Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining: A History of Barriers to Intellectual Capital Measurement

  •  Marco Montemari    
  •  Maria Serena Chiucchi    
  •  Marco Gatti    


The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the Intellectual Capital Accounting (ICA) literature by investigating the barriers to IC measurement and how they can (re)shape IC measurement projects. The paper presents an interventionist case study of a company which has been measuring its IC for several years. It focuses on some emblematic situations in which barriers arose during the design and implementation of IC indicators followed by a (re)moulding of the IC measurement project within the organization. The case analysis revealed two barriers: the heavy workload that the design and calculation process of IC indicators entails and the perceived limited reliability of those indicators. These barriers did not lead to a complete failure of the project, but acted as a “filter”, resulting in the discontinued use of those indicators that were not perceived as useful or reliable and in the adoption of those that the managers actually considered useful. While this hindered a complete implementation of the ICMS, it promoted a selection of IC indicators and a legitimation of those that subsequently became part of the management control system. While previous studies explore how barriers can hamper the design as well as the implementation of an ICMS, this paper sheds light on what happens to IC measurement projects when the magnitude of barriers is not so significant as to lead to the complete failure of the project. This offers a new and different view of the barriers related to the adoption of ICMSs. Rather than considering them as factors which can interrupt IC measurement, they could be seen as factors which can challenge the implementation of the ICMS, strengthening those IC indicators that are perceived as reliable and useful and eliminating or disregarding those that did not meet expectations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.