her “common sense” approach to clothing design, placing as much emphasis on how her clothes felt to wear as they looked to others.

These designers were innovators of their time. Their approaches can be viewed as early examples of design thinking — as they each developed a deep understanding of their users’ lives and unmet needs.

As I have come to understand the evolution of design thinking, the words were coined in the 1990’s by David Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO, along with Roger Martin, to encapsulate methods and ideas which they had individually and collectively been framing for years until they were unified in a standalone concept.

Today, it’s fair to say, companies which combine forward thinking – looking and user-centricity in the design of their products are clearly receptive to and recognize the relevance and importance of having designers immersed – engaged in each phase of a process. This often manifests as moving designers from the end of a product-development process where their input and contribution is obviously limited, to the beginning of a process, where there are opportunities to shape product development to reflect and accommodate user needs, i.e., incorporating the intangible with the tangible far better than conventional linear and/or milestone-based approaches. Design thinking does not follow a pre-defined series of sequenced and/or orderly steps. Thus, the notion that creative ideas suddenly enter and burst from one’s mind, already fully formed, is seldom the case. What new things one may learn from the iterative steps of design thinking, in my view, are various complimentary and contributory intangible assets.

Tim Brown cites Thomas Edison’s creation of the electric light bulb as a still relevant example of design thinking. As Brown describes it, Edison’s invention of the light bulb, served as one, albeit, relatively small, component of a much larger industry which he (Edison) envisioned. Edison’s genius, Brown says, does not lie merely in inventing a single, relatively discreet ‘parlor trick’ device, i.e., the electric light bulb. Rather his genius evolved from his ability to conceive an eventual fully developed marketplace surrounded by-the-use of the electric light bulb.

Another element of Edison’s genius evolved from his futuristic (horizonal) vision how people would come to want to possess and use the electric light bulb. Brown says the vision Edison espoused, and the approach he applied to achieve that vision, constituted an early example of ‘design thinking’. Edison’s visionary marketplace was a system of electric power, i.e., generation and transmission that would render the ‘light bulb’ useful and relevant on mass scale globally.

Of course, Apple, a contemporary and consistent leader in design thinking, where horizonal and user-centric (product, system, brand, support) functionalities are repeatedly applied (integrated) and effectively exploited to deliver differentiators, market advantages, and historically strong returns, many of which clearly manifest as intangible assets.

It’s not difficult to recognize that design thinking differs substantially from conventional linear and milestone-based business actions. Design thinking is the product of iterative intellectual work, the core of which is a human-centered process of discovery, coupled with prototyping, testing, and refining cycles. In other words, design thinking embodies a system of ‘spaces’ that distinguish various activities that ultimately come to form a ‘continuum of innovation’, i.e., inspiration, ideation, and implementation.

So, however it may be referred, design thinking is a methodology that encompasses a range of activities related to innovation, but with a very specific and important twist; that is, it has a people – user centered (design) focus, influenced, Brown says, by direct observation of what people, presumably prospective users and consumers…

• want and need in their lives, and
• what they like and/or dislike about the way that product is made, packaged, sold, and supported.

A special thanks to Tim Brown’s fine article titled ‘Design Thinking’, Harvard Business Review, June 2008 which Mr. Moberly has adapted for application to his ‘Business IP and Intangible Asset Blog’.

Leadership Attention Span, A Necessary Intangible Asset

June 19th, 2017. Published under Design thinking., Intangible asset teaching and training., Intangible asset training for management teams.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly June 20, 2017 ‘A business blog where attention span really matters.’

Readers of this blog will notice the premium paid to ‘attention span’ which has become a moniker for much of my work. Advocating longer-focused attention span is not intended to convey arrogance or condescension to readers, instead, it is intended to underscore my belief that there are numerous worthy concepts, theories, models, and hypotheses, etc., that business leadership are variously obligated to acquire sufficient familiarity to make an informed judgment about it relevance to their company or business, its products and/or services, and the types of transactions it may engage. IA’s, for example, conceptually and practically, warrant levels of thought and reflection that extend beyond the brevity of talking points associated with the proverbial ‘power point’ slide deck. The rationale for doing so is embedded in the economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, competitiveness, and future wealth creation potential lie in – emerge directly from IA’s. Being inattentive or dismissive of this irrefutable economic fact is done so at a leader’s peril and that of her company.

As articulated in an April 2017 TED Talk by computational neuroscientist Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar, ‘attention is not just about what we focus on, it’s also about what our brains filter out’. It sure would be useful to understand which-what information our respective brains ‘filter’, and why, and presumably absent a conscious effort.

Admittedly my interest in our brain’s ‘information filtering’ feature is somewhat self-serving. For example, I believe the subject matter (IA’s issues) I endeavor to communicate through my blog and books has merit and relevancy to business leadership, management teams, and companies irrespective of sector. I am hard pressed to understand the espousal of any rationale that seeks to explain away why each-and-every business (university) major and practitioner who aspires to be competitive and successful should not take a strong and personal interest.

Certainly, Google Analytics provides important analysis, particularly regarding the what, when, and for how long, i.e., ‘number of clicks and/or visitors’ to online publishing. These ‘analytics’ do not, however, shed light on or otherwise distinguish ‘the why’s’, which, for any author, holds special importance relative to how they frame and write about certain aspects of their on-going research interests.

Is there something I am missing? It is, after all, settled (irrefutable) economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, competitiveness, and sustainability today lie in – emerge directly from intangible assets. This economic fact should translate, in conjunction with attention span, as if-when IA’s are recognized, developed, utilized, and exploited effectively, most every company-business can be positioned to achieve projected outcomes and returns. To do so, requires an attention span with varying levels of thought, reflection, perhaps making some adjustments and re-positioning of IA’s. In other words, be routinely engaged in horizonal thinking and strategic planning = attention span!

The TEDTalk given by Dr. Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar, whose expertise lies in investigating, tracking, and monitoring various patterns occurring – present in our brain. He aspires to apply his research to develop computer models which can be used to treat human functionality challenges such as ADHD and to those who have variously lost their ability to communicate.

As business leaders, we should be obliged to focus on a specific topic and/or subject beyond the vagaries of abbreviated attention spans. Unfortunately, human attention span has been minimized, often characterized as the preference to have important, far-reaching subject matter – concepts condensed and delivered with as much brevity as possible, i.e., the proverbial elevator pitch. Too, attention span is also conveyed through dramatized surges of simplified key words purposefully designed to seize-capture one’s fleeting – multi-tasking span of attention which many have come to assume is a perfectly acceptable business norm.

Of all the product-subject marketing practitioners I have come to be acquainted, I am hard pressed to identify (recall) any who does not hold-advocate this perspective in terms of branding and/or capturing the attention of an audience in seconds, not minutes. Often associated with such perspectives is the perceived requisite that targeted audience attention can only be accessed by incorporating – sewing fear, uncertainty, and/or doubt, i.e., FUD factors. Through my lens, however, the relevance and practicality of important (lucrative, competitive) concepts should not, and perhaps cannot, be fully appreciated, distinguished, or rationally-objectively assessed if-when it’s based largely on the brevity of a presentation, explanation, or by infusion of fear, uncertainty, or doubt.

To date, Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar’s research suggests that influencing humans to pay closer attention to something may not be all that simple. The reason he points out, lies variously in our attention being simultaneously pulled in many different directions. Rather amazingly he notes, it is actually-impressive if – when an adult can remain focused on a specific subject for an extended period-of-time. Presumably, the length of a person’s attention (span) correlates to one’s personal-professional interest in a particular, subject or topic. He also adds that one’s attention span is affected by what and which information our brains are trying to filter out, which I translate as important – relevant, but as-yet, unexplained element.

Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar says there are two general ways we direct our attention…
• First, there is overt attention, that is, people ‘move their eyes’
toward something in-order-to pay attention to it.
• Second, there is covert attention, which he describes as people
paying attention to something, without moving their eyes, presumably
our eyes are variously fixed in a particular-direction.

To explain this, Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar applies an analogy, which I have adapted somewhat, to people driving an automobile. He says, when driving, a driver’s overt attention, i.e., the direction of their eyes, are (generally) forward looking. That makes sense. A driver’s covert attention, on the other hand, is, or should be, scanning the periphery, presumably looking for and assessing potential risks, but not necessarily the specifics.

To be sure, there are numerous other inferences which can be drawn from Dr. Ordikhani-Seyedlar’s research. One which I have special interest is analogized from the 1960’s television show ‘Dragnet’ and the memorable and oft repeated statement uttered by Sgt. Joe Friday (principle actor) when questioning victims and/or witnesses to a crime, i.e., ‘just the facts mam’

In my judgment, ‘just the facts’, e.g., brief sound bites, visuals, or abbreviated key word synopsis, seldom translate to meaningful, effective, and comprehensive recognition or understanding and the all-important relevance to and influence on outcomes. So, Sgt. Friday’s ‘just the facts, mam’ is likely to overlook relevant – important underliers to motives and ultimately solving a crime, not unlike the long form blog posts published here which I believe serve readers.

Comments are most welcome at Michael D. Moberly

Pitching Intangible Deliverables of Security Products

June 2nd, 2017. Published under Design thinking., Intangible asset mapping., Intangible asset training for management teams.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly June 2, 2017 ‘A business intangible asset blog where attention span really matters’.

I would be hard pressed to count the number of occasions I have witnessed experienced security practitioners and/or entrepreneurs pitch genuinely innovative products designed to mitigate an emerging risk or make existing (security) procedures-practices more efficient and effective.

In most instances, product pitches, as well they should, are well rehearsed to appear extemporaneous. They are routinely filled with optimistic (anecdotal) jargon touting projections of inter-operability, scalability, benefits, and outcomes. Irrespective of the security product-service being pitched, seldom, if ever, does it mention the intangibles the product will also deliver, often simultaneous to its other, more tangible deliverables it was initially designed and intended to address.

A starting point for recognizing – appreciating the intangible side-deliverables of security products and services lies in the globally universal economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, competitive advantage, and sustainability today emerge directly from IA’s. (See Mr. Moberly’s list of intangible assets.) When this economic – social fact is knowledgeably and skillfully incorporated in ‘pitch messaging’, based on my experiences, it can, and frequently does, favorably influence prospective clients’ buy – don’t buy – deploy – don’t deploy decision by adding a heretofore, unacknowledged and useful deliverable.

Admittedly, for some business leaders, and their boards and management teams, intangibles, and discovering-exploiting the ‘intangible asset side of business, have yet to find a universal space in business lexicon. In other words, intangibles are not consistently applied-exploited in business communities, often being dismissed because the relevance of security product functionality is not recognized beyond the tangible! These experienced generalizations should not be construed as rationale for dismissing intangibles’ factual contributory role and value to any prospective clients’ business risk circumstance.

Prospective buyers-clients may seek clarity insofar as how – whether a particular-security product and/or service ‘fits’ their environment, or will serve their objectives. Professionals that routinely pitch security products-services should be keenly attuned to these, often subtle, expressions because they signal entrées to introduce and describe how-why-when the security product-service being pitched will deliver valuable – competitive intangibles.

So, as I see it, conventional methods for marketing-pitching security (asset protection, monitoring, surveillance, loss prevention, and risk mitigation) products, services, or systems, as if they are exclusively directed to and/or produce outcomes affecting (only, primarily) tangible-physical assets, dismisses the economic facts which clearly state otherwise. In product marketing-pitch circumstances in which intangible affects (by-products) are neither introduced nor explained as value-add benefits, prospective clients-buyers should have no expectation there will be measurable ROSI (return-on-security-investment) should they elect to proceed. It is also elevates the probability the ‘pitch’ will be unsuccessful with value, reputation, and brand left on a (negotiating) table.

On the other hand, marketing – pitching security products-services in a manner that convincingly describes how either will favorably affect the intangible – non-physical side of a business, it’s employees and users, will always resonate with prospective clients-buyers. Ironically, intangibles, even though they are seldom specifically incorporated in product-service pitches, their benefits are routinely expected, i.e., heightened sense of (personal) safety and productivity, etc.

Unfortunately, IA’s, and their contributory role and value to companies and businesses routinely go unrecognized insofar as application and operationalization. But, when intangibles are described as additional positive outcomes-deliverables of security products, prospective buyers’ interests will be renewed, even more so when the recognition translates to how to measure the (intangible) deliverables, i.e., value to user perceptions and desired outcomes.

For example, in the lodging – hospitality sector, users’ sense – perception of feeling safe, secure, and productive is unarguably paramount. When achieved, such perceptions are readily translatable to reputation, image, and goodwill, ala IA’s essential to property value, revenues, and sustainability. Too, when users of a lodging/hospitality environment sense their patronage, security, safety, and necessity for at will productivity are being respected and addressed to their satisfaction by the introduction of environment-circumstance specific security measures, they will be inclined to return that respect by being repeat users-guests. This is ‘economics – marketing 101’. Again, I am hard pressed to cite any prospective buyer of security products-services who does not expect these outcomes, whether acknowledged-articulated or not in their bid or RFP.

In my judgment, every professional involved in marketing – pitching security products and/or services are (fiduciarily) obliged to have operational level familiarity with the various IA’s their products-services produce and how each can influence – generate favorable orientations.
Achieving operational level familiarity with product-service produced IA’s, also serves as important starting points for framing promotional – marketing pitches.

Unabashedly, I am an advocate for incorporating correct, descriptive, and operative language in ‘pitches’ for security products and services that elevate decision-maker awareness about the array of IA’s that are already embedded and likely will be in play in every business decision circumstance.

Security product developers, producers, and vendors will be well served to adapt and incorporate relevant variants of ‘intangible deliverable’ language in their marketing-promotional materials and sales pitches. Another rationale for incorporating this (intangible) language in product marketing and pitches is that there are rising percentages of companies which are genuinely intangible asset intensive and dependent which means ‘operational familiarity’ is already present.

This makes it all-the-more important that the design, marketing, promotion, and ‘pitching’ of security products reflect the irreversible and paradigm shifting economic fact – business-consumer realities previously cited. This is particularly relevant as management teams, c-suites, and boards become more attuned to their company’s IA’s in fiduciary contexts and as fiduciary responsibilities.

Another framework for company – security management teams to engage their company’s IA’s, insofar as safeguards, preserving-sustaining contributory value and competitive advantages is to ensure it is aligned with enterprise risk management (best) practices, i.e.,

realizing the art and science of exploiting and safeguarding IA’s has
direct and far-reaching relevance to user, guest, consumer, buyer
experience and expectations.

Far too often, to my chagrin, security product-service presentations and/or pitches are very conventional insofar as assuming it is necessary dramatize how a particular product-service will mitigate, if not wholly prevent the materialization of FUD, i.e., sense fear, uncertainty, or doubt.
However, when security product (system, service) ‘pitchers’ replace the conventional with a strong and understandable narrative rooted in ‘forward looking’ focus of safeguarding each of the IA’s in play and objectively demonstrate favorable influence upon users, consumers, guests, and buyers alike, the probability of experiencing more consistent product-service sales success can measurably increase.

Intangibles, Messaging By Marketing Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt?

May 30th, 2017. Published under Design thinking., Enterprise risk management.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly May 30, 2017 ‘A business intangible asset blog where attention span really matters’.

FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) are intangibles, or, in some instances, liabilities, depending on the context (motive, intent) how each ‘factor’ is conveyed, i.e., dramatized or embellished to influence a particular (emotive) action, reaction from/by whomever-whatever is being targeted and assumed to be receptive to ‘FUD messaging’.

I believe it’s important to recognize that, when individuals’ rise to hold leadership – oversight positions which include platforms-venues which can be exploitatively used to practice ‘FUD messaging’, prudence and caution should be exercised.

On numerous occasions I have experienced marketing practitioners who, quite literally espouse the view that it is necessary to sew elements of FUD into every product – service marketing strategy. In these instances, it is assumed the presence of FUD are stimulants for human (buy, don’t buy) action. I sense persistent purveyors-proselytizers of FUD, as a marketing tactic-strategy, are variously inclined to sacrifice (minimize) facts, reason, and reality which may counter the ‘FUD factors’ which they are espousing. I want to believe prospective clients, and consumers in general, are not mere pawns to perceptions of exploitative FUD as the dominant driving stimuli to their decisions-actions.

One can routinely observe the principles of FUD at work, or carefully contrived variations, exploitatively and jointly woven into arrays of products – services characterized as mitigating and/or remediating a particular risk. In these circumstances, elements-factors of FUD are integrated (exploited) as the primary underlier to a marketing (buy in) strategy to appeal to targeted populations of prospective buyer’s – client’s circumstances, needs, aspirations, or frustrations with the status quo.

Some attribute – believe humans are receptive to characterizations of fear, uncertainty, and doubt because they…

• are grammatically and visually easy to convey and assume can-will

• can influence those receptive, to assume the product-service being marketed is a quick and simple (single) fix, e.g., if x is purchased and deployed, a specific (set, range of) risks, problems, and/or frustrations, at least how they are perceived, will be substantially reduced, if not go away altogether.

Corporate Security Organizing Principle’s, It’s All About Intangibles!

May 23rd, 2017. Published under 'Safeguarding Intangible Assets', Communicating Risk, Design thinking.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly May 23, 2017 A business intangible asset blog where attention span really matters!

Organizing principles, objectively grounded in fact, not aside anecdotes, give legitimacy to how particularly complicated and multi-faceted phenomena are articulated and effectively addressed. Organizing principles are extensions of (symbolize) the way we, as individuals or companies, conceptualize and/or have come to hold specific assumptions (correctly, incorrectly) about a particular phenomenon, event, circumstance, or human activity.

More specifically, how corporate security directors interpret – assess their role and contributory value to preventing-mitigating risk, i.e., adverse phenomena, may incorporate anecdotal bias and therefore be, at least in part, flawed insofar as being an effective security – asset safeguard – risk mitigation practice.

For many corporate directors of security, the act-process of conceptualization encompasses…
• who, what, when, where, why, how, and presence – absence of risk
specific circumstances.
• distinguishing the dynamics of a transaction, new initiative, R&D,
etc., insofar as intangible assets in play.
• probability of, vulnerability to, and criticality produced by certain
risks, when-if (should) they materialize.

Frequently too, corporate security organizing principles…
• represent (convey – symbolize) the strength and relevancy that
security attaches to those dynamics.
• frame-comprise security’s assumptions and ultimately influence how
security directors conceptualize a companies’ – businesses’
transactions, initiatives, and processes in terms of risk
materialization, commencement, and (adverse) effect on the intangible

Ad-hoc practices, on the other hand, are opposite to the concept of ‘operating principles’. That is, ad hoc, through my lens, is aligned – associated with the time-honored practice of ‘muddling through’ which experienced practitioners recognize may occasionally work.

If – when a business leader claims ad hoc practices function satisfactorily in terms of consistently achieving desired outcomes, I believe it’s important to acknowledge that extemporized practices taken to mitigate risk, may be rooted, at least in part, in the absence or irrelevance of circumstance (company) specific ‘organizing principles’ which after all, are largely intangible, i.e., comprised of intellectual, relationship, and structural capital.

The notion of ‘muddling through’ is often associated with political (science) arena. Muddling through is often over- simplified (in a military context) as the oft cited notion which suggests ‘after the first shot is fired, all prior planning, regardless of its strategic quality, goes to hell!’

I can think of no circumstance in which ‘muddling through’ should be recognized as a viable or legitimate strategic practice.
For these reasons, I encourage company security directors to exercise caution and prudence when organizations equate – elevate ‘ad hoc’ practices to the level of boastful satisfaction, that yes, may have been the product of individual – sector specific judgements and experiences, not to be mistaken though with ‘flying by the seat of one’s pants’. (This has been substantially adapted/modified by Michael D. Moberly from the fine work of Noah Gordon, The Atlantic, August 14, 2016)

Operationally speaking, if-when company security directors’ operating principles are not practically aligned – coincide with how c-suites conceptualize risk(s) associated with particular initiatives, circumstances, and/or transactions, it’s time to seek – create opportunities to elevate their functional familiarity with the intangible assets in play for each circumstance and their respective risks.

Risk Perceptions Influence How Risk Will Be Managed

July 3rd, 2015. Published under Design thinking., Due Diligence and Risk Assessments. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly     July 4, 2015    ‘A long form blog where attention span really matters’!

It should come as no surprise that the way one perceives risk in general, and business risk in particular, influence how, why, and when decisions about managing (business) risk are made.

To be sure, identifying, measuring, and assessing risk are collectively important, as is meaningfulness, specificity, and perhaps most importantly in my view, commonality of (risk) understanding that fosters consensus necessary for decision makers to actually undertake appropriate (risk prevention, mitigation, or management) initiatives.

Again, to no readers’ surprise, an important aspect of recognizing (business) risk today is that it (risk) evolves over time, particularly in terms of how it is characterized, its drivers, and its potential criticality. Countless experiences of my own however, suggest there remain a significant percentage of business decision makers who ‘react’ to risk. That is, their recognition of business risk tends to be either relatively dismissive or, doing (only) what’s necessary to try to favorably restructure the odds that risk will materialize, i.e., vulnerability, probability, and criticality but, absent characterization of risk in a continuum context.

In other words, numerous business decision makers I have met perceive risk through rather fatalistic lens, i.e., assumption and acceptance that adversity (business risk) is generally present or permanent fixtures, conveying little confidence in prevention, mitigation, or management initiatives. Preferably there is change on the horizon though, as more sophisticated risk or its unfortunate counterpart ‘threat’ calculations include more meaningful and relevant probabilities (vulnerabilities, criticalities) which in turn elevate business decision makers’ understanding and fiscal comfort to address risk accordingly.

I envision with greater recognition of the irreversible prevalence – dominance of intangible asset intensive and dependant businesses and markets and the more unique and stealthy risks associated with intangibles will influence business decision makers’ to re-think risk management initiatives and necessities.

Fate and divine providence…

For long periods of time however, events and activities perceived as carrying a probability for adverse consequences, i.e., risk, were often attributed to divine providence or to the supernatural.

During the early periods, prayer and sacrifice were the prevalent means for mitigating a broad range of risks, as was the acceptance of whatever fate that followed. Sacrifice particularly was presumed to appease the spirits (gods) that could impose – bring about adverse outcomes. If however, there was no supernatural spirit or ‘god’ intervention, a business owner could anticipate incurring some level of suffering to their business or person. Presumably, if the ‘gods’ did intervene, a business owner could expect a favorable outcome.

Consequently, it was deemed unnecessary to measure risk in a conventional context due to peoples’ strong beliefs that all events, activities, and outcomes were pre-destined, i.e., they were driven by super natural forces beyond one’s control. ( The above was heavily adapted by Mr. Moberly from Dr. Aswath Damodaran’s ‘Risk Management: A Corporate Governance Manual’, Chapter 4, Stern School of Business, NYU)

Difficult to differentiate risk…

Why do people or businesses engage in risk, and why are significant percentages of people – business decision makers relatively ineffective at assessing risks which they elect to engage?

For one, I suspect there are numerous readers of this blog who have experienced challenges insofar as articulating risk to c-suite colleagues in a manner they understand which allows them to differentiate the act of engaging in circumstances and/or transactions laden with risk relative to any presumed (projected) benefits of engaging in those risks.

Their rationale may, at least in part, be characterized as an anticipated emotional – psychological ‘buzz’ by engaging in behaviors and activities in which risks are obvious and known. For example, one may experience a ‘sense of affirmative relief’ after engaging in certain high risk behaviors, i.e., seeing one’s parachute canopy being fully deployed, or successfully negotiating highway curves while driving at a high rate of speed in a new automobile, or achieving – surpassing projected returns from a risky investment or transaction.

Most of us engage – face risk everyday…

Most of us recognize the reality that we engage – face risk each day, but we wish not to become paralyzed or unnecessarily encumbered, so we proceed. That said, large percentages of us remain inclined to couch – apply the term ‘risk’ in the context of activities – behaviors in which a risk or adversity can be the outcome, particularly when our elective decision to engage that risk is unresponsive to prevention, mitigation, or management strategies we may want to deploy, but materializes anyway.

Still, there are, to be sure, some business decision-makers who do not recognize there is generally some element of risk in most every action – inaction they take. Not infrequently, decision makers elect to dismiss – write off such realities because they assume a sufficient level of (risk) control and oversight can be sustained throughout the life – value cycle of the risk itself.

I am reminded though of the risk of becoming a victim to homicide in the U.S.  On the one hand should we consider only the numerical probability, i.e., x per 100,000 population, this may seem as acceptable odds particularly if we refrain from entering areas where the highest percentage of homicides are reported.  On the other hand, if we consider becoming a victim of homicide on the basis of whom our murderer is likely to be, i.e., spouse, relative, loved one, or close friend, such knowledge may influence us to re-frame our choices about engaging is certain risk producing behaviors with those individuals.

There are chronic risks and acute risks…

Examples of chronic risks include such things as consistent smoking of cigarettes or eating food with high levels of trans fats known to produce adverse health. As chronic risks, individuals so engaged, may not seem to give a great deal of consideration to the harm they are producing to their body. Such personal dismissiveness is frequently linked to their perception that continuing to engage in such risky food selection-consumption behaviors and the potential adverse affects those habits produce in their bodies and manifest as physical diseases may materialize over time – in the distant future, at which point the risk taker assumes they can be reversed by surgery or managed, mitigated, or controlled by ever sophisticated medical intervention. In the interim, acknowledged assumption – continuation of those risky behaviors are likely to continue.

Most are inclined to approach what they perceive as small risks, particularly risks which spread over a period of time before they begin to experience initial adverse reactions, i.e., the materialization a the flu attributed to not getting a flu vaccination.

Indeed, it would be interesting if we could construct a cigarette that would cause immediate adverse (physiological) reactions to smokers versus risks that manifest overtime and which many no doubt rationalize and assume they have some control over, i.e., can cease at will and reverse any previous adverse harm.

Examples of acute risks, on the other hand, include rather obvious high risk activities such as sport parachuting, scuba diving, running a marathon, or becoming a ‘wing suitor’ that jumps off high elevations. For each activity deemed acute risks, there is data that describes such risks in probabilities, e.g. one in one million probability if we engaged in one of these activities, we may experience serious injury or death. (BBC World Service, ‘The Why Factor’ hosted by Mike Williams program titled ‘why people take risks’, June, 23, 2015)

Risk media paradox…

We are in the midst of a risk – media paradox. For example, commercial air travel has become an increasingly safe mode of travel. However, as air travel safety increases, i.e., passenger air miles without crashes, there tends to be greater media coverage when a airplane catastrophe does occur. Thus, the more difficult it becomes to measure – assess human assessment of real risk

Understanding risk…

Ultimately, to effectively mitigate risk, one needs to genuinely understand the risk they or others are engaging. But risk understanding – assessment does not stop there. One also needs to understand (identify – assess) each component part to the risk, that is, the variables that can emerge once a risk activity or task is undertaken and should a risk materialize, will it alter the risks’ initial calculations, i.e., mitigation, prevention, management, etc.

Understanding risk also includes identifying and factoring any systemic risks present which could exacerbate the risk activity – behavior to the point it becomes multiples of the assessment of the initial vulnerabilities – probabilities of acceptable ranges of risk.

Receptivity for engaging in calculated risks…

Of course, there is a growing percentage of individuals who are receptive to engaging in what they perceive – assume to be ‘calculated risks’ an acceptable portion of which presumably can be controlled and mitigated through preparation, practice, and exceptional equipment.

When one does incur an adverse outcome as a result of engaging in a particular risky activity where reliance on the proper functioning of equipment, machines, or processes to achieve a successful (non-injurious) outcome, but there are equipment – process failures, i.e., parachute canopy not deploying, one’s concerns for their safety are likely to heighten substantially. No ‘rocket science’ here!

But, at what point do risk probabilities actually rise to the level of getting decision maker’s ‘go – no go’ attention? Generally, it’s very challenging for people to grasp risks when they are couched in say 4 chances per million contexts.

But, when risk-probability calculations lie in the 1 or 2 per one hundred thousand or lest, at this point, decision makers – risk takers often start to take more notice and may even back away from an activity or transaction that carries such success – failure calculations. Thus, for people engaging in acute categories of risk, there are brief periods of time when the risk taker – business decision maker retains the ‘go – no go’ option.

People tend to perceive – characterize risk on very emotional scales…

It’s probably far too much to assume people should assess each and every risk they engage. But, many argue that humans are inclined to approach most risk on very emotional levels, e.g., citizen willingness to engage in commercial flying following the U.S. terrorist attacks of 911 reduced significantly

So, as people act emotionally and perhaps quite rationally to such events when they sense too much risk to fly commercially, they revert to alternative modes of travel, i.e., driving their cars. Very respectfully, while the U.S. lost 3500+ citizens to the 911 terrorist attacks, the U.S. lost an additional 1500+ above what was forecasted to automobile accidents in the year following 911, but with no comparative, emotional or otherwise, adverse reaction. (The above was heavily adapted by Michael D. Moberly from BBC’s ‘The Why Factor’, Dr Mike Aitken, Lecturer, Experimental Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry. Psychology and Neuroscience. King’s College London. Professor David Spiegelhalter, Professor of the Understanding of Risk Statistical Laboratory, Centre for Mathematical Sciences, Cambridge University worked with BBC Lab UK to create the Big Risk Test, a mass participation survey into why some people are risk-takers and other are risk averse.)

Are Creative’s Conformist’s?

April 24th, 2015. Published under Analysis and commentary, Design thinking.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly    April 24, 2015   ‘A blog where attention span is important’!

Let’s digress.  For IP, the government or PTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) issues a certificate to the holder-owner that says ‘this is your patent, trademark, or copyright’.  Deservedly and proudly those certificates are frequently displayed in areas which the recipient deems sufficiently prominent as a testament to their creative diligence.

Perhaps most importantly however, the certificate itself positions the holder to utter an affirmative response to the proverbially incessant question ‘what’s your IP position’, implying IP is the preeminent requisite. In this admittedly narrow context, the tangible – physical features of the PTO certificate serves as a creative’s conforming starting point to receive a modicum of affirmation from the likes of television’s ‘shark tank’ panelists.

A notably remarkable aspect to the patent seeking – securing phenomena is that ‘creatives’, by their nature, are seldom considered to be conformists. In fact, a quite strong argument could be made that creatives’ seemingly innate penchant for non-conformity serves as very strong underliers to sustaining their personal diligence toward a specific (strategic) end.

But yet, for the creatives’ who are diligently engaged in an arena in which their work product falls into a potentially patentable field, routinely defer to presumed experienced practitioners of the ‘shark tank’ ilk who unabashedly premise – link their flirtatious counsel to whether one’s work product has received a patent. Today such unrequited deference warrants discussion, don’t you think?

Investing In Company Culture Is An Investment In Intangible Assets!

January 10th, 2014. Published under Company culture and reputation., Design thinking., Intangible asset focused company culture.. No Comments.

Michael D. Moberly    January 10, 2014    A blog where attention span really matters!

David Lapin projects the next big wave of growth in business will come from businesses whose leaders and management team members know how to convert this low-cost intangible asset, i.e., company culture, into high bottom-line value!

Investing in building and nurturing a company’s culture is the wisest investment any business leader or management team can make!  Financially, it is a low-cost investment with a high probability of economic – competitive advantage returns.

A company’s culture is somewhat akin to a garden, that is, a culture will develop whether or not business leaders or management teams put forth the time and effort to actually design it.

So, like the garden analogy above, if a company’s culture is ignored or neglected, that is, absent regular management, oversight, and nurturing, it’s very likely it will continue to grow regardless, but probably not as intended or preferred and in ways which are not particularly helpful to the company and its mission.  Adverse examples of this include inhibiting innovation or manifesting as employee under-performance. Company cultures that evolve in this manner are said to be akin to an ‘invisible force’ that can not only undermine company – employee productivity but sap leader’s energy.

Cultivating a positive company culture…

Let there be no question, developing, cultivating, and sustaining a desired company culture requires thought, wisdom, time, and some intellectual curiosity and emotional investment to understand what motivates employees to perform consistently well, even beyond expectations.   I am respectfully confident there is no specific, one-size-fits-all methodology or strategy to achieve this, but there is ample anecdotal evidence and examples that ‘good to great’ leaders do pay attention to it.

As David Lapin pointed out in his research, an authentic (company) culture is something competitors will find challenging if not impossible to imitate.  And yes readers, company culture is an intangible asset which, in most instances, can be commoditized and converted to real value. In fact, David Lapin projects the next big wave of growth in business will come from businesses whose leaders and management team members know how to convert this low-cost intangible asset, i.e., company culture, into high bottom-line value.

The knowledge-based global economy has allowed many leaders and managers to acquire a better understanding and appreciation for ‘home grown’ intangible assets like intellectual, structural, and relationship capital and their potential for conversion as specialized commodities into value, revenue, reputation, and goodwill, etc.

Many would agree with the view that Southwest Airlines (headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona) is a prime example of a leaders’ ability to not only create a very open and transparent company culture, but also turn the intangibles emanating from this culture into commodities with substantial monetary value.

Southwest Airlines has long been a dominant player, particularly upon airline deregulation occurred in the U.S. and now in the ever shrinking (merging) U.S.-based airline industry. For SWA’s their growth was in part due to its operating culture built upon genuine efficiencies, e.g., flying only one model of aircraft, creating a no-frill travel experience, no food service or pre-assigned seating.  Ultimately SWA stripped most of these ‘tangible commodities’ associated with conventional airline travel.  In return, SWA’s customers received something of relatively equal value in return, at least in the eyes of their growing number of customers that is, a good flying experience underwritten by a culture embedded with intangible assets, i.e., joke telling entertainment from flight attendants coupled with a felt sense of care that apparently compensated for any loss of those ‘tangible commodities’, i.e., complimentary food and beverage service for one.

There are three well known secrets that underlie SWA’s travel experience and its overall financial success since its inception, i.e., (1.) the company and its leader, ala Herb Kelleher built a culture that incorporated the properties of fun, entertainment, and felt care became embedded in the company’s core, (2.) the culture had to feel authentic and genuine by passengers, and (3.)  SWA had to be able to convert its now intangible asset based company culture into tangible benefits, including market share growth which, as we know, it did.

Numerous business schools today use SWA and its founder Herb Kelleher as a case study of commoditizing a company culture and its intangible competitive advantages balanced with tangible operational efficiencies.

While SWA was investing in and building its intangible asset based company culture, numerous competitors were cutting financial corners that indeed reduced costs that frequently eroded their own culture. Kelleher and SWA, on the other hand, only cut those (financial) corners which the y presumably believed would have little or no impact on the culture they were building and a passengers’ overall travel experience. In fact, SWA continued to invest more in its culture even during periods when the airline industry, as a whole, was struggling. Kelleher and SWA management teams obviously recognized safe and on-time flights for passengers were, in essence, common commodities that competitors also provided to their passengers.

So, for SWA to be competitive in a deregulated environment, Kelleher and his management team purposefully built a company culture that would offer ‘intangibles’ that competitors couldn’t or wouldn’t.

The intangibles SWA’s culture began offering became well publicized differentiators that were embedded in the company’s values rather than directly in its products, processes, or structures. Products, processes, and structure, it’s said, Kelleher recognized could and would be copied, but intangible assets such as an authentic company culture cannot be readily copied providing it is genuinely embedded in company and employee values.

Any company can build its own culture; one that is unique and innate to its people and strategic objectives. But when a company tries to copy another company’s culture they quickly find it difficult, if not impossible to replicate.  Numerous SWA competitors have tried, over the years, to imitate those SWA, but, most all fell short, generally it’s assumed, because they were unable, for whatever reason, to embed it in company – employee values.

Admittedly, I never had the opportunity or pleasure of making Mr. Kellehers’ acquaintance. I did however regularly fly on SWA in it earliest days, not for its’, at the time, emerging culture, rather because (a.) it was less expensive, and (b.) I didn’t mind its business model of securing gates at first generation airports, which in many instances were actually closer to city centers’.

Professionally speaking, I’m unclear whether SWA’s company culture, which in my recollection became obvious and noticeable, from a passenger perspective, beginning in the mid-1980’s and continuing through much of the 1990’s.  Was this culture a well thought through component of Kelleher’s ‘grand plan’, or was it like most other company cultures which appear and grow by accident or merely good luck?  Frankly, what makes me slightly skeptical is the now common relationship between intangible assets and company culture only slowly acquired traction in business operations following the publication of the Brookings Institute’s report (study) on intangibles in late 1990’s.

There is absolutely no question that Kelleher was the ‘dynamic’ driving SWA’s rapid growth and passenger satisfaction, which in part was due to the company culture that evolved.

This post was inspired by David Lapin’s book ‘Lead by Greatness, Character, Success’ published by Avoda Books, 2012.

Comments regarding my blog posts are encouraged and respected.  Should a reader elect to utilize all or a portion of my posts, full attribution is expected and appreciated. While visiting my blog readers are encouraged to browse other topics (posts) which may be relevant to their circumstance or business transaction.  I always welcome your inquiry at 314-440-3593 or

Managerial Arrogance Intangible Asset Negative…

December 17th, 2013. Published under Design thinking., Intangible asset training for management teams., Uncategorized. No Comments.

 Michael D. Moberly    December 17, 2013    ‘A blog where attention span matters’!

Arrogance is a ‘negative’ intangible asset’!  For many, that statement is certainly not ‘rocket science’, and obviously it conveys I am no fan of arrogance regardless where, how, or why it manifests in a company, organization, and among its leaders and management teams members. 

Arrogance however, is not a characteristic that resides solely with the higher echelons, that is, in some instances, it can be quite company culture pervasive and exists at most every employee level.

Through my not-so-inexperienced lens, I, probably like many readers of this blog, see managerial centered arrogance as being destructive and unconstructive to a company’s bottom line, that is, this negative intangible asset can manifest itself adversely in any company through expressions of its intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.

In my research for this post, I found an interesting piece, published in a December, 2010 issue of Business Week, titled “Twelve Signs Arrogance Is Running Your Company”.  I have taken the liberty of adapting and re-prioritizing the piece…

  • through my lens as an intangible asset strategist and risk specialists.
  • as being emblematic of what I, and numerous colleagues routinely experience when articulating the relevance, contributory value to company management teams of the business necessity to utilize and exploit intangible assets.

From the above cited article, the following represent ‘signs that arrogance is actually running a company’, that is, when

  1. innovative ideas, coming from outside the company, are deemed to hold little, if any value, and thus, are seldom given consideration, assuming the company holds a monopoly on all great ideas, thus the ‘not invented here’ attitude is a prominent and permanent fixture throughout the company’s conference and board rooms.
  2. it rationalizes mistakes and miscues instead of learning from them.
  3. it puts forth little or no effort to become a genuine partner to a merger, but instead, has designs of dominance, thereby losing the value of the culture and intellectual and structural capital (intangible assets) the other company possessed and would have otherwise delivered.
  4. management team members are observed patting themselves on their back when the company succeeds financially, when in fact, their success really derived from market forces, rather than the performance of its human, intellectual, structural, and relationship capital, each of which are intangible assets.
  5. it focuses almost exclusively on financial success with little regard for legacy and social impact, in other words, company responsibility and sustainability are given short shrift.
  6. management team members dictate far more than they listen.
  7. it hires and develops intelligent professionals, but then ‘turns a closed ear and blind eye’ to their input if it appears as nonconformist thinking, i.e., contrary to existing – past practice.
  8. it lobbies against sound regulatory reforms because of the assumption that if passed, will add complexity to the company’s currently operations.
  9. company leaders and management team members believe the company can’t fail.
  10. it underestimates, minimizes, or does not recognize today’s globally competitive, aggressive, and predatorial business transaction environment
  11. accessing top company leaders requires maneuvering through multiple layers of gate keepers, ‘chains of command’, and bureaucracy.
  12. it is observed that management teams’ focus is on amassing accouterments symbolic of success.

Arrogance, of the types noted above, by business leaders and management team members alike, can drain the bottom line, in part, because these individuals are frequently purported to be poor performers themselves, who endeavor to cover up their insecurities by disparaging subordinates, a by-product of which can produce organizational dysfunction and employee (intellectual, relationship, and structural capital) turnover.

To at least partially address this, what I am referring to here as an ‘intangible asset dilemma’, the industrial and organizational psychologist and professor Stanley Silverman developed The Workplace Arrogance Scale (WARS) which will be the subject of an upcoming post.

This blog post has been researched and written by me with the genuine intent it serve as a useful and respectful medium to elevate awareness and appreciation for intangible assets throughout the global business community.   My blog posts focus on a wide range of issues related to intangible assets and intellectual property.   Respectfully, each post is not intended to be quick bites of  unsubstantiated commentary or information piggy-backed to other sources.

Comments regarding my blog posts are encouraged and respected.  Should any reader elect to utilize all or a portion of my posts, attribution is expected. While visiting my blog readers are encouraged to browse other topics (posts) which may be relevant to their circumstance or business transaction.  I always welcome your inquiry at 314-440-3593 or