Mary Adams interview
Mary Adams is founder and Chief Catalyst of Smarter-Companies. Her history and experience in IT helped her a lot to become specialist in her area – intangible capital. She is also an author of the book “Intangible Capital: Putting Knowledge to Work in the 21st Century Organization”.
How did your business start look like? What would be different if you decided to start something in business today?
Smarter-Companies was the natural next step for our work in the field of intangible capital. We had been developing methodologies and tools for close to a decade with our own clients inside our consulting firm. We also have had an on-line community of people interested in the field going back close to five years.
In January, 2013 we launched Smarter-Companies to expand our network and offer our tools to other consultants. The people we train are called ICountants. Our ideas are spreading faster by using a networked business model than they could ever do if we tried to build a solitary firm. We already have three ICountants in Croatia at Sense Consulting – they are real leaders in next-stage management thinking.
Can you introduce us to topics you will be dealing with as a speaker on the WinDays14 conference?
The talk is called IT + IC = Innovation. The idea is that we live at this exciting moment as we transition away from the industrial era to a new era where knowledge and digital assets are driving changes in what we do and how we do it. There are enormous opportunities for innovation. These opportunities are available to just about everyone because IT is ubiquitous and powerful. But IT alone doesn’t drive innovation. To do that, you have to build an ecosystem around the IT. We call this ecosystem “intangible capital”. The two combined together creates the potential for innovation. How should an individual or a company get started? In my talk, I’m going to talk about a bunch of examples of how the right combination of IT and IC drive exciting innovations.
What is intangible capital and how do intangibles help organizations and companies fulfill their potential?
IC is basically organizational knowledge. We break it down into four categories because it knowledge behaves differently and is managed differently depending on where it lies.
• Some of it is in people’s heads – we call this human capital
• Some is shared with customers and suppliers – we call this relationship capital
• Some of it is embedded in processes, data, software, designs, intellectual property – we call this structural capital
• Finally, some of it is in the formula that unites the other kinds of capital, giving it purpose and a business model that match the organization’s capabilities with a real-world problem – we call this strategic capital.
Every organization has a unique combination of these knowledge resources. It’s really about how the organization is set up to create value for its stakeholders. If it works well, a company will achieve innovation, growth and performance, which both lead increased reputation and corporate value.
Where do you see yourself and your company in the future?
My work in IC has led me to spend a lot of time in the area of measurement. There’s something wrong about how we measure companies today. It’s all from the inside out – using financial and quantitative metrics that ignore the intangibles. We should be measuring from the outside in – using stakeholder feedback to measure how well a company is doing. Stakeholder value creation is key to the success of every organization. This is about customers but also about employees, partners, your community. You need all of them to grow and create a sustainable business.
Where do I see us in the future? At the heart of an ICounting movement to measure companies’ resources and operations from the outside in.
Do you have any advice to the „new kid in town“ who wants to start something in business today?
Right now we are at a tipping point in the digital economy. Computing power is so cheap and so accessible. So, virtually anyone can start a business. But, as I said earlier, the technology isn’t enough. My advice is to focus on a problem you know or understand. It doesn’t have to be exotic. Some of the biggest companies today are solving simple problems. The key is to pull together the right IC ecosystem to solve the problem. Solving a problem is how we convert generic knowledge to valuable knowledge – and how we yield tangible results from intangible capital.
Make sure to come and listen to Mary`s lectures next Wednesday and Thursday in Umag!