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How Intangible Capital Saves Bookshops


Some of the most interesting intangible capital stories these days come from the intersection between businesses that seem to be heavily tangible but are actually succeeding based on their intangibles.  A recent post by Workbar talked about the intangibles in the co-working industry. And this recent article by the Boston Globe shared the fascinating story of the revival of the independent bookshop. After multiple threats from Amazon to megastores to e-readers, the industry seemed doomed: 

  • But then the saga of the independent bookstore underwent a major plot twist: The customers came back. Between 2009 and 2015, independent booksellers across America grew by an astounding 35 percent, from 1,651 stores to 2,227, ABA figures show. And the upsurge shows no sign of slowing.

The article quotes a recent report by Ryan Raffaelli, an assistant professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School. He identified three key strategies that helped drive the change (and the intangible capitals behind them):

  1. Community - strong focus on local connections (relationship capital)
  2. Curation - emphasis on the value add of the staff choices and recommendations (human capital)
  3. Convening - building the capacity to promote and run events (as many as 500 per year) to bring together like-minded customers (structural capital)

The first two elements were always there. But they have been elevated and emphasized in a whole new way in this approach. There are lessons here for many industries. 

Want to figure out how to apply this thinking to your business? Download our free value creation worksheet.

Photo credit: Dolf Bakker at Free Images


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