Intangible Capital – Analysis versus Synthesis

Jay Deragon had a great post last week on analysis versus synthesis. His points are really well taken and directly applicable to the challenges of intangible capital management.


Intangible capital includes a broad range of asset that all have as their basis, in one way or another, knowledge, learning and connection--things like people, data, systems, processes, networks, relationships, intellectual property, culture, business models are all part of intangible capital.


If you ask a manager if they are managing their intangible assets and show them a list, the answer is “of course I’m managing them.”  But the truth is that in most cases, intangibles are being managed as individual items or systems according to traditional org charts (sales, marketing, human resources, IT, operations, etc).


The right question is whether intangible capital is being managed as a system. This holistic, systemic view of intangibles fits the definition that Jay cited of synthesis:


Synthesis (from the ancient Greek) is used in many fields, usually to mean a process which combines two or more pre-existing elements and results in something new.


This is the thinking that we need in business today. We can’t view separate parts of an organization in isolation. We need to be able to see the big picture and understand how this system works.


A similar sentiment was outlined in a great article about the Secrets of the Flux Leader in Fast Company late last year that quoted John Landgraf from FX Networks:


"When I say we need a smarter organization, I mean we need multiple, different kinds of brains, of intelligence, on topics, rather than just specialists," Landgraf says.


*For a world of constant change, a company needs widespread mental plasticity. "In the old-style economy, where objects tend to remain in place, you could segment these types of intelligence. So you put your crazy intuitive people in marketing and your analytic people in engineering," he explains. "But as we've moved to an economy in which the adoption of new ideas happens so fast, you need all kinds of intelligence in all parts of a business. You can't have people siloed in their particular areas of strength. You have to value all styles, because you will never know which type will solve a problem."


This systemic view is harder today than in the past because most of the action is going on inside computer systems and peoples’ heads. You can’t walk through a factory and see exactly what’s going on.


So we need new management models. To be successful, an organization also needs to create a shared vision at a system level of how knowledge and connection are created and leveraged by your organization.


Use your intangible thinking to take the knowledge that already exists in your organization’s network and create something completely altogether new and very, very powerful.


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