Early in the twenty-first century, a quiet revolution occurred. For the first time, the major developed economies began to invest more in intangible assets, like design, branding, R&D, and software, than in tangible assets, like machinery, buildings, and computers. For all sorts of busine
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I generally do not like the genre of popular business/economic trade books, but I will make an exception for this. This is a book by two economic researchers discussing the rise in importance of “intangible assets” in the global economy. The general punchline is that these sorts of assets are not well accounted for by current economic scorekeeping but that they really have grown in importance in recent decades and that the failure to account for them has undermined our understanding of how conte
Got all that? It is a standard tour for a book with this sort of agenda. What is nice about this book is that it is well written and well thought out. The material also seems fairly current. The authors know what they are talking about and know how to explain complex ideas without oversimplifying. I also like that they are not overselling their case. This is not a book with an obvious sales pitch or policy agenda – apart from understanding intangible assets and acting on that understanding. The authors also do a good job at explaining how their ideas apply in everyday life. For example, they begin with the business of running a gym and perform a comparison of how the business today differs from the business when it began – that difference entailing of course a redistribution of assets towards intangibles that provide much more value that the physical value of the weights and exercise machines found at most gyms. It is an informative example.
The authors also provide a four part framework of how intangible assets differ from tangible assets and how that matters for firms. Intangible assets are: 1) scalable; 2) sunk; 3) produce synergies; and 4) generate spillovers. (Read the book for definitions!) When I first say the four factor framework, I hesitated, since it sounded more like a consulting framework that could be found in the Harvard Business Review. But the expositions were reasonable, clear, and consistent with the research literature. The exposition of this framework is a good starting point for someone attempting to understand the strategies of such “new economy” firms as Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, or Google. There is only so much one can do in a short treatment, but the treatment here was fairly effective. It can probably help someone to understand the strategies of non “new economy” firms that act like platforms. DeBeers would be a good example.
This book has earned some good reviews in some good places. The praise has been well justified. This is an excellent business book that is well worth reading.
Very interested in this topic, and this has some good insights into what the authors insist on calling “intangible capital,” but I prefer Intellectual Capital. Good analysis of why this is hard to measure, how accounting doesn’t (and I think, can’t) deal with it. They might a go bit far in trying to explain everything under this lens, such as inequality. government policy on equity vs. debt, venture capital, and technology clusters. But there’s no doubt we’ve been in a knowledge economy since Pe
Entertaining, engaging and inspiring
There has been much debate on the future of economic growth and its consequences.
As for the future of economic growth, many economists and commentators predict secular stagnation, as life changing inventions of the XXth century have been widely adopted and population is aging fast. Others argue, instead, that there is a technology revolution going on that will bring prosperity as never seen before, but it is hard to get a hold of the revolution from looking a