How to make an organisation smarter

Most people involved in the selection of exceptional Managers and Leaders will focus on some type of cognitive testing, as IQ is regarded as the critical component in high performance. Certainly, the high number of cognitive ability tests available in the market would seem to support the notion that testing a person’s ability to solve complex and ambiguous problems is important. Most organisations now find themselves navigating an increasingly unknown future, being unable to predict upcoming events, yet their future success is largely pinned on a faith in strategic thinking and IQ.

Recruiters also consider it essential to select for Emotional intelligence. EQ has been popularised by Daniel Goleman and it is now recognised that an effective Manager/Leader needs to have good intrapersonal intelligence – managing their own emotions and managing their own motivation, and interpersonal intelligence – reading the emotions of others and influencing others’ behaviours.

By combining IQ and EQ the organisation can be much surer that it is selecting the very best people in enabling its success.

Yet by only selecting for IQ and EQ, an organisation will be missing essential information about its people. There are three other critical intelligences that feed into organisational effectiveness. These are Learning intelligence (LQ), Values intelligence (VQ) and Network intelligence (NQ).

With the ever increasing pace of change it is now necessary for Leaders to be effective at learning and adapting. Learning can only come from making mistakes. To learn from mistakes takes humility (EQ) but it also takes courage to throw oneself into situations where an individual or organisation can learn – this is about considered risk taking. Marvin Zuckerman first coined the term ‘sensation seeking’ for the trait of having a thirst for adventure and excitement, but recently Professor Chris Jackson has identified sensation seeking as a critical component in a Leader’s ability to learn and adapt to the environment. All of these intelligences are tied together, so having a propensity towards sensation seeking without having a reasonable level of EQ can result in delinquent types of behaviours, however, sensation seeking with high EQ will be a tremendous asset to any organisation.

Certainly the most neglected intelligence is Network intelligence. NQ is a measure of a person’s ability to be connected and have trusted relationships inside and outside the organisation. People with high NQ are likely to be the conduit for the free flow of information around and through the organisation. They have a disproportionate influence within the organisation as others are likely to emulate their behaviours. Take these people out of the organisation and you lose their vital connections. They are operating effectively within the informal network and are essential when an organisation is implementing a change process. We could argue that Network intelligence is related to EQ, however it is something slightly different. Those with high EQ may not necessarily be well connected. Like all the intelligences NQ can be measured and validated and the smart companies are starting to see its impact.

The last intelligence is Values intelligence, VQ. Through the research of Dr Brian Hall and others it seems clear that personal values will largely determine a Leader’s style and impact in the business. Values determine our ways of thinking and how we see the world, which in turn creates our leadership style or philosophy. It also seems that VQ determines one’s level of EQ. Poor self awareness, emotional management and low empathy will be determined by one’s worldview and philosophy of life.

Traditional values are strongly linked with a more command and control mode of leadership, and progressive values correlate to a more facilitative style. This is important because your informal networks, which contain your NQ, need to be nurtured, not formalised. Nurturing and resourcing your informal networks is going to be more natural for a facilitative style of manager compared to a command and control style of manager, who is likely to formalise the networks. Directing the networks will likely result in the weakening of the network’s effectiveness, therefore crippling this intelligence.

All of the types of intelligence we have mentioned are necessary for an organisation to thrive. IQ and EQ are well understood and LQ and VQ have had a light shone on them recently by business gurus. But it is Network intelligence – the only intelligence that is as much a property of the organisation as of the individuals within it – that stands out as being the most neglected. In organisations of all types it is also the intelligence whose improvement would probably boost organisational effectiveness the most.

Mark Hawkswell