Intelligence is just a broad term, whereas IQ (intelligence quotient) is used to describe the calculated value of a person’s mind. But what does ‘intelligence’ actually mean in today’s world? Niranjan Gidwani, an independent consultant director and former CEO of the Eros Group, takes a look at various types of intelligence, and how they will become increasingly important in the years ahead.
The real story behind IQ is narrated very well in Harvard Professor Howard Gardener’s path-breaking work called ‘Multiple Intelligences’.
In 1900, Paris was seeing a huge influx of people from the villages. These people were migrating along with their children. In 1899, France had made it mandatory that all children between the ages of six and 14 be made to attend school. Because of the influx, the government needed a way to assess the intelligence of the children so that the more intelligent kids got priority. Alfred Binet was a psychologist who had devised a method which is now famously known as the IQ test.
However, Howard Gardener, through his book Multiple Intelligences, explained that there are eight other forms of intelligence.
These are literary, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, spatial, naturalistic and spiritual. It is essential to understand how each one works. Because in varying degrees, we are gifted with all the nine intelligences to deliver better results.
Literary intelligence is about the capability to read and write well. Between a manager who can do the maths well, and another who also reads and writes well, the latter is likely to succeed much more. In a world where we have to network with different teams and nationalities, the capacity to be a better leader is determined by how well we express ourselves through languages, reading and writing.
Music is about harmony. Studies indicate that children who play an instrument learn to ‘listen’ much better and grow up to be better empathetic professionals. Not everyone is endowed with the intelligence to play music, but anyone can cultivate the capability to build appreciation, and it has several benefits.
Great sportspersons have what is called kinesthetic intelligence. In certain kinds of sports, we do not have time to think. In fact, it is said if you think, you are dead. Consider sports such as boxing, fencing, etc. People who play such sports can take critical decisions involving the body and the mind on-the-fly where each move is a new move, and sometimes life depends on it. How is a firefighter or a trauma surgeon’s job any different? How much time do we think they have to process information and take action? Increasingly, professions of the future will need leaders with greater kinesthetic capability.
We have all come across many people who can converse better, can make friends quickly, and solve problems collaboratively. This category of people has high interpersonal intelligence. They work better as a part of a group.
This is hugely important for those who want to lead. Sometimes we need to follow, but at all the times we have to collaborate effectively.
Given a position of power and authority, why do some managers behave in a despotic manner, and others in a firm but humane way? Those who are more self-aware have a realistic understanding of who they are and what their true needs are. They are emotionally stable and can deal better with the ups and downs in life and business. These people have a higher degree of what Gardener calls intra-personal intelligence.
This is extremely important in professionals whose decisions impact a large number of other people. Spatial intelligence means the ability to navigate. In today’s world, in a profession like sales, you realise that some salespeople can map and chart a client organisation much better than others. Some people can land in a new town, and in a matter of time, map it really well. These are known as spatially more intelligent people.
In the early days, every tribe had someone who was better at recognising animal calls and knew one animal from the other by looking at hoof or pug marks. That individual was very important for the safety of the hunters and the success of any mission. When farming became the dominant activity, this person was the one who knew one herb from another, could tell which mushroom to eat and which to avoid. Such people were gifted with naturalistic intelligence. As we all become more environmentally aware and sensitive to our planet, naturalistic intelligence (i.e. the ability to relate to the natural world) will be in demand across all professions.
Finally, there is what Gardener calls existential intelligence, or for lack of a better word, spiritual intelligence. Most of us appreciate the presence of a higher power. Some people can connect easily with the presence of such a power. As a result, research has proven that they can better deflect anxiety, can better deal with loss, and can better balance decisions with yardsticks of morality and self-governance. Such professionals, who internally know what is right, and more importantly, can stand up and do the right thing, again and again, will increasingly become more relevant in the world of business.
Multiple Intelligence by Howard Gardener is a book worth being picked up and read by all potential leaders of the future.