Company Culture For Intangible Assets…

Michael D. Moberly    April 22, 2009


It Makes Good Business Sense…!

Why does it make good business sense for companies to devote time to developing a ‘company culture’ that recognizes, produces, and sustains control, use, ownership, and value of its intangible assets?  Perhaps the biggest reason is because, even in the midst of this recession, it remains a business reality – economic fact, that 65+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, and sustainability lie in – are directly linked to intangible assets!


Why then, do so many decision makers continue to express unwillingness to (a.) learn more about intangible assets, and (b.) put forth the effort to build an internal (company) culture that effectively and efficiently exploits its intangible assets?  Typically, the reasons decision makers are reluctant to engage their intangible assets are that they (the intangible assets) (a.) lack physicality, (b.)  don’t appear on company balance sheets, (c.) tend to fall outside conventional ‘mba’ precepts for business decision making, and (d.)require ‘outside-the-box’ thinking to identify, unravel, position, leverage, monetize, and extract value.


What’s a good starting point…?

A good starting point is to examine Dr. Edgar Schein’s work (on company cultures) in which he points out that a company culture begins when c-suites, business units, and employees collectively recognize there is a ‘learning outcome’ when they confront, engage, and solve (company) problems, i.e., the efficiencies, competitive advantages, and new knowledge that follows from solving problems and the value incurred to a company from those efficiencies, competitive advantages, and new knowledge.  These intangibles should be identified, unraveled, assessed,  positioned, leveraged, and exploited to maximize and extract value rather than going unrecognized, dismissed, or perhaps worse, unmeasured and unvalued!


Another good starting point is recognizing that the ’knowledge economy’ is a reality, not merely a cliché relevant/applicable only to Fortune 500 and intellectual property (IP) intensive firms. 


So, what’s the ultimate objective…?

The ultimate objective for decision makers’ putting forth the effort to build an enduring company culture, that actually recognizes, produces, and sustains its intangible assets, is to achieve a shared and intertwined set of (a.) characteristics, (b.) beliefs, (c.) assumptions, and (d.) behaviors about intangibles that will underlie and guide company’s and their business units in their strategic business planning.

So how will an intangible asset oriented company culture deliver returns…?

The answer is, the point in which decision makers observe:

employees expressing – manifesting the newly acquired ‘culture’ as being valid and worthy enough to be taught to new employees as representing the correct (best, most effective, efficient) way to (a.) perceive, (b.) think, and (c.) feel in relation to addressing new, as well as routine problems and challenges (both internal and external) that a company and/or its business units face.

So, why is an intangible asset focused ‘company culture’ important today, right now…?

It’s because it (an intangible asset oriented company culture) is a good and effective vehicle to elevate company-wide awareness for the relevance and importance of the real sources (influencers) of company value!  An intangible asset focused company can also serve as a catalyst for internalizing strategies and incentives to begin monetizing the dominant sources of company value, revenue, and sustainability away from tangible (physical) assets to intangible assets!

Designing and executing a ‘company culture that’s focused on intangible assets requires decision makers to initially determine – assess:

1.      What attitudes and beliefs need to be established that will effectively lend themselves to producing, recognizing, and sustaining control, use, ownership, and value of a company’s intangible assets?

2.      How those attitudes and beliefs will be translated-communicated to and by employees, business units, c-suites, and boards to ultimately manifest themselves as consistent best practices (training, policies, procedures, etc.) relative to the stewardship, oversight, and management of the company’s intangible assets?

Bunn and Water revive the adage that a good corporate culture is comprised of (a.) 20% equipment, and (b.) 80% people.  That said, it’s important to recognize that the best practices, policies, procedures, regulations, and standards, cannot compensate for apathy or conceptual dismissiveness about intangibles!

And, as repeatedly conveyed by Dr. Ken Jarboe, there are several factors considered by financial markets and presumably (would be) buyers and sellers of intangibles with respect to determining the ‘suitability’ of an intangible asset, one of which is whether it is transferable?  In other words, is a company’s culture (and its intangible assets) so specific to that company, industry, and/or geographic locale, that it can’t be replicated or sustained through a market change or significant economic downturn, i.e., recession?


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