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Rome wasn’t built in a day … reflecting on time, intellectual capital and intellectual liabilities

Marco Giuliani (Department of Management, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, Italy)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to analyse, through a temporal lens and from a managerial perspective, the role played by intellectual capital (IC) and intellectual liabilities (ILs) “in practice” within the value creation and value destruction processes. In particular, this study is based on the following research question: to what extent are time and its attributes considered, measured, and discussed with reference to IC and ILs and their influence on financial capital (FC)? In order to achieve this purpose, the author has carried out a field study.


A field study method is adopted in order to understand IC and ILs “in action” from a temporal perspective.


This study highlights the relevance of time when IC and ILs are analysed from a dynamic perspective. In particular, the main findings are the following. First, it emerges that the time dimension of IC tends not to be measured due to the complexity of IC itself and to the lack of adequate accounting practices. Second, IC time is generally considered to be non-cyclical and random. Third, even if time is not measured, some companies talk about it and when this is done with regularity, time perceptions move from an individual sphere to a collective one and they become more and more reliable. Moreover, IC performance is perceived to be “distant” from FC performance: the succession of events and the time lags are difficult to define and quantify as the influence of IC on FC is mediated by several resources and events. Lastly, the value destruction process related to ILs tends to generate negative effects faster than the value creation one, especially with reference to the impacts of IC on FC.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitations of this study are twofold. The first is related to the methodology adopted and the related risks that the results may be subject to both interviewee and interviewer bias and interpretation. The second is related to the fact that the constructs to be discussed were not proposed by the firms but by the author, in order to make the results comparable.

Practical implications

This study contributes to the literature on IC and ILs “in action” and “in practice”. Moreover, this study enriches the extant IC and ILs literature focusing on time, a variable that is generally assumed to be a natural unchangeable phenomenon that does not deserve attention. In particular, the findings highlight the different behaviours and perceptions that occur when IC and ILs are looked at through a temporal lens. Finally, this study pinpoints that value creation and value destruction processes seem to have different timings as it takes more time to create value than to destroy it.


In comparison to previous studies, this study does not focus on the positive and negative effects of IC separately, but combines the two issues, also comparing the value creation and the value destruction processes in order to offer a complete picture. Moreover, it adopts a temporal lens, which has been applied only with reference to IC but not to ILs as well. Finally, while the extant literature on ILs tends to investigate them from a theoretical perspective and adopting a static approach, this research investigates ILs empirically from a dynamic perspective.



Giuliani, M. (2015), "Rome wasn’t built in a day … reflecting on time, intellectual capital and intellectual liabilities", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 2-19.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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