Friday, October 30, 2009

Ideas: The New Widget

"As much as three-quarters of the value of publicly traded companies in America comes from intangible assets, up from around 40% in the early 1980's." (The Economist, October 2005)

It's striking. Yes, the Industrial Age is long gone and Information Age well-established, so it shouldn't really come as a surprise. But it does. In stark terms, the data tells us: Ideas drive the economy.

Think about that for second.

Doesn't it just seem too easy, not at all concrete? "Ideas drive the economy." Aren't we taught to believe that the harder something is, the more valuable? Shaping a piece of metal with our bare hands, then using it to build a car, all with Grade-A elbow grease - that's hard, that's valuable. Right?

Well, no, not according to reality.

It's going to be difficult to grasp. And it will be disruptive. It already has been. It likely will continue to be. We're not dealing with tangibles like we used to. Our traditional sense of measurement is becoming more outdated and irrelevant. Even worse, we don't know, or even have, an agreed-upon alternative measure of value.

We do know however that, whether we're ready for it or not, the intangibles are driving businesses and economies forward. Those who figure out a way to measure the intangibles, channel them, and develop them, will win.

What do you think? Some might argue that it takes exponentially more people to implement an idea than it does to come up with one, thereby discrediting the notion of this post - that ideas reign supreme. Join the conversation. Comment below. Or write us at (We'll post a synthesis of the debate, once critical mass is reached.)

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