missionaries (1)

What kind of intangible capitalist are you?


It’s a fun and timely coincidence that a paper that I co-authored with John Dumay of Macquarie University in Sydney Australia has just come out—at the same time that John happens to be visiting in Boston.

The paper is called The Learning Journey of IC Missionaries has just been published by the Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management (note this is journal makes its articles available for free!).

In the paper, John and I each recount our personal journeys as IC practitioners and missionaries. We were prompted to write the paper by our discovery that we had independently progressed through several steps in the development of our thinking:

  • Intuition – We both were interested in IC (the intersection between people, process, data, networks, culture and business models) long before we had vocabulary for or exposure to research on the subject.
  • Control – Once we did get exposed to the concepts, our first impulse was to get our clients and collaborators to use the frameworks we had found in our research. But reality of today’s business is too complex to be captured in a one-size-fits-all framework. Neither of us had much success in imposing abstract frameworks.
  • Value Creation – Eventually we each came to the realization that the only way to help people benefit from our ideas was to help them along their own learning journey and to use IC concepts as tools to help people, teams and organizations create value for themselves and their stakeholders.

The missionary analogy came to John as he was giving a talk to IC thought leaders held near the site of the famous Heidelberg Cathedral. The message was and is to stop preaching to the converted and to get out of the cathedral and into the field. To succeed as IC practitioners, therefore, we have to also be IC missionaries, spending time at the grass roots level and empowering people in a journey of self-discovery.

As we’ve caught up on each others’ work this week, we’ve been using the stages as shorthand for the attitudes and approaches we see in the market. And reminding each other that we have to keep focusing on the intersections between value creation and intangibles. Otherwise it’s all just a theoretical exercise.

Do the stages ring true to you? Where are you in your own journey? What kind of intangible capitalist are you?

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