Have you heard of the term “positive psychological capital”? There is a discourse among a group of researchers and practitioners who find a need to use this term. My Indonesian counterpart, Prof. Dr. Jann Hidajat Tjakraatmadja uses this term. He also uses the term “integrity capital.”

Other discourses revolve around other concepts such as spiritual capital, emotional capital, cultural capital, social network capital, political capital, and so on. I have written about social capital in this blog. There is a wider discourse and broader usage of the term social capital, and much wider on human capital.

The meanings of these terms are still evolving, but the common theme across these concepts is that these forms of “X capital” are creators of value. For example, Claridge spent three years examining the meanings of the term “social capital” in more than 500 peer-reviewed articles. He concluded that the common theme across them is “social relations that have productive benefits.”

To complicate the picture, researchers and practitioners from the life sciences are beginning to use terms such as biological capital, natural capital, ecological capital, biodiversity capital, environmental capital, etc. Ecologists clearly distinguish between “natural capital” and the annual stream of “natural income” that the former produces. A mango tree is natural capital, and the mango fruits it produces yearly constitute natural income. Again, the common theme across these concepts is that these forms of capital are such because they are creators of value. They produce annual income streams, just like the more traditional factors of production, namely, land, labor and capital.

Knowledge management researchers and practitioners added more terms: intellectual capital, structural capital (or process capital), relationship capital (or stakeholder capital or customer capital). The consistent underlying meaning among KM researchers and practitioners is that these “things” are all creators of value. They produce wealth. Customer capital contributes to a corporation’s annual income stream just as much as a mango tree produces an annual income stream for the farmer-owner.

It is becoming clear that the factors of production is not just land, labor and capital. There are many more factors that can create wealth other than the traditional ones taught in Economics 101. Psychologists, biologists, ecologists, sociologists, etc. are showing us these many other forms of capital.

Last March 2008, at the conference on “Knowledge Architectures for Development” sponsored by the Singapore Management University, we proposed the cross-disciplinal term “metacapital” to encompass all the various forms of capital. Here is a slide in my PowerPoint presentation:


What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Metacapital”

  1. Mary Adams Says:

    I continue to like the formal definition of intellectual capital as human, structural and stakeholder capital. In this model, all of the types of social and reputation capital are part of the relationship capital. This approach sees knowledge as capital, or assets of an organization.

    Just as you would with physical assets, you want to understand these assets from many perspectives. With physical assets, one would look at investment (how much it cost to build), operation (how much it cost to run) and performance (what is the yield). Knowledge assets/intellectual capital are the same–managers should understand cost, operation and performance.

    In many ways, reputation is the “bottom line” of intangibles management. Successes (and failures) in managing people, processes and relationships all end up affecting reputation.

    But it is possible to make a much more direct connection between intangibles and value creation. Here’s the way I look at it:

  2. apintalisayon Says:

    The manner that Google built their IC is convincingly illustrated by your slide presentation, Mary.

    I prefer the term “relationship capital” to “stakeholder capital” because the latter often connotes only “parties outside the organization” whereas the quality of internal relationships within an organization also affect its value creating processes.

    Thank you for your comments.

    I added ICA to my blogroll. 🙂

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