We all know that innovation is hard to measure. Assessing innovation capabilities can be particularly hard as they are made up of so many intangibles. We need to frame these capabilities in much better ways, as they mostly remain shrouded in mysteries to render it difficult to know what each business actually needs to invest in, to achieve their goals. Knowing what and where they need to improve their innovation capabilities becomes a critical need to know point for gaining unique competitive advantages.
So much of innovation activity is left to chance and it leaves all involved as vulnerable, open to being beaten to the next ‘big’ innovation breakthrough. I would strongly argue that organizations should build their innovation capabilities in systematic ways, yet few do, let alone understand what this truly means. We simply need too.
Understanding the ‘beating heart’ of organizations
One of the biggest gaps is trying to put a finger on the pulse of what makes up innovation. So much of the capabilities are intangible, locked up in those intellectual capitals of the organizations. Those that center on people, their networks and relationships, the make-up of the structures that support their activities or restrict them, the ability of applying good or bad practices, the every day routines of each of the individuals that work within the organization.
These touch the very nerve center of organizations; you are striking at the very core of organizations, those intellectual combinations they make up so much that determines organizational performance. They expose or they enhance organization performance.
To some degree management wants to be able to measure these intangibles but it also can provide some ‘chilling and damning’ evidence of inefficiencies and managements lack of ability to really improve internal performance, let alone market performance. It is usually the external factor, of poor market performance, kicking in that galvanize the need for internal change. This then becomes reactionary, often too late and market advantages can quickly dissolve.
Knowledge-based capital needs fully capturing.
The critical need today is to capture the rise in the importance of all the knowledge-based capital aspects. Business organizations are recognizing knowledge-based capital.
Knowledge-based capital is critical. As shown above it is becoming more important than the product. Organizations are recognizing the value of knowledge.
Were you aware that the value of many of the world’s most successful companies resides almost entirely in their KBC. In 2011, for example, physical assets accounted for only about 13% of the value of Nestlé, the world’s largest food company. (source OECD)
What is knowledge-based capital?
OECD describes it as such: Knowledge-based capital comprises a variety of assets. These assets create future benefits for firms but, unlike machines, equipment, vehicles and structures, they are not physical. This non-tangible form of capital is, increasingly, the largest form of business investment and a key contributor to growth in advanced economies.
One widely accepted classification groups KBC into three types: computerised information (software and databases); innovative property (patents, copyrights, designs, trademarks); and economic competencies (including brand equity, firm-specific human capital, networks of people and institutions, and organisational know-how that increases enterprise efficiency) (Corrado, Hulten and Sichel, 2005).
Knowledge-intensive is the new wealth creator
As products are becoming more knowledge-intensive, educations have produced knowledge aware and savvy employees. We are pushing outside our one organization into growing networks to collaborate where this is this consistent acceleration of new information and use of communication technologies all intensifying the need to manage knowledge. Knowledge is today’s valuable commodity, yet we poorly measure it.
Equally, knowledge-based capital is essential to investment decisions and where the potential for growth can lie. The use of data analytics, external networks, outsourced R&D and our changing management practices are reinforcing that organization change is needed, yet we are not sure on where to invest or how to structure these. We are poking around a little bit too much. More like searching for the needle in the haystack, rather than controlled experimentation and exploration.
Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, suggested within his speech at a conference on the New Sources of Growth project in 2012 : “As someone who spends a lot of time monitoring the economy, let me put in a plug for more work on finding better ways to measure innovation, R&D activity, and intangible capital. We will be more likely to promote innovative activity if we are able to measure it more effectively and document its role in economic growth”
Are we advancing our understanding of knowledge-based capital?
The good news today, is we are seeing some advances on capturing and measuring knowledge-based capital. Recently the OECD produced one of its usual 300 page plus reports – so few read them – on “Supporting Investment in Knowledge Capital, Growth and Innovation”
This report summarizes OECD’s attempt to provide the evidence of the economic value of knowledge-based capital and to help meet the policy challenges it raises. These are across the areas of innovation, taxation, entrepreneurship, competition, corporate reporting and intellectual property. Something that is not easy to summarize at all, as all have simmered away under different ‘doctrines’ and ‘churches’ of denomination, pursuit and faiths.
Learning to communicate our understanding of our real internal value
We do need to find better ways to unite and describe the value creation that knowledge-based capital brings. In particular our intellectual and organization capital and the importance this has to have sustaining investment put into it for future wealth creation
Part two discusses the suggested way forward, through narrative reporting. I believe this should also be through the broader narrative of the business model as the medium for this as we slowly open up in our (long await) acceptance about the importance of our intangibles and the contributions made through these knowledge-based contributions.
Part two- a way forward. Visualizing the innovating future through narrative reporting concludes.