June 24

Value Exchange: The Rapid Growth of the Intellectual Transaction and SKills as Currency


There is a lot of chatter along (appropriately) the ether about exactly what kind of future we are heading into in business terms. What sort of shelf life do organisations as a whole have in the digi-age? When the consumer is driving the market the reality is this. Organisations need to future-proof themselves; to ensure that they remain relevant and maintain a healthy bottom line when said consumer can so easily move to the next product/idea/concept without blinking an eyelid.

The big numbers when it came to value in a business have always been – you guessed it – cold, hard, assets and the relentless dollar. A P & L’s success or otherwise was measured in a colour – black or red. But in the Age Of Information, has this focus shifted? As innovation, invention and the ability to anticipate change rapidly become increasingly important, are there other currencies besides cash that take precedence in value?

For any business that is not strong in material assets, the answer would have to be yes, and has been for some time. But what even the strongest corporate bastions are now realizing is that a healthy bank balance doesn’t necessarily guarantee future growth.

Competition is no longer linear. The ‘unknown unknowns’ are waiting around every corner. Every industry, every sector, is suffering from the competitor they didn’t realize they had. Think about cab companies. A monopoly on the industry – but then Uber. Zuckerberg was smarter – he saw what Instagram could do to Facebook, so he bought it. 2015, and Instagram as a drive to product tool outsells every other major social media platform combined.

Zuck’s billions aside, the way that these innovative businesses have broken through is not by having a major chunk of change in the deposit account. It has been through a recognition that their best chance at success is from an often-overlooked asset.

Their people, their ability to think and work collaboratively, and the skills they possess as individuals – and as a group.

Take a hypothetical situation. You are a winemaker. You want to expand to China, because that’s where the market is heading. You know that the type of wine most popular there is a sweetish white, but you don’t have vineyards in areas that specialize in that type of grape. You also know that a normal web presence – and being able to engage on social media to promote your product -probably won’t work, because of the strict media laws in China. What do you do?

Instead of buying up another winery, and rushing over to Beijing to approach the trade delegations, think about it from the perspective of the skills you have inherent in your organization, and who you could work with to make this a reality. As it turns out, a non-direct competitor has surplus Muscat grapes that they can’t use. You discover that one of your staff speaks Cantonese, and used to work in International Distribution. Your marketing manager, whom you have over-ridden in the past, comes to you and suggests that rather than the Chinese mainland market, you aim at Macau and the casino trade, as the restrictions on promotion are removed, and your ex International Trade employee can negotiate with their contacts there. In addition, they have organized for a local photographer to do a campaign on Chinese New Year – to be shot in the vineyard – with another local company’s Chinese dragon and dancers.

All of these participants are eager to be a part of the growth of your winery, in return for their own business ideas being actively promoted, and in the case of the other winery, surplus grapes not being wasted.

Suddenly, you have Macau Moscato ready to be bottled. The cost? A bit of pride, perhaps, at previously lacking the ability to see the value in people’s big thinking and innovation.

This is a value exchange, and it is also the foundation of a new type of commercial currency; skillsets and intellectual transactions. There is no money changing hands. Each party involved is gaining knowledge, information, and yes, eventually they will have financial reward from their involvement. But at this stage, your cash-poor, people-rich winery is gaining in the ‘P’ side of the P& L without financial outlay.

This is one hypothetical example. The use of skills and thought as currency is something that is only going to increase in a future where knowledge means money. Time is irrelevant to a certain degree, and there is always going to be investment, if you have a strong enough product.

But what there will be a shortage of is cold, hard, intellect. Don’t miss out on your own value exchange bank vault.


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