Intellectual Capital Management: An Introduction to Cognition in the Work Environment

By Maretha Prinsloo on September 17, 2019

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“In the past, ‘human potential’ was an empty catch phrase in the face of such stultifying concepts as ‘general intelligence’. No longer is it the case that IQ is destiny.”

– Neil Lightfoot 


In our quest for survival, the tyranny of “the sweat of one’s brow” has over the centuries yielded to the power of the mind. An appropriate intellectual approach has thus become a prerequisite for present-day work performance, especially in complex environments. However, intellectual prowess alone, offers few guarantees.  In this article we review what Psychology has to offer in explaining, positioning and optimising the potential impact of the human mind.

In this 4-part blog the focus will be on:

  • an introduction to cognition in the work environment; followed by
  • the theory and practice of holistic assessment;
  • practical guidelines for the application of an intellectual capital management solution within the work environment; and
  • assessment constructs and products.

Intelligence is often regarded as the apex of evolutionary progression thus far.  But, although the human mind has improved our chances of survival on this planet, there are also signs of its potential to further our demise.

Human intellect has shaped a world where medicine (via antibiotics) has effectively removed the threat of the disease-causing bacteria which shortened our lives, but antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now a dangerous by-product of our solutions. The mind has found ingenious ways to feed, clothe, shelter, entertain, secure and enrich ourselves and to optimise our resources, but are those practices sustainable? Through brainpower, man has cleverly digitised information and uncovered many secrets of space-time and the universe in which we live. First world citizens are now healthy, wealthy, guilty and insecure. We can invite remote places into our living rooms, harbor lofty ideas about migration into space and maybe even acquire neural implants to enhance our brain power. But self-destruction remains an enduring possibility.

Our solutions seem to create new challenges which increasingly call for more integrated and insightful perspectives. To resolve these, we rely on intellectual power. But how can we develop and optimise our thinking, worldviews and consciousness?

Many factors may contribute to cognitive development, including socialisation within a cultural milieu where certain values apply; interpersonal interaction; our genetically determined cognitive potential; education; nutrition; environmental stimulation; and motivational drive rooted in emotional and physical needs.

While intellectual functioning can be limited by physical factors such as trauma, inadequate nutrition and/or genetically related system limits, it seems that social factors such as love, social interaction, language and culture probably affect mental development in the most powerful way. Educational systems, which form part of the cultural context, also play an important role.

However, it seems that the focus of education, in large parts of the world, is on knowledge transfer within specific domains or disciplines. An emphasis of analytical thinking at the detriment of integrative thinking, intuition, emotional intelligence and consciousness is also commonly found. Sorely neglected by higher education is the wisdom that comes from a transdisciplinary perspective; a recognition of the dynamic complexity of our personal, organisational and societal challenges; and a transcendent awareness.

One of the effects of such a one-sided educational and thus intellectual approach is that it has produced impressive technical solutions, but often without the wisdom to apply it to our own benefit. So where is the disconnect? Why have we ended up in a society where the big fixes that so often fail, are justified by the politics of power.

Power is brutal and can only be subjugated by a deeper awareness and understanding. But in a world where power is in control of intelligence, wisdom is conspicuous by its absence. Intelligence can only be harnessed effectively to generate sustainable solutions from which all will benefit, if it is purposefully directed by transcendent consciousness.

An intellectual capital management solution aimed at enhancing the work performance of employees, as well as the long-term implications of their work, should therefore be rooted in an understanding of both consciousness and cognition.  

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