Michael D. Moberly December 19, 2013 ‘A blog where attention span matters’!
Company culture is a powerful and lucrative intangible asset, but it requires consistent due diligence, i.e., stewardship, oversight, and management, that is, if a company’s leadership wish it to remain intact.
Throughout the past 15+ years, particularly following the 2001 Brookings Institution publication of…
- ‘Intangibles: Management, Measurement, and Reporting’ authored by Baruch Lev, and
- ‘Unseen Wealth’ authored by Margaret Blair and Steven Wallman.
the economic fact that 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for growth, sustainability, and profitability globally, either lie in or evolve directly from intangible assets is being minimally acknowledged as a business reality, but unfortunately, seldom executed!
Of course, there have been equally thought provoking books, articles, studies, and position papers written by subject matter experts such as Dr. Nir Kossovsky and ‘reputation risk’, Mary Adams and ‘intellectual capital’, and Jonathan Salem Baskin and ‘brand’ and many others, including my own that is scheduled to be published in Spring, 2014 on the ‘management and safeguarding of intangible assets’.
A small, but never-the-less integral component to each of these books, plus numerous other works by colleagues in the intangible asset arena, addresses the role and value of the ‘company culture’ as a powerful, lucrative, and brand building intangible asset.
For some management teams, c-suites, and boards, ‘company culture’ are elusive and imprecise which are well suited (applied) in San Jose, California’s ‘silicon valley’ technology firms which carefully manage and hype their respective work environments’ as constituting somewhat of a ‘spiritual’ environment, i.e., culture, purposefully designed and intended to be a consistent and positive driver for collaboration, creativity, and productivity.
The relevance of a positive company culture in terms of its collective ‘contributory value’ to that collaboration, creativity, and productivity, too many, is very clear and rational.
The passing of Steve Jobs (Apples’ founder) has rejuvenated interest among academics and management analysts alike to articulate a ‘before and after’ (longitudinal) picture of Apple’s culture and its potential for replication through a feature film and various documentaries that endeavor to capture his self-characterized maniacal interest in sustaining Apple’s culture of annual technological breakthroughs and product marketing instincts.
In other words, I suspect there will be numerous, presumably well intentioned initiatives to gauge the permanency, relevance, and value of a ‘company culture’ comparable to that which was obviously embedded throughout Apple. Another film, ‘J Edgar’ depicts the evolution of an institution’s culture which lasted for 50+ years is, which of course portrays the deeply held beliefs and style of oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice’ Federal Bureau of Investigation’ long time Director, J. Edgar Hoover.
Given these two, perhaps, extreme examples, please don’t overlook the positive reality that a finely tuned and managed ‘culture’ can be a powerful revenue producing and much respected intangible asset attribute to a company. On the other hand, a company culture that emits arrogance, which admittedly there may be a relatively fine line between arrogance and confidence, can stifle receptivity to incorporating new practices and inhibit much needed – essential introspection by company management teams. Irrespective of Steve Jobs’ and J. Edgar Hoover’s respective maniacal managerial styles, somehow, room remained for the former at least, for linking individual and collective creativity as an expectation of performance.
In a January, 2012 article titled “Apple Without a Core,” (Report on Business) author Timothy Taylor asked how valuable ‘taste’ is, as an asset, which readers know was a consistent refrain of Steve Jobs. Consistently projecting ‘taste’ in a product marketing and consumer context, is again, in my view, a powerful and lucrative intangible asset which many business leaders aspire and/or purport to possess, but again can be stifled or suppressed altogether by managerial arrogance or over-confidence!
To support Jobs’ perspective of ‘taste’ as constituting a valuable (intangible) asset, Taylor identifies three attributes of Apple’s brand, i.e., Jobs’
- own sense of taste.
- personal energy, and
- himself, as constituting a unifying symbol to and for the company.
Having visited the Apple campus on several occasions, I found it evident, as I’m confident others did as well, ‘Jobs’ taste, energy, and unifying symbol, were truly embedded (intangible) features which much importance was attached. As to Jobs’ sense of taste, a quote attributed to him is…
“the only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. People like symbols. So I’m the symbol for certain things.”
Without Jobs, Taylor suggests, Apple’s brand (and, presumably its culture) would be vulnerable to competitors. We already see some evidence of this occurring now, whether it can be correctly attributed to the absence of Steve Jobs, various 2013 litigation outcomes, or some combination will, I’m confident, be subject to much debate for years to come. (The above piece was inspired by articles respectively titled ‘Defining the Value of Culture Within An Organization’ authored by Bill Bliss and ‘Apple Without A Core’, authored by Timothy Taylor.)
However, in many respects, what occurs at Apple, with respect to the sustainability (legacy) of the company culture largely attributed to Steve Jobs, reflects a common business problem. That is, c-suites, boards, and management team members frequently underestimate the significance of employee originated assets, i.e., intellectual, structural, and relationship capital as constituting underliers to a company’s culture.
Again, with respect to Apple, and Steve Jobs in particular, there is no shortage of articles, books, and papers that put forth various descriptions of the ‘apple experience’. But, few, if any have addressed Apple, post-Steve Jobs, in an ‘intellectual, structural, and relationship capital’ due diligence context. That readers, is what’s missing, but absolutely must be done!
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.
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