Rethinking Organizational Intelligence

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As a parent of three children I’m often amazed that three extraordinarily different human beings could come from the same source. In raising our kids – one now in college and the others in late middle school and early high school – we have been front row attendees in a crash course on the appreciation of widely different aptitudes and interests and the necessity to adapt our approaches so that each receives the best possible support.

I know that we’ve done well but I would gladly take a few do-overs!

We discovered along the way a son whose intelligence is in the bodily-kinesthetic and interpersonal, a daughter whose domains are musical and intra-personal and a daughter who thrives in the spatial and logical-mathematical areas.

The adjustments we’ve made haven’t been radical or deeply insightful on our part. They’ve come from paying attention to clear and concrete evidence that different needs require different resources. Doing so promotes confidence, encourages experimentation and cultivates a greater sense of ease that can only emerge when realities are acknowledged and acted upon as they are.

The traditional education system is predicated on a sameness that today seems ludicrous but back in my formative years was assumed. If you didn’t fit the model there weren’t charter schools or homeschooling or the myriad support mechanisms available today. There was a “portable” classroom for the kids with “special needs.”

We’ve come a long way in recognizing this diversity of intelligence and creating venues and systems to support it.

What if our workplaces also moved in this direction? More specifically, what if those in supervisory positions educated themselves on the multiple intelligences and then spent time with team members discussing what domains best describe them? What if they had thoughtful conversations about how they saw themselves and the kinds of contributions they would like to make?

What might be possible if, instead of slotting people into prescribed roles, we reconsidered organizational design through the lens of the types of intelligence we need access to and then found people who bring that intelligence to the table?

This kind of flexibility is the key to sustainability over the long-term. The organizations thriving a decade or two from now will be the ones who move away from the traditional recruiting practices of job descriptions and job postings and to a more holistic perspective on who this organization is and where it is trying to go.

When that becomes the conversation, the diversity of intelligences will no longer be just interesting to consider but the foundation on which organizational future’s are built.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

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