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Intangible assets demand extraordinary communication skills

Intangible assets provide potential competitive advantage, but as assets they clearly demand focused leadership and extraordinary communication skills. As a leader, your ability to deliver your strategy is dependent on customer relationships, your brand and reputation, and most importantly the relationship you have with your employees. And all of those depend on excellence in communication.

In May 2001, the UK government’s Department of Trade and Industry published a special report entitled Creating Value from Your Intangible Assets. It was, I believe, a report ahead of its time. It is still available on the internet and is still an invaluable resource for any leader.

It says: ‘In practice, there are few sources of competitive advantage that cannot be duplicated and matched by competitors. Ultimately, a company’s ability to flourish in this environment will depend on its ability to create value from intangibles.’

Future success depends on identifying, developing and making best use of such intangibles. What are they? The report identifies seven:

· skills and competencies;

· processes and systems;

· knowledge;

· culture and values;

· relationships;

· reputation and trust;

· leadership and communication (see Figure 2.2).

Figure 2.2: Intangible assets build competitive edge

The value of people is a theme running throughout the report, but it majors on the crucial importance of people having the right skills and competencies – crucial to the ability of any organization to meet and exceed customer needs and realize full potential. Attracting, developing and retaining the right mix of talented people, and then liberating them to perform, were all crucial to sustaining the organization.

How those people behave, and whether they are supported by the right processes and systems, is the next key intangible. How organizations set about using knowledge to design the right processes to deliver value to all of their relationships is often a massive competitive edge.

‘Most knowledge in today’s information rich world is not unique. Good ideas can be copied and ways of working replicated. Having knowledge is only half of the equation, having it within the organization where everyone who needs it has access to it is what creates value in the context of relationships.’

The speed with which new ways of working could be identified and replicated made culture and organizational values vital. A key component in any company’s ability to achieve its goals is its ability to inspire its people, create outstanding products and services and connect effectively with the aspirations and values of all of the important internal and external relationships.

‘Successful companies are those which recognise culture and values are valuable resources that help them to get things done in the right way at the right time with the right result.’

The report paid close attention to reputation and trust as special intangible assets. It noted that whatever sector of the economy, whatever organization you are in, the fact that you had the best product or service would count for little if your reputation with all of your stakeholders, and the trust they had in you, was low.

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