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Intellectual capital in action: Australian studies

John Dumay

The overarching objective of this thesis is to investigate and examine several contemporary IC theories and how they are utilised in practice so that understandings of the IC concept can be developed, in order to answer in part the main research question of 'How does IC in action influence organisations?' The content of the thesis is based on a review of IC from both a theory and practice perspective and four empirical papers that examines IC theory as it is implemented in practice. In combining these papers into a coherent piece of work, a critical research perspective, as outlined by Alvesson and Deetz (2000), has been utilised as the theoretical framework. The term 'critical' is used in this thesis not to find fault with contemporary theory and practice of IC but rather to examine and question the application of IC theory into practice. The end result of doing so is the narrowing of an identified gap between IC theory and practice. A 'critical' analysis of IC in action is justified because the development of the concept of IC parallels that of 'critical' theory in that both have evolved from changing conditions in society as technology and the proliferation of knowledge that have fundamentally altered the conditions under which organisations operate. The overarching findings of the thesis are based on three outcomes of critical research being insight, critique and transformative re-definitions. Insight into IC is developed by examining contemporary IC frameworks as they have been applied. Critique is developed by putting to the test the implications for organisations as a result of implementing these contemporary IC frameworks. Last, transformative re-definition is achieved by opening a discourse on the impact of implementing IC practices so that academics and practitioners can develop critical, relevant and practical understandings that begins the process of change and develops practical managerial skills. More importantly this thesis identifies how the development of tools to reduce 'casual ambiguity' about how intangible resource help create (or destroy) value has the potential to raise the profile of IC as a strategic management technology. But from the wider view of the critical perspective, it is not the intention of this thesis to prescribe specific formulae for the measuring, management and reporting of IC, nor does it intend to further develop theory. So while the individual papers may proffer that certain avenues proved productive in developing insights, critique and transformative re-definition, these avenues are not offered as the preferred way of investigating IC. More specifically the goal of a critical perspective is to open a discourse. The opportunity for academics and practitioners to engage in discourse is enabled by the thesis' focus on the issues identified by highlighting the gap between IC theory and practice. Furthermore, each of the included papers offers the opportunity for further discourse by way of the opportunities that remain for future research. Additionally, the thesis exemplifies a number of different approaches to conducting research into IC practice that puts to the test particular aspects of IC theory in order to develop insights and understandings of IC in practice. As the empirical material only examines a fraction of contemporary IC theory there is scope for further research and thus discourse into the implementation of IC theory into IC practice. This future research should not be constrained by a particular method of research as exemplified in the variety of methods employed to gather the empirical material for the papers which stretches along the continuum of qualitative and quantitative research. This too provides an avenue of for future discourse.

The thesis has also just received the Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award for the Knowledge Management category for 2008.


Professor James Guthrie