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Do You Realize the Value of Developing BeCoN (Behavior, Cognitive, Network) Capital in the Digital Age?

brain-2029391_1280At the pinnacle of the Industrial Revolution, not many organizations realized the complex subtleties of the Financial Capital.  The organizations that were able to develop innovative methodologies to administer their financial capital outsmarted the rivals by achieving a competitive edge.

At the advent of the 20th century, two more forms of capital became known and gained prominence, in addition to the financial capital. These assets included: the Human Capital—the value acquired as a result of development and deployment of employees and contractors—and the Natural Capital—the manageable value of land, water, and other environmental resources.  Altogether, these 3 assets are categorized under the Traditional Capital.

In this digital age, with the tremendous pace of technological innovation, 3 additional types of capital—referred to as the “BeCoN Capital” or the “Digital Age Capital”— have been found to be essential for creating value and staying ahead of the curve, together with the Traditional Capital:

  1. Behavior Capital
  2. Cognitive Capital
  3. Network Capital

BeCoN & Traditional Capital-Flevy

Behavioral Capital

Behavior Capital is gathering and demonstrating data to track the behavior of people, companies, and products. The application of behavioral data has reached new levels, nowadays. Apple watch monitors the heart rate, Google monitors every activity that anyone does on its platform, and GE’s aircraft engine business uses sensors built into its engines and turbines to describe what the engine is doing in runtime and generate high levels of behavior capital.

Cognitive Capital

Cognitive Capital is the set of algorithms that signify codified information streams pertaining to people and organizations in the electronic world. With each passing day, these algorithms are becoming increasingly complex and mature enough to make decisions on their own, or to execute a machine-learning process leading to automated, constantly-progressing sequences.

There are many practical utilities of the Cognitive Capital. For instance, Bridgewater, a large hedge fund, employs artificial intelligence-based algorithms to make decisions. GE’s aircraft engine business utilizes machine-learning algorithms to conduct diagnostics and engine controls. Likewise, Amazon drives algorithms—utilizing specific product sales and customers’ purchase data—that modify prices, formulate deals, and present better offers in real time.

Network Capital

Network Capital is the set of connection points that an organization can utilize to develop and implement a successful strategy.  The Network Capital is built by establishing strong connections, affiliations, and linkages.  Organizations with large network of affiliates, followers, and loyal customers have a profound competitive advantage over the rest.

For instance, over the years, Netflix has developed scores of followers who watch shows there, share messages with one another on social media about the programs watched, and rate programs.  This network not only increases the value of an individual show, but also add to the value of Netflix’s programming.

Similarly, the venture capital firm, SignalFire, maintains an extensive database of talent—i.e., software engineers, data scientists, and designers—with profiles of more than 10 million engineers in its database. SignalFire uses this information as an input into investment decision making—along with performance metrics—to make sure it is backing the best teams. The firm utilizes its network of resources and other websites (such as, Bitbucket and Github) to identify the contribution of its engineers to academia or to open-source projects, and how successful their prior companies were through their contribution.

The Bionic Companies

The 3 forms of BeCoN Capital are most effective when applied together. But their understanding is as limited as the financial, human, and natural capital were in the 20th century.  Organizations that are able to develop sound capabilities in the Traditional Capital as well as the BeCoN Capital are referred to as the “Bionic Corporations”.  Some of these Bionic Corporations have grown manifolds in a very short time period—e.g., Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft—and account for around 13% of the capitalization of the entire U.S. stock market.

The Bionic companies have expanded rapidly by utilizing their physical assets—such as, people, land, and funds and investments effectively—as well as by establishing and linking digital cross-boundary platforms and tools that make the most of their BeCoN Capital.  For these organizations, developing BeCoN Capital is a foundational to their overall Digital Transformation Strategy.

How to Develop the BeCoN Capital

Senior executives in traditional companies who are aspiring to develop their BeCoN Capital to reinforce their growth should start by finding answers to the following key questions:

  • Do we know about our customers’ behavior?
  • Do we capture it, analyze it, and model the ways it might change?
  • If not, why not?

Interested in knowing more about how to develop BeCoN Capital in your organization?  You can learn more and download an editable PowerPoint about Behavior, Cognitive, and Network (BeCoN) Capital here on the Flevy documents marketplace.

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About Mark Bridges

Mark Bridges is a Senior Director of Strategy at Flevy. Flevy is your go-to resource for best practices in business management, covering management topics from Strategic Planning to Operational Excellence to Digital Transformation (view full list here). Learn how the Fortune 100 and global consulting firms do it. Improve the growth and efficiency of your organization by leveraging Flevy's library of best practice methodologies and templates. Prior to Flevy, Mark worked as an Associate at McKinsey & Co. and holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

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