Talk May Be An (Intangible) Asset, Or, A Liability

To be sure, talk – speech can be an intangible asset or, a ‘semi-tangible’ liability.  Either way, talk – speech is seldom cheap. It frequently manifests, in some form of cost, despite notions otherwise.  

In my work as an intangible asset strategist…its not infrequent to hear the adage talk is cheap, generally uttered in condescending and/or disparaging tones and its often directed toward individuals, whom, for various reasons, have yet to exhibit they are on board with a new initiative or project which, in some way, is perceived to alter past practice or convention.

Uttering the phrase talk is cheap can be indicative of…an underlying attitude, not infrequently exhibited by individuals serving in leadership – visionary roles, as a manifestation of their frustration. Such frustration can be sparked by situations – circumstances to numerous to describe here, but, perhaps more often sparked by an absence of affirmative emotions, attitudes, and actions toward commencing a new initiative, particularly ones which are interpreted as departing from past practice and/or convention.

But, which leadership perceives has been respectfully and appropriately introduced…coupled with sufficient (pro – con) discussion, i.e., relevant modifications offered and accepted, followed by a presumptive consensus for commencing execution.

The manner and level of specificity…in which a new (business) initiatives are introduced, i.e., the way things will be preferred to be done in the future, especially, the development and expenditure of structural capital, which knowingly departs from past practice and/or convention, are obviously important components – criteria, which should (a.) never be underestimated, (b.) taken for granted, or otherwise assume all those affected will agree.

It is only since the mid-1990’s that larger percentages of business leadership globally, have come to realize…that information, gleaned from rational – deliberative discussions is now recognized as having distinguishable value, drivers of competitive advantage, and new sources of revenue.

That is, talk-discussion, i.e., on topic advance planning – preparation for the rollout…aof new initiatives and/or projects convey necessary and sometimes overlooked information, perspectives, and insights. In these contexts, intellectual and structural (intangible assets) have passed from (merely) being indistinguishable conveyances from which companies may acquire and manage other assets, to now being globally recognized as overwhelmingly dominant intangible assets.

The emergence of information (intellectual-structural capital) as valuable and variously standalone commodities…which, in intangible asset intensive and dependent businesses, do require some level of management, safeguard, and definition of ownership rights. (Branscombe, Anne Wells, Who Owns Information? From Privacy to Public Access)

Preferably, companies distinguished as intangible asset intensive and dependent…will recognize they are indeed producing intellectual capital (knowledge, knowhow) which have become important preludes and underliers to building-sustaining economic and competitive advantages, either of which can be leveraged and exploited. Unquestionably, the most innovative and successful companies are those which yield, manage, and effectively safeguard their intellectual, structural, and relationship capital as the intangible assets they indeed are!

But, Michael Dertouzos offers a different view about the value of information…and, by extension intangible assets, when he suggests that most people believe (assume) (a.) information can be easily replicated or replaced, therefore it has little, if any sustainable value, and (b.) information is passive and exists in abundance, therefore little value is attached other than to its owner or originator. (Dertouzos, Michael. What Will Be, How The New World of Information Will Change Our Lives)

The perspectives expressed by Dertouzos…often manifest in business management team rationale for applying only the most cursory (minimal) measures and/or resources to protect and preserve the value of their intangible assets.  Of course, I strongly disagree, because…

…it is an irreversible and globally universal economic fact and trend that, 80+% of most company’s value, sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for competitiveness, growth, profitability, and sustainability lie in – evolve directly from intangible (non-physical) assets and not tangible (physical) assets!

Another perspective found in especially in government sectors…but, also in private sector, is the assumption there are correlations insofar as how – when – why certain information is classified and/or its value, i.e., top secret, secret, confidential, proprietary, sensitive, etc. Presumably, the higher the classification level, the greater its value.  However, given today’s extraordinarily sophisticated, aggressive, and globally predatorial data mining, open source business intelligence and analytic capabilities, any presumed correlation between (information) classification and (information) value has largely diminished because the ‘targeting’ of innovative ideas, i.e., intellectual and structural capital especially, occurs long before most government or corporate classification schemes are executed and in place.

Michael D. Moberly May 22, 2018 St. Louis [email protected] ‘The Business Intangible Asset Blog’ where one’s attention span, intangible assets, and solutions converge!

Readers are invited to explore papers, blog posts, and books I have produced-published at



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