Purpose – This paper seeks to discuss how an environmental change for an organisation can be a catalyst for the take-up of intellectual capital (IC). In particular, it uses Laughlin's “colonizing” model of organisational change to understand the catalyst for change, being an ageing workforce, and the resultant formation of an accounting of IC. Design/methodology/approach – This paper presents a case study of an Australian public sector organisation, which has created and implemented IC practice. Findings – In this case, the impending retirements of the “baby boomer” generation were an environmental disturbance and a catalyst that allowed for an accounting of IC, especially its human capital. Research limitations/implications – This case study is limited to the presentation of findings of a phenomenon within a particular organisation within the Australian public sector context. Other forces may also have had an effect on the organisation, if not for the presence of the “ageing workforce” disturbance. Originality/value – The paper contributes to the literature on IC by examining the impact of the take-up of IC from inside a public sector organisation perspective.