When asked how emotional intelligence builds innovation skills I wanted to start from the beginning.
“Innovation is the creation, development and implementation of a new product, process or service, with the aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness or competitive advantage.”
By definition innovation is about initiating change and understanding the context around this change.
If emotions can be seen as our mechanism for recognising and helping to manage change, then it becomes clear that innovation must rely heavily on being emotionally in-tune.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) can be seen as a set of skills that develops emotional awareness and improves management of self and others helping us to adapt and thrive.
So by definition, EQ skills are skills for innovation.
This will not be a surprise to those who already understand that more broadly EQ skills are fundamental survival and success skills.
Here are a few key elements of emotional intelligence seen through the lens of innovation:
To be an innovator it’s vital to see a situation or a problem as it truly is. We can’t fix something, find a great solution or pivot our behaviours wisely to deal with an issue unless we read a situation well.
This may seem obvious, but we can all see the same thing slightly differently through the lens of our own experiences: What we’ve strongly experienced or feared tends to jump to the fore, particularly in times of change or challenge.
The trick is to view issues clearly, in a balanced way, based on evidence and with an understanding of our own beliefs and bias.
There are ways we can improve this for ourselves such as being open and working with people with very different experiences. Or regularly looking at our emotional experiences and understanding what and why we feel the way we do. These things are great ways to gain broader perspectives and balance. This awareness is called ‘reality testing’. It’s one of three key awareness components (we call radars) of emotional intelligence; the other radars are emotional self-awareness and empathy. Together these three radars help us see and know what is. Having these qualities well-developed and in-balance means we challenge perceptions and uncover beliefs well.
Innovation, to me, is finding something of greater value than is currently known. How do we find this value? By knowing and bringing to the fore what’s of value. We do this by knowing what’s great about ourselves, knowing our core values that drive us, building and acknowledging our strengths, and finding where all these can most be of value to the world. It’s knowing this ‘fit’ that enables us to show our best to the world and also to be fulfilled.
Knowing ourselves is therefore fundamental to being a great innovator. Our emotions give us the information about what is right, wrong, good or bad about a situation, a decision, and life in general. By having a comprehensive emotional vocabulary and through practice we more accurately label our feelings in a given situation. This creates trust in ourselves, greater clarity of thinking and allows us to use our strengths and know our potential or limitations and how to best apply ourselves.
Is it fair to say that the best innovations address the most important human needs? To understand those needs means understanding people and their viewpoints. It means being in tune with what others feel and need. Empathy is a group of such abilities enabling us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Empathy-related skills allow us to take an idea and see where it can be best applied, and become more aware of its context. This complete change in viewpoint is one of the most important and difficult skills we can learn. It’s also the basis of good marketing, negotiation, and persuasion.
One of the most important aspect of innovating is relaying ideas, listening to what others think and explaining the virtue and way of working. Simplifying explanations relies on good use of language and vocabulary.
These are just a few elements of emotional intelligence. Imagine developing one element, just a little more. What effect could it have? Now imagine developing all these a little. The cumulative effect on overall EQ would far outweigh the mere sum of the parts. As they each grow, they support each other more. This is the way we build emotional intelligence skills for all types of people and roles. Using psychometric assessments, we home in on where the need is greatest. It’s powerful stuff, some might say, innovative.
Learn more about Philip and his work as an EQ expert here.
Sign-up to Philip’s ACE Saturdays Workshop on Dec 5th here.