I think it's fair to say that we live in an economy that is largely made up of intangibles.
A world of brands; relationships; causes; ideas; business models.
That said, most of the way we do our accounting--either actual accounting or informal, mental accounting--still looks at tangible assets as the coin of the realm.
In an economy of intangibles, what creates real value?
These aren't the only four attributes; but if the aim of the exercise is to "box the compass" of intangible value creation, here are the four key attributes:
1. Trust. Every serious study of the history of capitalism starts with this: capitalism only works because of trust. The trust that if I invest my money in your voyage to the New World, you will actually take that journey and, to the utmost of your ability, come back with a boatload of silk, spices, tobacco and other merchandise. Trust is the glue of capitalism. Which makes Wall Street's recent sins all the more egregious.
2. Creativity. The team with the best people wins--and in an economy of ideas, creativity is the mother's milk of innovation and value creation. Granted, you have to implement: real artists ship. But if you want to build an organization that creates value, get more than your fair share of creative thinkers, dreamers, and imagineers.
3. Courage. We live in dangerous times. If you dare to be different, to play the game by different rules, to follow your own creative instincts to where ever they are destined to lead you, you gotta have heart. The world will try to tell you you're wrong, your idea won't work, you're wasting your time. Courage!
4. Teamwork. All work is teamwork. If you want to create intangible value--and then keep on doing it--create a culture and a working environment where trustworthy, creative, courageous people bring their best ideas and best effort to work every day, and where they work well together.
In an economy of intangibles, those four attributes box the compass of intangible value creation.
All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb