Purpose The importance of innovation has drastically increased across diverse academic and industrial fields. Innovation has been considered an outcome of intellectual capital management. The role of innovative literacy in intellectual capital management needs to be understood. Employees at all levels of the organisation carry out managerial and/or technical innovation activities by integrating their knowledge (with other members, including researchers and developers) and innovative attitude in line with the organisational goals. This study focuses on the methodological approaches to intellectual capital components at a conceptual level, based on the framework of innovative literacy, which is not prominent in the literature. Design/methodology/approach A meta-synthesis analysis was conducted, examining published articles from 1990 to 2016 based on selected keywords. The meta-synthesis analysis explored the concept of innovation literacy by revealing some of the relationships involved in intellectual capital performance. Findings The findings point to gaps and methodological weaknesses in innovative literacy research and provide insights for future research. Research limitations/implications While the findings of this study are useful, there are some limitations and recommendations for future research: One limitation of this study arises from the selection of the articles used in meta-synthesis analyses; these were published during the period 1990-2016. An expansion of the article selection to include articles published before 1990 can be useful to better understand the vision on innovation and intellectual capital. This research fills a conceptual gap in the literature. However, since this concept is evaluated using the human, customer and structural components of intellectual capital, researchers in the future can evaluate this concept with other components of intellectual capital. Finally, this research does not present a hypothesis on the relationship between innovative literacy and intellectual capital. Originality/value This study provides a novel conceptual view of integrating theories for ensuring sustainability of intellectual management and innovative literacy by synthesising findings from academic studies.