It happens all the time. I’ll meet someone new and I’ll tell them that I’m interested (OK, some would say obsessed:) with intangible assets. Most people immediately nod their head and agree how important they are. But then, we quickly get into blind man territory.
I’m talking about the poem about the Blind Men and the Elephant adapted from the Indian parable (this depiction of the blind men was prepared by Collective Next at an OECD intangible conference last year).
In the poem, each blind man feels a different part of the elephant (legs, tail, ears, etc) and draws very different conclusions about what the whole elephant would look like.
That’s what happens to all of us when we discuss intangibles. There are lots of different aspects of intangibles. And many experts on some or all of these aspects. While we need all these experts and points of view to build successful smarter companies, we get into trouble if experts can’t also see the big picture.
The graphic we have been using on our site lately gives you a sense of this variety (and this just names a few of the areas of expertise necessary to build smarter companies):
What I am trying to say that if we see intangibles as just people or just intellectual property or just customers or just goodwill, then we are missing the point. IC can and must be understood as a dynamic system characterized by constant learning, adaptation and innovation. No one in business today can afford to think in silos.
This perspective also helps us make sense of how the Social Era is so dramatically different from the Industrial Era. When you are managing machines, you need a hierarchical, siloed organization that optimizes its own piece. When you are managing minds, you need a networked, interactive organization that optimizes the system.
Without this holistic view of an organization, we are all blind men working at cross purposes to each other. That’s the message of our new community at smarter-companies: Together we are smarter. Together we can unleash the enormous untapped potential hidden inside every organization. Join us on our mission to build smarter companies!