Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the use of a critical research perspective in the development of research in the field of intellectual capital (IC) practice. Design/methodology/approach – The paper initiates a reflective discourse about the relevance of contemporary approaches to research and practice in the field of IC and explores the way forward with a view to improving the relevance of IC to academics, practitioners and their organisations. Findings – It is not the intention of this paper to prescribe specific formulae for the measurement, management and reporting of IC, nor further develop theory. It is the intention of the paper to lay the foundations for further discourse on the thinking behind contemporary IC theory and practice. Research limitations/implications – The limitation of the paper is that it represents the informed opinion of the author and these views may not be shared by other researchers and practitioners. The implications are first that it aligns IC to the current general and economic environment as there is a perceived increase in awareness among stakeholders to manage scarce and intangible resources. Second, by taking a critical approach to IC research it advocates how to develop insights and processes that can help build the recognition and benefits of IC practices. Originality/value – This paper openly questions the need to develop further IC theory and advocates a way forward by outlining a critical approach to researching and implementing IC in practice.