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Emotional Intelligence, Innovation And Creativity

Wednesday 23 November, 2005
Emotional Intelligence: For a while it was regarded as just another fad, new age organisational psycho-spin that wouldn’t last. Surely, this can’t be the dawn of the era of the ‘touchy-feely’ boardroom?

For many people, the concept of emotional expression was - and remains - a sign of weakness. Emotions were something to be kept at home, locked away from the rigors and strictures of the workplace where your employer was engaging you for your skills and capacity for hard work, not for the emotions you had. Leaving your emotions at home was expected by the boss. One of the problems with this was that many bosses brought their emotions to work and allowed them to be displayed in an often uncontrolled manner.

In the early 1990's the term Emotional Intelligence was first coined. The term was then taken as the title for Daniel Goleman’s book which took the message to the world when it became a best seller in 1995. In 1998 the Harvard Business Review published and article on Emotional Intelligence and it became the highest reprint of any article in the Review’s 40 year history.

But what is Emotional Intelligence (or EI)? In simple terms, it is an awareness of one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to control those emotions and influence the emotions of others. Those with high emotional intelligence show high levels of emotional restraint and empathy.

Research has shown that those who have high levels of emotional intelligence are generally happier with themselves. And that can’t be a bad thing.

Whilst people who have a higher level of understanding of their emotions will likely suffer less stress and enjoy less volatility in their relationships with others, it is in the workplace that emotional intelligence is having its most significant impact. There is a direct correlation between EI and effective leadership, team success and employee performance.

Considerable rigorous research continues to validate the impact of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace. Assessment tools have been available for a number of years to assess the level of an individual’s Emotional Intelligence. These assessment tools are now being used to assist in the recruitment process as there is clear evidence that employees with a greater understanding of emotions - or a 'higher EI’ - will not only perform more effectively but will be more likely to be retained within the organisation.

Many organisations now recognising this and are engaging in development programs and individual coaching for the CEO, senior managers and others.

Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne conducted research specific to Australian conditions (as EI is influenced culturally). One of their objectives was to determine a clear framework of EI competencies or dimensions. Their work lead them to set out Emotional Intelligence in the following five dimensions:

  1. Recognising and expressing emotions
    • The ability to identify one’s own feelings and emotional states and the ability to express those feelings to others.
  2. Understanding Emotions of Others
    • The ability to identify and understand the emotions of others and those that manifest in response to workplace environment, staff meetings, literature, etc.
  3. Making Decisions
    • The extent to which emotions and emotional knowledge are incorporated in decision-making and /or problem solving.
  4. Managing Emotions
    • The ability to manage positive and negative emotions both within oneself and others.
  5. Controlling Emotions

    • The ability to effectively control strong emotional states experienced at work such as anger, stress anxiety and frustration.

With this framework, they developed an assessment tool to measure individual’s respective levels in each of these areas. This tool, now known as the Genos EI assessment tool, is used by many of Australia’s largest companies.

Their research indicated that employees who are more emotionally intelligent are reported by their supervisors as being more–

  • Innovative and creative in the workplace
  • Better team players
  • Exhibit better customer service skills
  • Exhibit higher organisational commitment
  • Better sales performance

(Deguara & Stough, in press)
The impact of EI was specifically studied in the area of Sales by Melbourne-based consultancy Learning Dimensions International. In a report released in 2004, their research showed a clear correlation between higher levels of EI and sales performance. This report supports the international evidence which where some forward-thinking companies introduced EI development to their sales teams – and achieved significant improvements in sales results.

In all other areas of the organisation, EI will have a positive and significant effect on business outcomes.

Successful businesses are always looking for new ways to do business, finding different solutions for a range of problems, new products and more efficient systems.

To stay competitive, innovation must remain in the agenda. We are reminded of the somewhat clichéd expression of ‘thinking outside the square’. But it may not even go this far; it may just be a need to simply look at a problem another way.

So what about innovation and creativity and Emotional Intelligence?

In their peer-reviewed journal article Examining the Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Workplace Performance, Swinburne researchers Danielle DeGuara and Con Stough state that:

‘Emotional recognition and expression (in oneself), emotional management and understanding emotions (of others) were positively related to the ability to be innovative and creative in the workplace.’

The report also states: ‘The Innovator Role is an important component of performance since it is argued that for organisations to remain competitive in complex and changing environments, characteristic of today’s environment, they must have employees who are creative on behalf of the organisation (Schein,1980)’

When exploring the role of EI in creativity in the book Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life: A scientific inquiry, by Ciarrochi, J., Forgas, J. & Mayer, J. (2001), the authors state:

‘Positive moods are believed to facilitate creative idea generation, whereas negative moods focus attention and facilitate analytic processing (such as reviewing a financial spreadsheet). Generating an emotion to solve a problem, energise a group, or calm yourself prior to a big meeting or interview is a skill that can be learnt.’

In the Genos EI framework, this is related to the dimension of managing emotions.

So as there is a direct link between EI and creativity, how can we improve our creativity and innovation using EI?

  • Engage a range of different activities in the creative process
  • Observe others in the creative process and ask them how they are feeling
  • Explore the impact of drawing on others emotions in helping you be more creative
  • Observe positive people in action
    • What do they do?
    • How do you feel when you’re with them?
    • How do they deal with difficulties?
  • Be your authentic self

These are just a few strategies which can improve EI generally and which can impact positively on creativity and innovation.

Emotional Intelligence can be learned and the benefits of developing an increased level of emotional awareness and understanding will pay off in all aspects of our lives.

You will perform better, enjoy less stress, work in a more effective and creative team, be happier and more successful - and so will the people around you.

Author Credits

Graham Moore. Director, Moore Success Pty Ltd. Graham Moore is a professional speaker, trainer and executive coach. He is a specialist in the areas of emotional intelligence in transformational leadership, customer service and sales. Graham is a Genos EI Certified Practitioner and as such is able to deliver the Genos EI assessment tool and EI development programs. He can be contacted on 61 3 9888 5158; Email: Graham@MooreSuccess.com.au or Web site: www.MooreSuccess.com.au
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