If you’re someone who hates the idea of seeing something go to waste, then there are two talks you’re absolutely going to love that came out of this year’s TEDxUniversityofNevada 2014 event. First, there was marketing expert Rex Briggs’ talk “From Knowledge Worker to Insight Worker,” where he discussed the concept of maximizing productivity in the economy, how that can be best harnessed, translated, and converted into meaningful results for the collective good. Next, there was legal and business growth expert Andrew Sherman’s talk about “Harvesting Intangible Assets,” which centered on the idea of reusing, repurposing, and improving that which we already have access to both in our lives and within our companies for maximum benefit. What both of these talks have in common is the idea that we should never let perfectly good things go to waste at the expense of productivity or profit.
Rex Briggs opened his talk with a reflection about his own family and how technology has been used from one generation to the next to help exponentially increase the productivity of knowledge. As a “modern day materials estimator,” Briggs’ uses computers, algorithims, and big data to make sense out of tens of thousands of potential outcomes when it comes to optimizing advertising spending for marketing professionals. As such, his company has devised a way for marketers to better track and optimize the myriad of possible results that can come from implementing a marketing campaign, to maximize not only productivity, but profitability for companies. Today his company, Marketing Evolution, serves such notable clients as Best Buy, Colgate, Ford, Honda, McDonalds, and Visa.
So, how can we harness knowledge sharing among us as it relates to maximizing productivity? At one point, Briggs shared the story of his love for video games as a child, and specifically how it took nine knowledge workers the better part of a year to create the video game Pac Man … whereas today, middle school-aged children can create similar outcomes in an overnight codeathon. What’s changed to where only 20 some years later, what took nine people a year to create, can now happen among a few children in less than a day? In short, the answer was algorithms. As such, Briggs’ goal is to coordinate and maximize knowledge sharing for the benefit of being productive, for when you expand productivity, you can create wealth across the economy. He has also been able to successfully translate this technology into other industries, such as healthcare.
In Andrew Sherman’s talk—a partner at Jones Day in Washington, D.C., professor, and author of 26 books—he discussed his hate for waste, and specifically waste in the context of innovation. As one of the nation’s foremost experts on the legal and strategic aspects of business growth, he explained how an estimated $10 – $30 trillion of intangible assets is wasted each year. Driving home the point that we no longer derive a brand’s value entirely from “widgets” in the information economy, but rather through such intangibles as relationships, culture, and customer experience, it is imperative that we do not let such intangible assets go to waste across our companies. Rather, we must harvest them and be environmental entrepreneurs, by bringing such assets to market at the precise moment that they are ripe and ready to be utilized, rather than letting them sit and rot on the proverbial vine.
Sherman cited the example of how Starbucks did not have to invent coffee to be successful, but rather find a way to repurpose and reuse the idea of coffee to meet its business objectives and achieve profitability. While there is currently no good system for tracking the value of such intangible assets within a company (currently categorized under “goodwill” on balance sheets), he urged us to consider that intangible assets are the basis of brand value in today’s economy. In other words, we must avoid letting such things go to waste, but rather reuse, repurpose, and improve existing assets in order to derive maximum value, growth, and productivity for our companies, and ultimately the world at large.
To summarize, in order to excel in the 21st century, we must be mindful of the many ways to maximize productivity in our lives, which eventually leads to the betterment of all. At the same time we must strive to always be innovative.