Grand theories as barriers to using IC concepts

John C. Dumay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to answer the question “What are the barriers to the use of IC concepts?” by discussing and critiquing two contemporary grand theories about IC, being market-to-book ratios as a representation of IC and that disclosing IC leads to greater profitability. The paper reviews contemporary IC literature and explores reasons why these grand theories of IC hinder its adoption. The research finds that these grand theories mislead because they cannot be proven empirically. Therefore, managers should attempt to better understand the possible causal relationships between their people, processes and stakeholders (human, structural and relational capital) rather than adopting someone else's mousetrap. In order to improve the use of IC concepts they should be examined as differentiation theories of practice that take into account the agent (people) as a unit of analysis, the actual practice of IC and the resultant changes within an organisation, rather than trying to achieve the impossible generalisations of IC grand theories. Researchers need to conduct more critical and performative research into IC rather than ostensive research. Allows academics and practitioners to understand the barriers to implementing IC in organisations, potentially allowing for the development of better engineered IC practices rather than the development of additional IC models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-15
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Intellectual Capital
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


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