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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