Unless we develop our Emotional, Social and Adversity intelligence, we cannot continue to apply this knowledge in a practical setting.
Ever heard of Life Skills during childhood? Why would one need special skills to walk on the road of life? Are not basic intelligence and academic qualifications enough?
When we were growing up, we probably did not discuss Life Skills and the different types of intelligence in-depth. It seemed natural to us and our education system did not feel the need to highlight the importance until the point in time that I grew up, went into the big, bad world and realized nothing is as it seems. We do not automatically get visible rewards for our hard work. There are many external factors outside our control as we are not within the confines of the semi-controlled environment of our school. And that is when a vicious cycle begins – we begin to question the basic tenets of what we have learnt so far in school and its practical applications. We start becoming impatient as we have not been taught to build a balanced perspective about life. It took me years of inner turmoil and pain to come to the realization that our scriptures and epics like the Mahabharata have the perfect life skills lessons for us. We probably have not looked for the right learning.
As students, when we step into the world of adulthood, we need to remember and appreciate the four types of intelligence that define and shape a person’s entire career and life. It defines the relationships that we would forge with our immediate and not so immediate environments. We call them eco-systems. And, throughout our lives, we have to work with and manage these multiple ecosystems. We cannot wish them away, as much as we like, because these ecosystems are what reward or penalize us for the way we interact with them. As they say, behavior and actions stem from a person’s thought process.
There are four different types of intelligence, each of which plays a critical role in shaping one’s personality and determining success in life moving forward.
In the hierarchy of the Intelligence matrix, Academic Intelligence or IQ lies at the base. It brings about academic excellence and marks in school. It allows one to pick-up knowledge,mainly from textbooks, by using one’s aptitude.It encompasses all technical details about a topic and is extremely important as one learns the ropes across all subjects like Geography, History, Arts, the STEM subjects, the Social Sciences, Economics, etc. However, the inputs to knowledge here are mostly fixed and pre-decided by what is provided in the textbooks. The questions and answers in an examination are expected to lie within that ambit and scope. Our knowledge is being tested in a controlled environment, rarely with shades of grey or ambiguity. The marking / grading system ensures there is always a right or wrong answer as a frame of reference. However, when the playfield of life is opened up widely for us, there is rarely a right or wrong answer. It is all contextual, based on how we apply knowledge leveraging our understanding of any situation. And the situations created area complex interplay of the effect of our interactions with the people around us. As much as textbook intelligence sows the seeds of a scientific thought process and bent of mind, it also begins limiting our minds to the world of impossibilities. Most of the time, our minds get conditioned to not be able to fathom what lies beyond. Academic Intelligence builds in an inherent skepticism and challenging attitude to things that are apparently non-existent because they have not been scientifically proven yet. That is extremely critical to the creation of a scientific temperament amongst today’s youth. But, in the process and somewhere down the line, the heart, the gut feel and the appropriate emotions (that tell us to “Do it” by taking calculated risks) get subdued. Most of the time, we can debate something ad-nauseum till the cows come home, but by then the original opportunity to make a difference is either lost or becomes less relevant.
And this brings us to the next level of intelligence, that involves our emotions and how they influence and guide our interactions with the world around us.
Emotional Intelligence relates to that aspect of the human psyche that deals with relationships one on one, the most important being the relationship between one’s own mind and heart. It is that aspect of personality that drives passion and brings about a balance between one’s ego and compassion. It allows us to effectively leverage relationships throughout life to achieve our objectives.There are four stages – Self-awareness, Self-control, Understanding the other person’s emotions and using these three levers to manage relationships. How many such examples have we seen of successful individuals, who have built in this element of empathy, passion and compassion, to get the best out of them as well as other individuals to achieve the most optimal outcomes? We all need to remember that individualism is, beyond a point, a self-defeating limitation. To achieve greatness and impact, all the gears and cogs in the wheels need to act in unison and in resonance. And that is not possible till we can manage the alignment of the other person’s interests to the big outcome, that would determine success and win-win for all. And to do that, we need to connect with our and the other person’s inner self and call to bring out that person’s best. All of us who have watched the movie, Mission Mangal; have we not seen how the primary project team members of ISRO’s Mangal (Mars) Mission were brought together by their team leader by appealing to the inner scientist in them?
It also allows us to contextualize, make sense and apply Academic Intelligence in a practical way. For example, in the profession of Law, we see many Lawyers who have to keep reading a plethora of books about Law to keep themselves updated about the various clauses and sub-clauses. But it needs a different kind of intelligence – Emotional Intelligence – to relate to the case in hand, understand the characters and situation involved deeply, to apply the appropriate clauses. Landmark judgments are nevermade only through Academic Intelligence, but through the application of a sensitive mind, honed through the years by leveraging Emotional Intelligence.ForExample –The recent landmark judgement of Scrapping of section 377 which criminalized homosexuality could be achieved by a relentless campaign of Public Interest litigators Anuradha Katju and Menaka Guruswamy as it was a notion that was more emotional than academic to them.
And, as we extend our Emotional Intelligence to a social setting, we get into the realm of Social Intelligence. It goes one step further and brings in the aspect of multiple interpersonal relationships in our workplace or society. It builds on interpersonal skills that are critical components of success in the practical world.As they say, human beings are social animals. I have had a Bengali middle-class upbringing in the heart of Kolkata. I used to walk to school that was just 5 min away from home. I was amongst friends who came from similar social settings and could relate to each other. Studying in an English-medium school and born and brought up within the Bengali cultural milieu, I had begun to excel within a certain construct. Of course, as it happens naturally - “Birds of the same feather flock together”. I began to mingle more with students of my own ilk. Little did I realize internally that there is a big world outside, that has a different set of values, thought processes, cultures and traditions. As I stepped out of the confines of my school into that world, I would need to understand and work with students from all of those backgrounds. I went to study Engineering in a different city in the Hindi heartland and found it to be a melting pot.
“If you are absorbed in the workings of the mind, then emotions, judgments, dislike and other negativities arise and are reflected back to you in people, in nature, in the world.” – Paramahansa Hariharananda, one of the great masters.
As much as I would want to appreciate the diversity within which I was thrown into, I could not relate to this same diversity, given the limitations and shackles of my own mind. I was a disciplined boy while growing up. Hence, I would somewhere look down upon the “unconventional” thought process and chaotic lifestyle of many of my fellow students. That became evident in my body language. And that did not earn me too many friends who I could rely on. It took me years to realize that one’s behavior and body language stems from one’s mind and that controls all the relationships in life, and the resultant success or lack of it.
In the Corporate world, this is what determines if we can work with diverse and, at times, divergent viewpoints, even ones that we do not inherently relate to. It determines if we can secure buy-in from top level executives to our points of view and get approvals for critical projects. It determines if we can motivate our junior team members to work feverishly and passionately towards a common goal. People around us need to see that we do not dismiss them for their divergent views, but that we bring in a culture of inclusivity, true understanding and respect. People rarely base actions and reactions on facts, but on how we make them feel. And that determines success in any endeavor, as it is rarely about individual brilliance and excellence. It is about how we can make the entire ecosystem work in unison.
These are all life-long learning processes starting from when we are students. However, the biggest realization and acceptance we need to make is that we need to necessarily make course corrections throughout life, either pro-actively or due to the impact of certain events. And appreciate the fact that each of those events throws up new possibilities and opportunities for learning and leverage. Many a time one needs to start nearly afresh with renewed learning and vigor. But the moot point is that nothing goes waste. All the learning that one has gone through earlier keeps bearing fruit in the future, one way or another. This stillness and balance in our being is brought about through Adversity Intelligence that reflects one’s inner resilience. In life, every time one hits rock bottom, every time things do not happen as planned and one keeps hitting a wall, there is a strong need to re-invent, re-model, re-discover ourselves to continuously forge ahead – and this is even more relevant in the rapidly-changing world of today. In fact, this re-discovery process is now being done proactively as professionals of tomorrow manage their own careers!
A very interesting thing to note is that these different forms of intelligence hardly stand in isolation but are totally intertwined and interdependent. For example, Academic Intelligence is an asset that one needs to keep investing in throughout one’s life, else it tends to wither away over time. Our brain cells do not get younger by the day and the world around us is changing faster than the speed of light. Unless we develop our Emotional, Social and Adversity intelligence, we cannot continue to apply this knowledge in a practical setting.
We have moved a long way in the Academic world since my school days in the late 80’s. There is greater awareness of the importance of life skills and a plethora of choices in education today. It is an exciting time ahead of us!
The author is an experienced Data Science and AI Market Research professional for almost 23 years. He has done Chemical Engineering from IIT-BHU in 1995 and MBA from IIM Kolkata in 1997. He was a Panelist and Speaker in Edu Fair 3.0 on Careers of the Future and the leverage of AI. Also, he was the Co-creator of an Advanced Analytics and AI course for the students of IIM-U. He was the Mentor of Change for the Atal Tinkering Labs program of Niti Aayog. Now, he is closely working with IIM-U and NIIT-Neemrana to create and execute MoUs for collaboration around multiple areas with IBM (Apr 2019) and working to organize and deliver a first of its kind Data Science / Cognitive workshop in ISI, Kolkata.
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