If I read one page of Business: The Ultimate Resource per day, I'll be finished by the end of the year.
The year 2008, that is.
Daniel Goleman, author of the book's forward, kindly advised that I don't read it cover to cover. Even if I were to pace myself at a more respectable clip of six pages daily, it would take me two months to finish the Best Practice section of essays.
In another three months, I could complete the Management Checklists and Actionlists. I could knock off the Management Library of book summaries in under two weeks, read the profiles of Business Thinkers and Management Giants in a month, spend another month on the Dictionary, allot three months for the World Business Almanac and then leaf through the Business Information Sources in about five weeks.
Yet by then, I'll have also received a year's worth of monthly upgrades via e-mail.
Perhaps Dr. Goleman is onto something, and that wouldn't be a first for him. The CEO of Emotional Intelligence Services also co-chairs the Consortium for Social and Emotional Learning in the Workplace, based at Rutgers University. He's best known for his books Emotional Intelligence and Working with Emotional Intelligence, both of which were New York Times bestsellers. Recently, I sat down with the psychologist to talk Business.
David Berkowitz: In the introduction to Business: The Ultimate Resource, you make the case for including "business intelligence" among other forms of intelligence that are now studied, ranging from Howard Gardner's breakdown, to the work that you furthered on emotional intelligence. How exactly would business intelligence differ from others that are out there?
Daniel Goleman: It differs in that it's specific to the domain of commerce and business itself. Howard Gardner has made the case quite convincingly that the standard view of intelligence as IQ is much too narrow--that is IQ involves just math/spatial abilities and verbal agility. But he points out that there are other domains where there are other kinds of intelligence that make one a success or a star. Think about sports and dance--he talks about a kinesthetic intelligence. He talked about art or music--each of those domains has its abilities, and the world of commerce I think is one of those domains where some people who may not be particularly gifted in IQ turn out to do stunningly well, and that suggests that there is a set of capabilities which is distinct from IQ which makes people naturals in this domain.
It does of course include some intelligence. It includes emotional intelligence, which I've written about at length. But I think it includes something over and above those that we haven't quite quantified. So the case for business intelligence I think is as strong as for any other, particularly when you consider that an intelligence needs to have an evolutionary reason that we would have selected for it in the first place.
I think the core function of business intelligence in evolution was what we now call survival of the fittest, not in the sense that people usually think of it as tooth and nail competition, but actually in a much more interesting way. Survival of the fittest from an evolutionary point of view means more of your genes get passed on to future generations. In other words, you have more kids and they survive to adulthood and they have more kids, and you can see that what's critical there is the ability to provide. I think that is the evolutionary function that's been the basis of what now can be called business intelligence.
DB: Can business intelligence be taught?
DG: I think the answer is yes and no. Some people have natural abilities, and I don't know if all of those abilities can be taught, but the main components of each can be. There are three domains of ability that are the most relevant. One is cognitive ability. That includes particularly decision making and strategic thinking. The second [domain] is the technical skills--that is, being able to learn specific abilities that are essential to your particular role. Both of those are teachable. The third [domain] is emotional intelligence, which has to do with how you manage yourself and your relationships, and that articulates into competencies like cooperation or persuasion or empathy, adaptability, flexibility, integrity--particular competencies that we've found in extensive research distinguish star performers from those who are just average. And it turns out all of those can be taught. The key is that you have to be highly motivated. If you're not motivated, you're unlikely to learn in any of those areas.
DB: It seems like no matter who you are, where you are, you need to be motivated to learn if you're going to excel.
DG: But the motivation needs to be higher in the domain of emotional intelligence because the learning is slower and takes more practice. With the other two domains, one-trial learning is often sufficient. You can read a book, you can go through a CD or some kind of internet program, or you can go to a weekend course and that's often enough. For emotional intelligence, it's going to take several months of trying out new ways of behaving as situations arise.
DB: Is this being taught in business school, and can it be worked in?
DG: I think that much of the business school curriculum is certainly in this domain--not all of it, by the way, but much of it--to the extent that what you learn in business school actually will be of practical help to you once you're out in the job. Anyone who's been to business school or any kind of school knows that you do come with some tools from school, but the fact is you continue to learn, and there are often very steep learning curves, once you're on the job. Ultimately, most of what you learn that's useful is what you've picked up on the job.
One thing that distinguishes star performers in any domain from those who are just average is their access to expertise. In the 80s, there's a fellow at Carnegie Mellon who used to ask people, "How much of the information or expertise that you need to do your job is in your own head?" And the answer then was about 75%. Now it's about 15%. In other words, we're increasingly dependent on our ability to access. That is where actually this book, Business: The Ultimate Resource, can level the playing field, because it helps everyone have instant access to whatever it is they're going to need to know in the world of business. That's never happened before. It's like the Physicians' Desk Reference for business. Every doctor, at his office, has the PDR because it's the ultimate source on everything. He may not know about the obscure disease you bring in today, but by gosh, he can look it up in a minute. Now we have it for business, finally. It never really existed before.
DB: Say you're the Dean of Admissions at a school that specializes in teaching business intelligence. What criteria would you look for in the applicants?
DG: I would look for two things. One is for early signs of these abilities--for example, kids who already had been entrepreneurial, who had started some kind of small business. It doesn't matter what it is--house cleaning or something online. It doesn't matter what, but that they already have shown a knack and a sensibility in this domain. The other thing I would look for is the ability to learn--that is, they have a track record in a school setting of being able to apply themselves, to be attentive.
DB: Can you gauge that from anything other than the grade point average and standardized test scores?
DG: Yes, because it can be in other domains. It might be that I learned about how to make clarinets, or I learned how to repair computers. It may not be in the standard curriculum at all, and in a way, those are the more interesting kids. Both of those things would suggest to me that they might have talent that could be groomed.
DB: I know a number of people applying to business school right now who would prefer your style of admissions.
DG: You know, I was talking to the Dean of Admissions at Stanford Business School, which is one of the top-ranked schools. He said, "We've been looking for the wrong things. We've been looking at GMAT scores." But he said the kids with the high GMAT scores aren't necessarily the ones who are going to do well in business. They do well at test taking, but where do you ever take a test in the world of business? It's a very, very artificial situation from which to judge that set of abilities.
By the way, there was a study at Harvard in the graduate schools of business, law and medicine looking at entrance exam scores and how people finally did in their career. They found there was zero correlation. What those tests predict is how well you'll do freshman year in graduate school. It means you probably won't drop out.
DB: So why are they still so prevalent?
DG: (laughing) That's a very good question. I don't have a good answer for it, do you? Maybe we should move on.
DB: Have you noticed any business leaders in particular who excel at emotional intelligence?
DG: Emotional intelligence is not one thing, like an IQ score. It's a profile of abilities. There are four main domains: self-awareness, self-management, empathy and social skills. People can be strong or weak in any of those. Outside the world of business, Bill Clinton was extraordinary in the last two domains--empathy and social skills. But when it came to self-control and impulse control, he certainly conked out, yet he was a very effective leader. There's no one who comes to mind as perfect across the board, but there are many different leaders in business and other areas who have one strength or the other.
DB: How do you think our current president scores comparatively in terms of emotional intelligence?
DG: I think that he's definitely very good in the fourth domain, in the relationship domain. That's always been one of his strengths--forming very good personal relationships very quickly with people and maintaining those relationships.
DB: Tim Sanders' book Love is the Killer App is something you may find of interest, as it deals with bringing compassion into the workforce. When you think of managing emotions, especially in the workplace, you think of examples such as the one recently where an office worker in Times Square goes and kills a couple co-workers because of some alleged love affair issue. You wouldn't as quickly think of how to best manage compassion at work.
DG: I think that's very effective at work. Building strong personal relationships and being caring and compassionate about each other, and having a real human relationship along with your work relationship, means that you'll be there for each other when you're needed, where other people might walk away. It makes both good human sense, as it's much more pleasant to work with people who are also friends, but it also makes good business sense.
DB: Are there any dangers in that?
DG: There are dangers of blurring the line between your personal life and your work life. You need to be sensitive to what other people are comfortable with, so take some sensitivity to the moment.
This interview originally appeared at eMarketer