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Home > Human and Intellectual Capital Finance Library > Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations

Human and Intellectual Capital Finance Library

Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations

Thomas A. Stewart (1997)

Why Read It?

  • The definitive guide to understanding and managing intangible assets, from the pioneer of knowledge management.

  • Shows how theories on knowledge management are valuable to any organization that wants to improve the return on its intellectual capital.

  • Argues that knowledge working will change the pattern of careers in the 21st century.

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Getting Started

Intellectual Capital is a guide to the strategic and practical issues of identifying, capturing, and using knowledge to improve a company’s competitive advantage. It explains not only why intellectual capital will be the foundation of corporate success in the future, but also offers practical guidance to companies about how to make best use of their intangible assets.

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Thomas A. Stewart (b. 1948) is the chief marketing and knowledge officer of Booz & Company and was the editor and managing director of the Harvard Business Review from 2002 to 2008. Prior to this, he was the editorial director of Business 2.0, and a member of the Board of Editors of Fortune. He is also a fellow of the World Economic Forum.

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  • Details how the emphasis has shifted from traditional capital, with financial or physical characteristics, to intangible assets and intellectual capital.

  • Breaks intellectual capital down into three areas—human capital, customer capital, and structural capital—and examines the impact of each type on how a business operates.

  • Argues that real value comes from capturing and deploying intellectual capital to best advantage, but that you cannot define and manage intellectual assets unless you know what you want to do with them.

  • Discusses 10 key principles for managing intellectual capital: who owns it, how to manage it, how to create usable human capital, its scarcity, the place of information and knowledge, and how human, structural, and customer capital can work together.

  • Shows why knowledge has become the pre-eminent economic resource and why managing it properly is an essential economic task.

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  • Discusses knowledge working and individual career paths, and how careers have become a series of gigs rather than steps.

  • Looks at why project management is now important for career building, and observes that expertise is more relevant than power.

  • Argues that either insiders or outsiders can perform most roles, which has an impact on how businesses are structured.

  • Proposes that the fundamental career choice is not between one company and another, but between specializing and generalizing.

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Intellectual capital is intellectual material—knowledge, information, intellectual property, experience—that can be put to use to create wealth. It is collective brainpower. It’s hard to identify and harder still to deploy effectively. But once you find it and exploit it, you win.

You cannot define and manage intellectual assets unless you know what you want to do with them.

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Further reading


  • Davenport, Thomas H., and Laurence Prusak. Working Knowledge. How Organizations Manage What They Know. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1998. Asserts that learning how to identify, manage, and foster knowledge is vital for companies who hope to compete in the global economy.
  • Stewart, Thomas A. The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-First Century Organization. New York: Currency, 2001. Emphasizes the importance of intellectual, as well as bricks and mortar and other forms of capital, in accounting for the worth of corporations.

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