Innovation Asset Management: Don't Bottle Up Creativity - InformationWeek

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Innovation Asset Management: Don't Bottle Up Creativity

As businesses compete in the emerging knowledge economy, many are focused on managing intangible assets, such as intellectual property--and that's bringing asset management into vogue.

"Asset management" is a term guaranteed to induce a yawn. It brings to mind dull stuff about depreciation and utilization. Issues for the bean counters to worry about. As businesses compete in the emerging knowledge economy, however, many are focused on managing intangible assets, such as intellectual property--and that's bringing asset management into vogue. Still, even this new emphasis has failed to bring to innovation asset management the mindshare it deserves.

Why should anyone care about innovation asset management--and in any case, what exactly is it? If you buy into the notion that innovation is a core competency, you should care a great deal about innovation asset management, which means understanding, managing, monitoring, leveraging and increasing the organizational assets that support innovation efforts. Remember the four Ps of marketing: product, place, price, promotion? Well, innovation asset management has its four Ps, too: people, processes, places and patents.

These reflect many organizations' core innovation assets. The task is how to develop a management approach that improves a business' ability to use those core assets for sustained innovation.


People, or "talent," as people are more correctly described in innovation asset management, are key--especially those who envision and imagine new ways of doing things; generate and develop specific ideas; plan and build products; and design and market brands. That doesn't mean just the "creatives"; it also includes corporate strategists, IT developers and shop-floor manufacturers, salespeople and marketers. Plus, companies must locate the hidden subject matter experts (SMEs), opinion-formers and thought-leaders, who are often scattered in the white space of your organization chart.

The primary task of innovation asset management is to expose this talent--both to others like themselves and to the rest of the organization--and engage them in innovation efforts that matter to the business. To do this, you need human resources technology that can identify and relate these people, visualizing their social networks (as discussed in "Visualization Tools Raise Your Innovation Awareness" and capturing and codifying the kinds of knowledge they offer.

AskMe and Sonar6 are designed to help with talent management. Sonar6 offers a visual layout of your people assets (see screen, at right) that helps you to manage individual talent, develop talent pools and graph employees' respective competencies. AskMe includes a profiling engine and reputation management function to ensure SME skills are fully described and easily promoted across an organization. Don't forget you also need HR people who can understand the skills that cross-functional business objectives for innovation demand. Most surveys say companies do not have HR functions that can do this.

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