The authors identify theoretical disconnects among resource-based theory (RBT), conceptualizations of intangible resources (intangibles), and measures of intangibles. Specifically, the authors’ survey of 186 recent empirical tests of RBT suggests that measures of intangibles are often assigned with little theoretical conceptualization of the intangible construct or connection with RBT. This lack of theoretical justification undermines confidence in measures and empirical findings, leaves central RBT questions unaddressed, and constricts the usefulness of RBT. Furthermore, their survey suggests that the dominant approach to measuring intangibles is mechanical and unidisciplinary (i.e., rooted in either economics or psychology). The authors argue that the challenge of measuring intangibles is primarily theoretical. Thus, mechanical and unidisciplinary approaches are problematic for they sustain theoretical disconnects among RBT and intangible conceptualizations and measures. Moreover, a multidisciplinary construct validation approach is required to remedy the respective deficiencies of economic and psychological approaches and integrate their complementary strengths. The authors present such an approach, which they call the multidisciplinary assessment process (MAP). The MAP guides scholars in creating theories of intangibles that are specific to their RBT study. These theories are the focal point of the MAP and clarify what, specifically, the intangible is and how firms use the intangible to create and appropriate economic value. In turn, these theories inform the measurement and validation steps of the MAP, so that intangibles are assessed with greater credibility.
Molloy, J. C., Chadwick, C., Ployhart, R. E., & Golden, S. J. (2011). Making intangibles "tangible" in tests of resource-based theory: A multidisciplinary construct validation approach. Journal of Management, 37(5), 1496-1518. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206310394185