Forty-two: The meaning of life, the universe and numbers

John Dumay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


This article explores the meaning and context of intellectual capital (IC) numbers to help break free from the domination of IC "accountingisation". Offering a personal and reflective narrative about IC numbers, I first discuss what numbers mean by exploring the way we think about the number 42. This discussion is followed by two empirical sections examining the meaning and context of a common IC measure, employee turnover rates. Measuring any IC element is problematic from an IC accounting perspective because of the unique context in which each organization operates. The comparability of a number from one organization and one period with another is nearly impossible. The article is original because it takes a thoughtprovoking narrative journey into the use and meaning of applying IC numbers. It is a personal reflection on the implications of considering the meaning of numbers for IC practice, IC education and research, and IC's future. It is particularly topical in light of the inclusion of IC in the recent Integrated Reporting (<IR>) Guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Accountingisation
  • IC numbers
  • Integrated reporting
  • Intellectual capital
  • Meaning and context


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