A Nobel Prize in Physics, the discovery of a vaccine, a new invention that makes the lives of many millions easier - to most of us, what all of these seemingly disparate developments have in common is that they are common indicators of a valuable intellectual asset.
While such assets often benefit broad swathes of society, in an organisational setting what primarily matters is its relevance to one's objectives. In addition to relevance, there are other important factors that should be taken into consideration to determine the value of intellectual assets. Here are four key components for creating more valuable market intelligence and knowledge:
The first step in determining the value of an intellectual asset is to understand the organisation's goals. These goals are tied not only to the organisation as a whole, but also to its personnel. 'Who needs what?' is a critical question that must be asked by every market intelligence and knowledge management professional. The market intelligence or knowledge necessary for a CEO to successfully carry out his work will often be entirely different to that needed by a front-office employee. Every individual will have his/her own needs that must be fully understood when evaluating an organisation's intellectual requirements.
Of course this assumes that each individual fully understands his/her own requirements, but it's entirely possible that this may not be the case. As such, collaborative measures should be used to collectively understand each person's needs and avoid knowledge blindspots. At the very least, market intelligence producers and knowledge managers must meet face to face with their users and acquire a full and comprehensive understanding of their needs.
Just as the safety of a building can be determined by the quality of materials and engineering used in its construction, the reliability of an intellectual asset is also determined by the quality of sources used and its interpretation.
Can you tell the difference between a bad source and a reliable source? Is the data biased in any way? What about your own biases? Do you have an analytical methodology in place that minimises the impact of bias? If your answer is no, then you leave a strong chance of coming to misleading conclusions. In turn, this will influence the decisions of your users and such decisions based on bad analyses will undermine an organisation's ability to succeed.
To judge the value of an intellectual asset, we assume that it can be understood by its intended users. Here a failure by the user to understand can be both the result of a lack of expertise by the user as well as inadequate communication by the producer.
No matter how valuable a piece of knowledge is, if its intended user is unable to understand it for whatever reason, then this effectively renders it useless. Therefore, in the words of Albert Einstein, the producers of intellectual assets should always ensure that their content is made "as simple as possible, but not simpler". Users should also ensure that they communicate any problems that they have with understanding the content.
In addition, separate from content quality, the way information is designed and presented has a great deal of impact on how well it can be understood. Being met by a wall of text is always going to make for unpleasant reading that also slows down the user. By understanding design principles and adding graphical features and colours, users may be able to consume the information a lot more quickly, better understand it and even remember it a lot better.
Intellectual assets must be designed to provide the right information to the right person at the right time. In fast-developing industries, timing becomes an even more critical component in determining an intellectual asset's value. Some job roles may require more time-sensitive information, therefore it's imperative that you understand the differences between fast moving intellectual assets and less time-sensitive long term assets. Both are critical to organisational success, and require an awareness of the user's needs.
As part of the consultative process with users, producers and managers of intellectual assets must determine precisely which users require time sensitive information and their relevant timelines. This will ensure that knowledge and market intelligence is provided at the peak of its value and prior to its 'expiry date'.
Once we have an understanding of how to create more valuable intellectual assets, we can then proceed to better manage it by implementing systems to measure its value. In my next posts I will be looking at how this can be done together with the benefits and pitfalls of these approaches.
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Photo: Mark J P
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