“Je pense que je sui”, “Cogito ergo sum”, “I think therefore I am”
The philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes first coined the phrase “I think therefore I am” in 1637 in his book Discours de la Methode (Discourse on the Method). For Rene this was a very personal statement. He proved his existence by doubting his thinking. This was later expressed as “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am”, or in Latin, “dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum”. This had nothing to do with other people, just proof of his own existence – it’s not “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore you are”, and it leaves to wonder if he would exist if he didn’t think. Although other philosophers pondered this in years before, Rene’s contribution to Western philosophy was that this became a foundation to justify truth in science and mathematics.
And sometimes we just favour this type of knowledge too much, and it can lead us to have a unbalanced view of the information in front of us, and consequently of the actions, decisions, issues and risks in front of us.
This blog is about honouring knowledge through intellect, and also honouring 8 other kinds of knowledge we have. By bringing focus and attention to the other 8 and balancing out our information, we can solve problems better, be more attuned to life, and make a bigger impact as leaders.
So if leadership is feeling less than fun, less than fulfilling, less than effective, and more like an upward slog, then read on…you have 8 entire other areas of intelligence to leverage.
Emotional Intelligence is one of them, and has gotten some major press in the last couple decades, thanks to Daniel Goleman. It’s been proven that a leader who is more emotionally intelligent is more effective.
However, can you name the other kinds of intelligence?
This week’s blog is about using ALL your intelligence, not just the cognitive kind. Just like an elite athlete trains mentally in addition to physically, a leader can train other aspects of intelligence beyond the mental kind. You are literally smarter than you think because you have intelligence in 9 areas as proposed by Howard Gardner, of Harvard University.
What is intelligence?
In Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, (2000) Howard Gardner defines intelligence as:
- The ability to create an effective product or offer a service that is valued in a culture,
- a set of skills that make it possible for a person to solve problems in life, and
- the potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which involves gathering new knowledge.
If this is intelligence then it’s the kind companies seek but often don’t find. Leaders who deliver this will feel more satisfaction at work and more recognition. And that’s delicious.
Dr. Edward de Bono, who developed Six Thinking Hats says:
“We have been limited primarily to thinking methods developed by three Greek philosophers – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle – 2,500 years ago. They created a system of thinking based on a search for truth carried out by argument. This system was designed to preserve a stable world. It does not fit the demands placed on us today.”
Intelligence is not just being able to show what you think is right, or what the other person thinks is wrong. It’s solving problems effectively and collaborating and communicating, versus competing.
Originally there were 7 intelligences that Howard Gardner identified. Later he added Naturalistic to recognize the ability to connect to the natural world. Gardner didn’t want to commit an area of the intelligence to spirituality, but a 9th ability is referenced to as existential. More detail on each kind is found at this link.
- Musical–rhythmic and harmonic
Get out of your mind and try to see your strengths through these lenses.
- Being an introvert is an intelligence you can leverage.
- Being artistic or musical is an intelligence you can leverage.
- Being able to connect to nature, for example, working with animals, is an intelligence.
- Being able to dance, or do acrobatics is an intelligence. (I think of Cirque de Soleil)
Howard Gardner believed that these categories should not limit people, but instead represent a continuum of strengths.
This is like weight training, where you create a balanced plan – you work out your legs, core, and arms. You likely wouldn’t just focus on one. Someone with strong arms and a weak core is not necessarily strong.
Elite athletes train mentally in addition to physically to achieve their personal best. Couldn’t leaders be at their personal best when they develop their abilities fully?
Get Smart(er) Call to Action:
- Consider the depth and breadth of your intelligence across these 9 areas, and of the people you lead.
- Are there development opportunities for you or your team? Get out of your mind. Go fly a kite. Go paint a picture (I did). Or better yet, take your team out to an event like Paint Nite. Go for a run. Meditate. Learn a new language. Learn a new instrument. Those are just some ideas. Don’t they sound delicious?
- Are there opportunities for synergy in your team? Likely someone has more abilities in one of the 9 areas and can supplement the other team members. As a whole, a strong team may demonstrate all 9 areas.
- If you currently think of yourself or others as “incompetent” or “not smart”, challenge yourself to see that thinking may not be completely true.
- How about complimenting someone on being intelligent in a non-traditional area? There are a lot of people out there who feel stupid because of their lack of success in math or science…yet they are brilliantly intelligent in other areas. (Or they feel only intelligent because of their success in math and science, and feel incompetent in the other areas of life.)
Le Penseur, Musee Rodin, Paris. Photo by Sunita Alves
Image of Rene Descartes – Wikipedia Public Domain
Heart Gears & Cogs, photo by Sunita Alves
Fireflies, painting by Sunita Alves