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Intellectual Capital: The new wealth of organization (Anglais) Broché – 29 décembre 1998

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Preface to the Paperback Edition

In October 1994, I spoke about intellectual capital at the first of what has become a series of conferences called "The Knowledge Advantage," sponsored by the Strategic Leadership Forum and Ernst & Young.  During a question period following my talk, someone asked, "Do you think this stuff will become a fad like reengineering?"

"I don't think so," I confidently answered.  "There's nothing to sell." The management of intellectual capital--organized knowledge that can be used to produce wealth--didn't seem to lend itself to being packaged and sold.  So long as no one had a commercial reason to push the idea, I figured it would not be pushed too far.

So much for my crystal ball.  The response to the publication of Intellectual Capital--more accurately, the response to the ideas it discusses--has been far greater than I could have imagined.  As the year's crop of annual reports showed up in my mailbox in the spring of 1998, a bit more than a year after the first publication of this book, I found the phrase "intellectual capital" in one glossy document after another.  I have received letters, phone calls, and e-mail from every continent except Antarctica.  Both the World Economic Forum, whose principal constituents are big companies from advanced economies, and the World Bank, whose principal clients are the least-developed nations, have taken up intellectual capital as major themes of their work.  In advertisements in The Economist, Slovakia touts its intellectual capital as a reason for businesses to invest there.  For the government of Peru, it became a focus of a 1998 National Competitiveness Summit; for the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, D.C., it is the subject of a major study group; in company after company--banks in Australia, technology companies in Silicon Valley, chemical companies in Europe--managing intellectual capital has become a prominent subject of both conversation and action.  And on Dilbert's Web site (at, "intellectual capital" has become one of the phrases that pops up in Scott Adams's random "mission statement generator."

I don't mean to claim credit (or accept blame) for anything other than having unfurled a sail in time to catch a wind--as others also have.  But it's quite a wind.  If companies handle it well and aren't blown off course, they will, I am more convinced than ever, find themselves propelled to new lands, rich with unexpected opportunities.  Certainly the trends described in Part One, "The Information Age," have in this very short time grown much, much stronger.  In April 1998, the U.S.  Department of Commerce published a superb report, The Emerging Digital Economy by Lynn Margherio (available at or from the Government Printing Office in Washington), that irrefutably and dramatically updates the discussion in Part One, showing that knowledge continues to increase its dominant or defining role in national output, corporate competitive advantage, and labor markets.  Intellectual assets continue to displace physical and financial capital as factors of production.  Overall, McKinsey consultant Lowell Bryan has estimated, U.S.  companies today require 20 percent less in the way of tangible assets to produce a dollar's worth of sales than they did a genedefining role ration ago.  The same is true for working capital as the substitution of information for inventory continues unabated.  (See Chapter 2.) Not that "old economy"
assets don't matter--they do and in many industries always will.  But the relative importance of intellectual capital continues to grow, in the economy as a whole and in every company I can think of, and in most cases it is now knowledge that gives one company an advantage over another, rather than, say, physical scale or scope.

No wonder competition for intellectual capital has heated up.  Part Two of this book describes the three broad categories in which intellectual capital can be placed--human capital, structural (or organizational) capital, and customer capital.  Competition has become keener for all three.  Human capital is especially prized--and, as always, especially mismanaged.  Part of the intense demand for talent in the United States can be ascribed to a long-running economic boom that (at this writing) has cut unemployment to historically low levels.  But is it just the boom? Economist Paul Krugman, warning against American economic triumphalism and remembering the gloomsayers of the late 1980s, warns us not to mistake a cycle for a trend.  Certainly unemployment will rise again one day.  Surely it is to the cycle that one can attribute the frothiest excesses of late-1990s American labor markets, where cocky young technical workers treat a company as if it existed to cater to them--and it meekly acquiesces--and where an ordinarily xenophobic Congress votes to lower immigration barriers for some skilled workers.

But there also are trends, structural changes, that deepen the demand and raise the rewards for knowledge work not just in the United States but also in countries such as France and Germany that struggle with high unemployment.  The knowledge economy demands skills many workers simply do not have; and of almost all workers, it demands flexibility, alertness, and the ability to make decisions without consulting a manual or a foreman.  Lynn Margherio writes: "Jobs characterized by a transfer of information from one party to another--travel agents, insurance agents, stock brokers, customer service representatives--will likely see routine tasks like order taking disappear, and more complicated tasks replacing them." The best workers are always most in demand; now they are so much at a premium that more and more of them choose to work on their own, for profit rather than a wage.  Egalitarian labor markets, such as those of Western Europe and Japan, have begun to break with long-held, socially dear traditions of compensation and governance in order to reward and manage knowledge workers as the Information Age demands.  Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, says, "The war for talent gets tougher and tougher."

Companies have begun to take their customer capital seriously, too, to view it and manage it as the asset it is.  Among many examples is Westpac, one of Australia's biggest banks, where the management of customer capital has become a principal means by which the bank is struggling back (successfully so far) from a near-death experience earlier in the decade.  Chapter 9 cites a study of U.S.  banks that showed that only three of five retail customers are profitable.  On the commercial side, Westpac was doing less well even than that.  (The bank won't reveal precisely what percentage was unprofitable.) Westpac undertook a systematic evaluation of its customer base, first assessing each customer relationship to see if it was profitable (including a charge for the cost of capital), then looking more closely to see if it was profitable in some areas of its relationships (say, commercial loans) but not in others (foreign exchange, perhaps).  Unprofitable customers weren't jettisoned, except rarely.  Instead the bank set up ways to work with them to find ways to add value to the relationship.  Usually the way to do that has been by selling knowledge--that is, the bank's expertise.  Sometimes Westpac even shares with customers the details of its own profitability and asks for their help.  After all--as I discuss in Chapter 9--customer capital is an asset that belongs to both the buyer and the seller, jointly and severally; each has a stake in making it grow.  For Westpac, the percentage of profitable customers has been steadily rising--and so has their loyalty--as the bank and its clients jointly invest in the value of the relationship.

It is the management of structural capital that is giving off the pheremones of a fad, because it's here that humankind's ingenuity has created something to sell: "knowledge management." It could be "the next big thing," The Wall Street Journal presciently told readers late in 1996, a few months before this book appeared.  Knowledge management has become a multibillion-dollar software and consulting business, growing in a startling pace.  It has attracted the talents of the consultants in all of the Big Six (or Five, or Four) professional services firms and of programmers for dozens--make that hundreds--of software developers.  Says Thomas Davenport, a professor at Boston University who was the first proponent (and then the most thoughtful critic) of reengineering and has also been one of the first and best advocates of knowledge management: "Old reengineering consultants are coming up to me and asking, 'How do I get into knowledge management?'" On his way to the spring 1998 International Human Resources Information Management convention, Tom came across a magazine devoted to knowledge management that, he said, is in fact a magazine about digital imaging, simply retitled.

Fads aren't necessarily bad.  Fads extend--then distend--the boundaries of ideas.  It is from their excesses that we learn to do things we could not have imagined doing, and learn what not to do--preferably from other people's mistakes rather than from our own.

There are a couple of mistakes already in evidence.

First, too much of what passes for knowledge management is just glorified data processing.  On page 71 of this book, I briefly distinguish between intellectual capital and intellectual working capital.  This distinction was a new idea to me--it came to me while I was working on the proofs of the book.  In the past eighteen months, I've come to think it's a valuable distinction, and especially important to keep in mind as knowledge management becomes the rage.  Intellectual working capital is workaday information--the flow or torrent of data, facts, meter readings, and so forth.  Of this stuff, I wrote, "A worker might need precise, up-to-date information at any given moment, but not necessarily at this moment.  What he does need, at every moment, is a way to get the data he might need at any moment."

Implicit in those somewhat knotty sentences is a truth that might be lost in some corporations' full-throttle rush to "do" knowledge management.  Intellectual working capital should not be managed the same way as intellectual capital.  It wants different aims, different measurements, and possibly different means.  These pieces of information are to the New Economy what inventory and receivables are to the Old Economy.  Working capital is a Bad Thing.  It is a cost to be minimized, not an asset whose value should be increased.  It is not to be stored but to be kept moving.  Intellectual working capital is a through-put, cycle-time, inventory-management problem.

Knowledge management advocates correctly decry the wastefulness of constantly "reinventing the wheel"; one way to do that is to create a digital warehouse in which is stored every wheel anyone has ever invented.  But that dream--the dream of a corporate master file, an encyclopedia where every needed fact, every policy, every conceivably valuable piece of knowledge can be found with just a few clicks of the mouse--is both impractical and wrong.  Impractical because technology and markets are changing so quickly that it would be impossible to possibly create such an omnium-gatherum of corporate brainpower, unless one is willing to spend such enormous amounts of money setting up and maintaining the encyclopedia that it will not be worth the effort.  Wrong because that's not the right way to do warehousing--unless your company's value proposition is to be a storehouse for knowledge, as a silo is for grain.  One wants the smallest possible warehouse, which stocks only what's otherwise hard to get in a timely way.  Knowledge management and knowledge databases should really be about linking people to people to serve customers, people needing expertise with people who have expertise.  They should be about connection, not collection.

I see a second mistake being made by advocates of knowledge management.  Too often they focus inside companies.  Much of knowledge management has been an inside job, automating and animating the files.  It's hyperlinked, hypersonic librarianship.  Too little is about serving customers.  Consultant Stan Davis points out that business people frequently confuse an organization with a business. Organizations are defined from the inside out: They are described by who reports to whom, by departments and processes and matrices and perks.  A business, on the other hand, is defined from the outside in, by markets, suppliers, customers, and competitors.

There is money to be saved by improving knowledge management in the organization.  But there is money to be made by managing the knowledge of the business.  What is the knowledge customers are paying for? Real customers--not phony "internal customers" but people with money in their hands? It's their money that is important, not the money the budget committee has allocated to knowledge management.

This inward focus may have come about because the two groups most often charged with knowledge management are staff functions--human resources and information systems departments--with little direct contact with customers.  In some companies they are even rivals, whose fight over the agenda is really a fight to get control of the budget.

This makes me nervous.  Both HR and IS are beleaguered.  HR is under pressure to cut costs and to show that it can deliver hard business results, not just kerfluffle about "being change agents." IS is a money pit.  When old whiners find a new battle, watch out.  Nothing in corporate life is more dangerous than a staff function looking for work.

The incipient HR/IS turf war also makes me nervous because they're both right.  It would be a terrible thing if either of them won at the expense of the other.  Their emphases are strikingly, but not surprisingly, different.  The IS people, lined up behind the chief information officer and the chief knowledge officer, talk about intranets and data warehousing and pull-versus-push technology and artificial intelligence and best-practice databases.  Charnel Havens, till recently, the chief knowledge officer of EDS, talks about raising the productivity of knowledge workers by improving the "efficiency and effectiveness of the information environment" in which they work.  At EDS she measured how often people use the company's knowledge-management system and how much time they waste looking for things; she asked people to rate the effectiveness of forty-one aspects of their information environment on a scale of one to seven.  The HR people, whose champion is the chief learning officer, emphasize human capital, training, the learning organization, communities of practice.  With a background in organizational development, Charles Savage, head of Knowledge Era Enterprises, talks about building communities through "dynamic teaming," and how understanding "the relationship between knowledge and values" can lower barriers that inhibit the development of trust and allow knowledge to be crea

Revue de presse

"Be prepared to rethink your business, your career, your company's balance sheet, your organizational strategy and even the rules of the marketplace--breathtakingly written."
--Atlanta Business Chronicle

"If you read only one business book this year, make it Intellectual Capital."
--Paul Saffo, Director, Institute for the Future

"An enormously important book on a truly critical topic.  Insightful, pragmatic, fun to read.  Tom Stewart has hit a home run."
--Dr. Michael Hammer

"Original, refreshing--the management book of the '90s."
--Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Business Administration, USC

"Intellectual Capital will be the watershed work on this important topic."
--Noel Tichy, coauthor of Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 32 commentaires
24 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Profit Zone Between the Ears 5 janvier 2000
Par Robert Morris - Publié sur
Format: Broché
Stewart divides his book into three parts supplemented by an afterword and appendix. He examines The Information Age: Context, Intellectual Capital: Content, and The Next Connection. He attempts to "make sense of the dramatically changing world in which we work" by focusing on three separate but related components of the Information Age: Human Capital ("the capabilities of individuals required to provide solutions to customers"), Structural Capital ("the organizational abilities of the organization to meet market codify bodies of knowledge that can be transferred, to preserve the recipes that might otherwise be lost"...and "to connect people to data, experts, and expertise -- including bodies of knowledge -- on a just-in-time basis"), and Customer Capital ("the value of an organization's relationships with whom it does business"). Of the three, Stewart considers customer capital "the most obviously valuable" and yet customer capital "is probably-- and startingly when you think about it -- the worst managed of all intangible assets."
One of the most important chapters is Chapter 5. "The Treasure Map" contains information which can prove far more valuable to a company than any gold buried by pirates in the Caribbean. As with that gold, however, intellectual capital must first be appreciated; located and recovered; and then organized and managed with meticulous care. Hence the importance of Chapter 9 in which Stewart offers ten principles for managing intellectual capital. Hence the importance, also, of the Appendix in which he provides all the other "tools" needed.
Let the digging begin!
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Ref A for Buidling Value in the Information Age 25 juin 2005
Par Robert David STEELE Vivas - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I read the same author's The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-first Century Organization first, and then went back to get this earlier book (1998), and I actually feel that reading them in that order is better. This book has a lot of detail that is well served by the context that can be found in the later book.

For those who really wish to get a deep look at the future of building value in the age of distribution information in all languages, I recommend that both of Stewart's books be read in conjunction with the following three Nobel-level books: Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World Robert Buckman, Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization and Christensen & Raynor, The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business (Collins Business Essentials) My reviews of these books are both evaluative and summative, and could be helpful as short-cut, but they are no substitute for actually buying and reading the books.

The most important point in this book is that the value is no longer found in collecting just in case knowledge, but rather in connecting dots to dots, dots to people, and (the highest value) people to people. It's about connecting, not collecting. Based on this book I drew my own value triangle, VALUE appearing in the middle of the triangle, with Context being the lower left corer, Content being the lower right corner, and CONNECTION being the apex of the triangle--further refined as connecting customers, connecting contributing talents, and connecting sub-contracted sources, softwares, and services. No one is doing this today in the manner that meets the emerging needs of the marketplace.

Most interesting to me is the author's early emphasis on the Chief Financial Officer being the point of sale, not the CEO, the CTO, or the production divisions. Intellectual capital is a value-creation and profit-building exercise, and it needs to be presented as a financial campaign plan, not a technology plan, not a human resources plan, and not a sales and marketing plan.

Although the author focuses on intellectual property, and provides compelling anecdotes and links that suggest that any company in the knowledge business can increase its bottom line earnings by 20-40% if it does a better job of managing its intellectual property, I see two other emerging marketplaces in this book that the author may not have intended but certainly contributes insights to: managing shared access to external sources, to reduce the cost and increase the knowledge that companies can use to increase their competence in a global environment; and managing customer understanding and relationships in the aggregate--it is possible to take cross-selling to new heights if companies in different industries that are not competing with one another, will share customer information in new ways, thus leading to the invention of new3 offerings and new value.

A major point in this book that I believe everyone misses is that the management of intellectual property, or knowledge management, or external open source information acquisition and exploitation, is totally and utterly without value in the absence of a strategy. Collection or connecting is of the greatest value when it is done with strategic purpose, operational efficiency, and tactical effect.

There is a lot more in this book that will impact on my strategic business planning, and that I choose to not summarize here, but will instead end with three points the author makes that I consider to be important:

1) In the information age, only investments in knowledge building are really investments--traditional investments in capital goods are costs, not to be confused with investments intended to generate new value.

2) Knowledge value grows on a logarithmic scale, while goods value grows arithmetically.

3) In today's environment, careers are defined by personal skills and networking, not traditional jobs and corporate positions. The corollary of this is that individuals must self-manage their continuing education and skill acquisition, and any job that fails to provide for continuing upgrading of skills is not worth keeping.

I consider this a seminal reference.

See also, with reviews:
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism: How the Financial System Underminded Social Ideals, Damaged Trust in the Markets, Robbed Investors of Trillions - and What to Do About It
The Politics of Fortune: A New Agenda For Business Leaders
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
BrainPower 28 août 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format: Relié
If you are looking for a plain and straight forward explanation of today's information revolution then this is your book. It is easy to read and understand, with up-to-date information about companies creating wealth thru strategic use of Intellectual Capital and Knowledge Management. Mr. Stewart's writing style is easy to follow and grasp, as a good editor from an excellent magazine (Fortune Magazine) should be.
He made himself known in the field of IC when he wrote a ground-breaking-article in Fortune Magazine on June 3, 1991 under the title "Brainpower". In this article he wrote "Intellectual capital is becoming corporate America's most valuable asset and can be its sharpest competitive weapon. The challenge is to find what you have-and use it". Intense reader's reaction to this article eventually led to the writing of this knowledgable book.
He (Thomas Stewart) leads us by the hand, in defining Intellectual Capital and its widely accepted classification: human capital, structural capital and customer capital.
Even though this book is an excellent introduction to modern management; equal to or greater than reengineering; it is also of vital interest to present employees which are faced with potential unemployment, unless they understand what are the driving forces shaping today's corporations.
"Knowing" is the bread and butter in this ever- changing-turbulent-technology-driven economy. Thomas Stewarts explains why this information revolution is producing victors as well as victims. While there are companies flourishing in this uncertain economy like Wal-Mart, Microsoft, and Toyota, others are falling behind like Sears, IBM, and General Motors. While Akers was removed from IBM because of a great spiraling decline in growth and profits, Bill Gates at Microsoft was amassing double digit increases in revenues and profit. While Stempel watched GM's market share erode, Iaccoca and Eaton were increasing Chrysler's market share. While Sears was struggling, Wal-Mart was flourishing.
This book introduces us to hidden assets not reflected in financial reports, but fully responsible for creating wealth. Intangible assets like knowledge of a workforce, the know-how of workmen who come up with a thousand different ways to improve the efficiency of a factory. In a sentence: "Intellectual capital is intellectual material-knowledge, information, intellectual property, experience, that can be put to use to create wealth. It is collective brainpower."
After you read this book, you will then understand why your company is making all those changes, and perhaps, avoid your being part them in the process.
This is a 21st century book for people working in post-industrial societies learning how to survive in a fast paced environment without getting hurt.
12 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Stewart demonstrates he has intellectual capital too 7 mars 1999
Par Lou Agosta ( - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Knowledge is the currency of the information age. The sudden ubiquity of information technology is considered by the author to be the biggest story of our time (p. xvii). He may just be right; and while information is not alone sufficient to constitute knowledge, this discussion goes way beyond the current platitudes of transforming data into information and, in turn, into knowledge. The author considers such arbitrary distinctions a tar baby (p. 71), a place to get stuck. He implies (but does not explicitly state) that knowledge is constituted by bringing a framework, structure, organization to experience, what is called "content" in the age of internet computing. Such knowledge includes the expertise that grows up in a community of practicing experts around a task, person, or organization as well as the tools (networks and databases) that augment that knowledge (p. 71). For example, in the knowledge economy the flow of information is as important as the flow of good and services and, to some extent, interchangeable. The inventory of goods required to be ready to hand to address customer purchases can be reduced by an accurate inventory demand forecasting system in a victory of information over inventory (p. 26). Physical assets are being replaced by the networks and databases -- structural knowledge capital -- in the generation of economic value. Information technology has an essential facilitating and enabling role to play in each of the three forms of knowledge capital identified and discussed by Stewart. To this reader, though perhaps not to many business and technology managers, the first kind -- human knowledge capital -- is the least interesting of knowledge assets. Round up and insert here all the usual suspects in stories of dumb companies that try to treat their workers like interchangeable cogs in a mechanisms. Compare these with smart companies that promote employee stock ownership, empowerment, and professional development. The dilemma remains the same. If the employee leaves, so does his or her ability to solve problems for the organization. True, you can make a persons miserable with legal documents and corporation counsels;what you can't do is make them loyal that way. The author's original insight here is that the loyalty is often to the community of practice -- professional organizations of knowledge workers (network specialists, database specialists, etc., by analogy with doctors and lawyers). Really smart companies create communities of practice as knolwedge exchanges, technical advisory groups, and writing workshops. More significant is structural knowledge capital. The framework for this is information technology. The example of the inventory system substituting for product on hand on the floor of the warehouse belongs here. Also included are various ways of bundling information with products -- as when the documentation accompanies the product on a CD ROM disk -- and of products that are themselves essentially information content (digital informational entertainment and services). Although this includes the traditional repertoire of patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and intellectual property in the narrow legal sense, these are a drop in the bucket. Group here the initiatives one can read about in the business and trade publications being driven by the big six consulting organizations in building "knowledge xchanges," wide area databases of technology and industry specific methods and practices of solving problems.The most original insight is to think of customer relations as knowledge capital. Once again these relations are enhanced by connecting with the customers through networks and works flows enabled by technology, presenting the competition with barriers to market entry and costs of catch up. Throughout the discussion, the author argues persuasively that a switch has occurred from information supporting the "real" business to information being the business (p. 165). This method is fundamentally different than squeezing suppliers and distributors to increase the companies own profit margin. The question to ask rather is our share of the customers business growing as fast as their business is growing. If so, then a win-win process is underway. The author conclusions with chapters on the economics of information as well as a useful appendix on measuring and managing intellectual capital. Unlike physical assets, knowledge is nonsubtractive. It can be sued again and again without being consumed, used up. It seems to qualify and limits (if not flat out contradict) the fundamental principle of economics, the law of diminishing returns. For example, once a substantial up front cost is incurred in constructing a software product, the costs of reproduction and distribution (though perhaps not of maintenance and support) are relatively minor. There are no diminishing returns in sight. My obtaining a piece of knowledge in no way diminishes your ability to obtain it too. What does occur, however, is wholesale obsolescence as the rate of technological changes (one of the fundmaentla drivers of macro-economic growth) creates legacy systems at an unprecedented rate. The audience for this book is business and technology professionals who want to understand the interplay between economic growth and information technology in a broad sense. The style is journalistic and suitable for the nontechnical reader with an interest in the economics of information and knowledge. The author's rhetorical flourishes, characteristic of such publications as Fortune magazine where the author is a writer, are well-balanced with incisive argument and a substantial marshalling of data and evidence. The footnotes are scholarly and are a useful supplement to readers who wish to drill down into the intellectural content behind the headlines. There is no index. Stewart makes a signficant contribution and demonstrates a masterful grasp of his material, which makes him very knowledgeable indeed. -- excerpt from my published review in Computing Reviews, December 1997
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A little dated, but describes the idea adequately 9 septembre 2009
Par 1000Books - Publié sur
Format: Broché
The book does a great job of describing the movement from asset based value to intellectual capital. It's a bit repetitive, but the idea is to explicate how novel the idea is and what the ideas of the past were. Since it was written in 1997, many people have already begun to change their thinking and whole generations are fully aware this is the case. This is particularly the case in finance, where the only assets are people. In it's time it was most likely far more revolutionary. For that reason, it stands as an interesting "historical" piece on just how fast the business world is changing.
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