Competitive Advantage: Building and Managing Intellectual Property – Part 3

Like almost any strategic change, a commitment to intellectual capital demands an adjustment of focus. And since knowledge (unlike information) is by definition personal, you must focus on people. Stewart recommends a move from “paying people to investing in them” and looking for specific ways to invest.1 Don’t expect employees to be walking databases. Instead, tap their experiential knowledge; even if it seems irrelevant, it could prove useful at an unexpected juncture.

Knowledge-not information-rules the world

Scheffman and Thompson of Vanderbilt University recommend an “intellectual property audit” wherein managers and frontline employees brainstorm a list of the company’s intellectual resources.[i] Some hidden ones include branding, which capitalizes on customer knowledge; patents; and the tacit, wide-range knowledge of all employees.

When identifying and cataloging intellectual capital, consider three categories: commodity skills (nonspecific knowledge that is equally valuable to all businesses), leveraged skills (industry- but not company-specific knowledge), and proprietary skills (company-specific knowledge; trade secrets).

[i] David T. Scheffman and W. Robert Thompson, “Bright Ideas, Big Money, Part II: Intellectual Capital in Your Company,” Round Table Group homepage.

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