Asset management lessons from ancient Brits who ate the dead and made drinking cups from skulls

In any organization, it's the humans who provide lasting value, institutional memory

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In an era of tight budgets and increasing pressure to maximize ROI, it's nice to find this real-world case study on how to extract value from departing assets. From Reuters:

Ancient Britons devoured their dead and created gruesome goblets from the skulls of their remains, according to new research published on Wednesday.

HR professionals, take notes!

Researchers from London's Natural History Museum discovered 15,000-year-old human bones in southern England which showed signs of cannibalism and skulls made into drinking cups.

OK, it's important here to think of "cannibalism" as energy management. Otherwise you lose focus.

The skulls had been meticulously cleaned of soft tissue, cut to remove the base and facial bones, and had their rough edges smoothed to create skull-cups or bowls, paleontologist Silvia Bello wrote in a study in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

"All in all it was a very painstaking process given the tools available," Bello said in a statement.

"Meticulous," "painstaking," "process" ... what are we talking about if not Best Practices? Not to mention commitment to quality. And passion! In fact, in the most successful organizations, process is passion. And passion is process.

And let's not overlook the contributions of the people who "gave so that others could eat and drink." Employees, this is a teachable moment about how to sustain a legacy, how to matter long after you're gone.

It would have been helpful to modern-day managers to know the circumstances behind the fate of the people whose bones were fashioned into kitchenware, in case a similar situation should arise in their workplace. Unfortunately, Reuters can only speculate:

They may have been killed, butchered and eaten -- with the skull-cups just the end of this event -- or may have been part of the group who died and were eaten in a crisis situation, with the skull-cups created as a tribute to the dead.

For their part, researchers say they "simply do not know." I choose to believe the latter fate. It's less barbaric and more noble, and clearly focused on problem-solving and the larger goals of the group.

Plus I'm a "skull half-full" kind of guy.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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