Creative Intelligence

Intelligence is not the sum of what you know; it’s what you do with what you know. It’s having the capability to make sense of things, figure out what to do and solve real-life problems.

Intelligence comes in many forms – each of which requires different skill sets. A partial list includes emotional (EQ) and social intelligence, as framed by Daniel Goleman of Harvard University in 1995 and again in 2007. Practical intelligence is having common sense, which Mark Twain sagaciously noted is not all that common. Sentient intelligence is the ability to feel or “sense” things that are about to happen – a learned appreciation of gut over head. In my CEO Program, I introduce the topic of strategic intelligence – understanding systems thinking and top-down focus, forecasting future scenarios, re-engineering corporate DNA and manipulating relationships. Every intelligence entails the development of certain skills.

In what I have always thought was a ground-breaking book, Howard Gardner, a Professor of Cognition at Harvard, tells us that intelligence is not a single entity unto itself. He says we are not born with a certain quantum of intelligence, that it’s not difficult to increase the intelligence we have, and that IQ tests can’t tell us how smart we are. His book is entitled Frames of Mind and he is one of my heroes.

Gardner suggests we have “multiple intelligences” and these include:
•   Linguistic: The ability to think in words and use language to express complex meanings;
•   Logical-mathematical: The skill of calculating, quantifying and considering complex propositions;
•   Spatial: Thinking in three-dimensional ways, perceiving and transforming images;
•   Bodily-kinesthetic: Finely tuned physical skills, such as athleticism;
•   Musical: Distinguishing and creating pitch, melody, rhythm and tone;
•   Interpersonal: Understanding how to interact effectively with others;
•   Intrapersonal: Having an accurate self-perception and using this knowledge to direct one’s life;
•   Naturalist: Seeing patterns in nature and understanding natural and human-made systems; and
•   Existential: The capacity to pose and ponder life’s biggest questions.

While no one type of intelligence is better than another, in different cultures or arenas, one form can be more highly prized. Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan, for example, were gifted athletes who performed at the very pinnacle of their game, enthralled sports fans and made millions in the process of exercising their innate bodily-kinesthetic skills. Nuclear physicists and engineers, among others, excel in the logical-mathematical realm. Graphic artists, architects and astronauts have superior spatial intelligence. In most Western societies, logical-mathematical and (to a lesser degree) linguistic minds are greatly valued. And so it goes.

In some of my classrooms, I examine risk intelligence as a core competency of smart leaders and demonstrate how to increase it. Growth generates risk; low risk impairs growth. High-growth companies generally take risks they haven’t mastered. Risk intelligence involves reducing uncertainty by making strategic choices based on knowledge developed through exploration, learning and sharing. Some risks are learnable (a matter of identifying and closing information gaps) while others are random or indeterminate (where no amount of knowledge can reduce their unpredictability).

Many years ago, I created an instrument designed to quantify one’s negotiating intelligence (NQ) as a way of fairly pairing up the students in my on-line course. Since this learning experience carried a university credit and attendees were therefore graded on their achievement, the pairings had to be fair – I could not, for example, permit a lawyer to negotiate with an elementary school teacher. One party would have taken the other “to the cleaners” and thereby receive the higher mark (perhaps you can figure out which). What you do for a living clearly has an impact on your ability to negotiate better deals, as does gender, ethnicity, age and other demographics.

In this blog, I want to introduce you to a concept of mind called creative intelligence, or CQ – the ability to invent, imagine and intuit. I’ve designed a measurement tool for an upcoming program. If you genuinely desire to know how creative you are (not how creative you may think you are), then answer the following questions as honestly as you can. Use a Likert scale: a “1” signifies “no” and a “7” indicates “total agreement.”

•   I am fully aware of what my limitations and biases are.
•   I notice the subtle things others frequently overlook.
•   I am always curious about why people behave the way they do.
•   I can see the big picture when I’m deep into the details.
•   I am fascinated by trivia and always seek out more of it.
•   I seek out people who have differing views from my own.
•   I openly challenge accepted practices and assumptions.
•   I genuinely look for unexpected patterns and connections.
•   I rarely settle on my first (or second) idea, answer or solution.
•   I see failure as an opportunity to learn, not as a character flaw.
•   I readily solicit advice from those with differing opinions.
•   I am unafraid to ask “dumb” questions and I ask a lot of them.
•   I listen intently to the viewpoints I particularly disagree with.
•   I understand how to frame (sell) my ideas for optimal impact.
•   I like to respectfully argue, debate and “differ” with others.
•   I am deeply and insatiably curious about almost everything.
•   I typically “go against the grain” when giving my ideas to others.
•   I genuinely believe that I am a creative thinker.

I will leave it to you to figure out your CQ (assuming your answers were truthful). Just as one’s IQ cannot be measured, this list won’t tell you how creative you are. And some of the above qualities or traits are more important than others. But, hopefully, you found the exercise informative. Curiosity and self-awareness are tell-tale signs of creative intelligence.