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{Excerpt} Born of the information revolution, knowledge management has arisen in response to the belated understanding that intellectual capital is a core asset of organizations and that it should be circumscribed better. From this perspective, it is the growing body of tools, methods, and approaches, inevitably underpinned by values, by means of which organizations can bring about and maximize a return on knowledge assets, aka intellectual capital. That, Thomas Stewart explained pithily (yet broadly) is organized knowledge that can be used to generate wealth. (Conversely, it also helps to think of what intellectual capital is not, that is, monetary or physical resources.) More specifically, aggregated intellectual capital comprises

• Human capital—the cumulative capabilities and engagement of an organization's personnel, rooted in tacit and explicit knowledge, that can be invested to serve the joint purpose.

• Relational (or customer) capital—the formal and informal external relationships, counting the information flows across and knowledge partnerships in them, that an organization devises with clients, audiences, and partners to co-create products and services, expressed in terms of width (coverage), channels (distribution), depth (penetration), and attachment (loyalty).

• Structural (or organizational) capital—the collective capabilities of an organization—any of them codified, packaged, and systematized, including its governance, values, culture, management philosophy, business processes, practices, research and development, intellectual property, performance metrics, and information systems, as well as the systems for leveraging them.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2010). A primer on intellectual capital. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (