A growing number of experts question educator’s traditional approach to assessing and developing intelligence. Howard Gardner, from Harvard University, explains that traditional measures of intelligence such as IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests fail to take into account cognitive and interpersonal abilities, which are equally important in learning and personal development, and of course for professional success, particularly in business. Indeed, traditional educational systems, and measurements of IQ, have tended to emphasize linguistic and logical-mathematical forms of intelligence, largely overlooking others.
This may well explain why so many artistic talents and innovative thinkers have emerged off academic backgrounds, and why outgoing people tend not to pay much attention to conventional ways of learning. Might this not also explain why some of the most important entrepreneurs of our time, such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, have little formal academic training?
Based on studies about intelligence that precede Gardner’s work, other scholars, like Daniel Goleman, have contributed toward the theory of emotional intelligence, the ability to perceive, understand, and integrate intelligence in the way we behave, and thus increase our personal development. Goleman explains that emotional intelligence is not innate -something that we are born with, but that we learn along the way- and is reflected in a series of skills that can be developed through repeated practice, such as self-awareness, social awareness, or relationship management, all of them likely to improve one’s management skills.
We have all come across students with a prodigious analytical ability, but who lack the emotional intelligence to be leaders, and it is easy to see that if they do not change, they will never gain significant positions in any company or organization. Similarly, there is no shortage of CEOs or heads of state with average IQs, but who have learned to develop their emotional intelligence.
Current research into the links between intelligence and education provide business schools with two major insights. The first is that despite earlier insistence that intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, was the result of genetics, it is now clear that intelligence is modifiable by the environment and education. The second is that teachers’ input and interaction with students is key to the development of intelligence. We will all hopefully have come across at least one teacher in our lifetime that demonstrated the ability to extract our maximum potential.
Finally, a contribution based on my own experience as a teacher and dean of a business school. There are myriad forms of intelligence that can be cultivated and strengthened in adulthood. At IE we have seen how people with a wide range of experience have increased their interpersonal skills, their ability to lead, or their ability to understand and analyze complex problems. Logically, developing these types of intelligence among senior executives and directors requires modesty, along with an openness and willingness to learn new things.