Integrated consciousness is every leader’s next challenge

Integrated consciousness

Two famous books I’ve read contain a lot of knowledge on some theories in relation to the economy, the society and the labour market. For a long time, those books have kept a lot of smart minds busy analysing and finding evidence to either defend or contradict the statements made by the writers Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Brilliant minds in their time. In my opinion those books should be mandatory in our education system for some basic understanding about the mentioned subjects. Nonetheless, I think we are heading towards a new era that will invalidate both theories – or at least for a greater part. Still, if you take some crucial core elements out of both theories and you put them together with today’s developments in technology and information management, we could end up with a new theory, a next level. Let’s call it ‘integrated consciousness’ for now. Are you wondering what I mean by that? Read on!

From selfishness to social

The first famous book is called ‘The Wealth of Nations’, written by Adam Smith. A lot of people have read it. Reading this book would help people better understand the value of things and especially the value of creation. Adam Smith talks about ‘the invisible hand’, referring to the self-regulating effect in a market of creating collective prosperity by purely striving after self-interest. This mental legacy about being able to all benefit from free market processes is coming to an end.

The negative side-effects of the ‘invisible hand’ theory, that has a rather selfish tendency, can even be disastrous in practise; look at for example at the consequences of the environmental damage or the negative economic effects that are caused by the disturbance of the free market processes arisen due to askew positions of power. Nowadays this so called invisible hand is turning into a visible hand with clear social intentions to share and act sustainable. People want to do good for society, not coincidental but as a conscious attempt to improve society.

Owning the machine for value-added

In ‘Das Kapital’, the second book I was referring to, writer Karl Marx treats the classical dilemma of labour in economical perspective and the oppression labourers sometimes have to go through. The solution of Karl Marx is actually simple: labourers must own the machine. So true, even nowadays. Thus, parts of Marx’s economic theories are clearly still valid in the 21st century. With the upcoming era of robotics it is vital to understand that the one machine that will not be created is the machine that actually thinks, that conforms to the human mind. So if the human mind is the machine in the labour market, then you should better delve into Marx’s book. His central concept of surplus value (value-added) is about the new value created by workers in excess of their own labour-cost. People will never be redundant. Although future technology and artificial intelligence might be able to interact as a ‘team member’, people will keep on creating the vital value. With the right mindset and education, being able to work alongside robots, workers create their own value-added. Never in addition to interfaces that come close to human ability, wearable devices, and smart machines, but in a leading and stipulating role.

Human and robots as a team

Combining Smith and Marx into a new theory

Now if we combine the knowledge that has been generated out of these two theories in practise, we get to the next level: integrated consciousness. What does this new theory mean for a leader? Well, this means working with people that don’t wish to exploit or be exploited anymore, people that own the real machine – being the human mind. That is something to look forward to; the moment we evolve from a society that is feudal in the base to a truly caring society where human minds, technology and information management function flawless in a fully integrated labour market.

Does that mean no more exploitation? No, the failed experiment on communism is as true as the failed experiment on capitalism. These two failures showed us we need to find the balance. With the ongoing evolution of the world our leaders need to coop with this new integrated consciousness. How are they leading their employees towards this new way of creating value? How are they making sure their company can flourish within the ecosystem they have become a part of? For leaders it is all a matter of being conscious of your role, just as employees are becoming more and more conscious of what their mind can be worth.

Leadership characteristics of integrated consciousness

If you want your employees to create wealth by owning up to their added value, what do you need to do as a leader? What leadership style would be most appropriate? Well, although the following tips seem logical, in practise they haven’t been incorporated by a lot of leaders. In the future they are becoming more important than ever. So, a leader should start by getting hang of these characteristics:

  • Be aware of the individual needs of your employees;
  • Be respectful of the world around you;
  • Be approachable; not only say you are, but proactively show you are;
  • Understand the bigger picture of the role you have, your company has and your employees have in the ecosystem;
  • Truly value diversity;
  • Stimulate personal growth.


Have you got any thoughts on the future of leadership after reading this article? I would really appreciate your feedback and ideas in a comment.



Arjen van Berkum is columnist, motivator, bon vivant, innovation fan and visiting lecturer at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). He is founder and Managing Director of Betula Services. At Betula Services they believe in co-creating the best possible value chain. They have the answer to complex issues surrounding Resource Management, driven by innovation, leadership, HR processes and performance management. By making you successful Betula Services gradually phases themselves out - the result of co-creation.


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