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A new step in the development of our community

For many years I have had a great interest (some would say obsession!) about the role of intangible capital in the growth and competitiveness of companies. With the help of my colleagues, our clients and our broad network, we worked to develop  tools and methodologies to support this thinking. And we created this web community to share our learnings because we felt strongly that one person or one company could never have all the answers. Until now, the community was known as the IC Knowledge Center. Today, I am announcing a new future for our community with the re-launching of the site as smarter-companies

This new site will be designed around our existing community. To date, we have attracted an international audience. 60% of you are consultants. 20% are academics (many of whom also consult). The remainder includes attorneys, companies, non-profits, governments and solutions providers. Your areas of specialization include intellectual/intangible capital, knowledge management, human capital, innovation, finance, information technology, marketing, performance management and intellectual property.



In short, our community is like a map of the intangible capital of the organizations we serve. Yet the potential of our community’s IC, like that of many organizations, has not been fully developed. That’s why we’ve made the decision to re-name the community and create a business model around it.

Going forward, at smarter-companies, we will be offering the products and methodologies that we’ve developed over the last seven years (some as open source and some as paid products) under the ICounts name. But we hope that our products will be surrounded by products from other consultants and service providers. Our goal is for the smarter-companies site to become a place of continuous learning about how to create smarter companies—and also a marketplace of solutions that help consultants and companies apply that learning.

As we enter 2013, allow me to share my belief in a bright future. The ultimate message of intangible capital is that we share collective knowledge, much of it untapped, that has the potential to conquer the challenges facing the world and create profitable, sustainable businesses fueled by the power of people, communities and social technologies.

I hope you will join us on this journey,  Mary Adams


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I talk a lot about the knowledge era. I specialize in the measurement, management and monetization of knowledge intangibles. I wrote a book on intangible capital. So what I am about to say shouldn’t be that big a surprise to me but it kind of is….

Technology is not as important as it used to be.

If you think about it, technology and top-down industrial models still dominate our thinking. When we industrialized our economy, we industrialized everything from agriculture to education to government to manufacturing.

I have written before about how the shift from the industrial era is coming at a time when there are new constraints on our global economy. Externalities like energy use/mis-use, pollution, health are all represent (at the same time)nbsp; problems, opportunities and design constraints. The failure of the industrial model to address these new constraints and the potential of new models to address them is fueling the shift to the knowledge economy.

Of course, the shift has been driven by the rise of a new kind of technology: information technology and brain power.

In today’s Boston Globe, there is a great opinion piece that exemplifies what is going on.

World hunger is best treated with local growers and crops was written on the occasion of UN World Food Day on Sunday. It explains that the conversations about solutions to world hunger often go immediately to “ways to increase the food supply with purchased technologies”nbsp; that use chemicals and carbon-intensive solutions to food production.

This won’t be sustainable to improve the yields of the “half-billion small-farm families that still grow 70% of the world’s food.”

The alternative suggested is agro-ecological approaches that use local seeds, build healthy soil and conserve water. Finding the right approaches in individual communities solves the challenges of both hunger and greenhouse emissions (the article quotes GRAIN magazine’s estimate the agro-ecological approaches could offset as much as a third of global greenhouse gas emissions within 50 years).

Lest you think that this is only about the third world, read How the U.S. Curbs Farm Work. It's basically the same message.  That U.S. agricultural policies promote "industrialized and chemical intensive" production. And that

Ecologically based food systems should become the United State' overarching goal. Such a shift would invariably employ larger numbers of people while providing safer, more appealing jobs. It would also create safer, tastier, more nutritious food...

As with many knowledge-era solutions, these conversations are about bottom-up empowerment, not top-down control. It’s a way of solving problems using brainpower, training and teaching rather than large-scale production using expensive technologies and inputs brought in from outside a community. It’s just another set of examples of how our basic assumptions about the answers to our problems must be questioned.

This kind of thinking is very disruptive to existing economic and business models. Many businesses will fail in the face of this thinking. But many more will prosper. Which one will you be?

And when will you start treating knowledge intangibles as the key infrastructure of your own business?

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Street Smarts: Intangible Capital In Action

I stole this title from an article I read recently in Time. The article Street Smarts is about infrastructure. And why infrastructure changes need to be planned in a new way.

Just as we industrialized every corner of our economy in the industrial era, so too must we knowledgeize every corner in the knowledge era. Infrastructure is no exception.

What does that mean? It means that we have to re-think every challenge and find the most efficient solution. And remember that we have many new tools that we didn’t have before. Here are just a few of the examples cited in the Time article:

  • Don’t build billion-dollar lock expansions in the Mississippi River when better scheduling and peak-hour pricing can solve most of the problem
  • Don’t add new highways when telecommuting, carpools and mass transit can take cars off the road
  • Don’t rebuild the Philadelphia sewer system when you can keep storm water out of the sewers through permeable roads, green roofs and rain gardens
  • Don’t create an enormous national grid when you can add smart components to the existing grid
  • Don’t rebuild the 4,000 structurally-deficient dams in the U.S. when you can remove them and create recreational habitats that fuel the economy.
  • Here’s one that Time didn’t mention from here in Boston: Don’t disrupt the local economy for four years when you can rebuild the Fast14 bridges on eight summer weekends…

What’s different about these examples? Nothing and everything. The market usually opts for the smart solution. But many of our knee-jerk assumptions about solutions automatically default to the large-scale, top-down solutions so common in the industrial era.

Every one of the solutions above reflect new conditions, new thinking and new tools. They are all great illustrations of knowledgeization. And why we need to start paying attention to knowledge intangibles as the critical assets of this century.

Do you think the contractors for the Fast 14 were chosen because they have the right equipment? No, it’s because they have the right smarts.

The point we all keep making in the IC community is that we need the management tools and techniques to support the development of the right smarts.


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