This paper seeks to examine the adage “If it can't be measured, it can't be managed” by presenting a case study of intellectual capital (IC) practice over six years at an internationally recognised public sector IC leader – the Land and Property Authority of NSW (Lands).
The paper uses the case study method to examine critically over six years of research based on semi‐structured interviews and internal and external documents.
During this time Lands achieved national and international recognition for its IC management and reporting practices in the absence of a definitive set of IC measures. The authors show how Lands struggled with an inability to develop a specific set of IC measures to communicate its success, while still effectively communicating the impact of its IC practices through its annual reports and IC statements based on an ongoing narrative.
Lands demonstrated that it was able to meet the challenges associated with transitioning to a Government Business Enterprise through effectively managing IC resources, while also being dissatisfied with an inability to identify a set of concrete IC measures. Thus, the authors conclude from the evidence presented that it is possible to effectively implement IC practices without necessarily needing concrete IC measures. This is not because IC measures are not useful, but because Lands' IC reporting needs evolve based on the bespoke nature of its business, political expectations and changing business plans.
As always, the observations and conclusions reached here are limited to the case of Lands and are based on the authors' objective analysis. Therefore, care should be taken in generalising any findings and this highlights the need to understand the IC context before applying the findings.
The conclusion highlights the struggle many organisations face when developing appropriate IC measures. While there appears to be a fixation on developing an “accounting for IC”, the authors advocate that the fixation is misplaced and the IC journey is better communicated narrating the story of how IC is mobilised. Doing so allows more focus on IC practices rather than on accounting. This opens the debate as to whether an accounting for IC can provide a solution, given that IC is more complex than developing an IC balance sheet.
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