Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Smart Is Your Team?

If you lead a professional services organization of any kind, your team is continually challenged to serve a diverse group of clients across a broad range of industries. So when it comes to assessing the intellectual capacity of your employees to meet that challenge, it may not boil down to "how smart" so much as "how are they smart?" This is what the Accelerated Learning Network says as it spreads the word of noted Harvard Professor Howard Gardner.

Professor Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, developed in the early '80s, states that unlike IQ which relies on a single metric, people are intelligent in different ways. A 1998 article in Education World described Gardner's 7 original intelligences this way:
  • Linguistic intelligence: a sensitivity to the meaning and order of words.
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence: ability in mathematics and other complex logical systems.
  • Musical intelligence: the ability to understand and create music. Musicians, composers and dancers show a heightened musical intelligence.
  • Spatial intelligence: the ability to "think in pictures," to perceive the visual world accurately, and recreate (or alter) it in the mind or on paper. Spatial intelligence is highly developed in artists, architects, designers and sculptors.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence: the ability to use one's body in a skilled way, for self-expression or toward a goal. Mimes, dancers, basketball players, and actors are among those who display bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
  • Interpersonal intelligence: an ability to perceive and understand other individuals -- their moods, desires, and motivations. Political and religious leaders, skilled parents and teachers, and therapists use this intelligence.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence: an understanding of one's own emotions. Some novelists and or counselors use their own experience to guide others.

Gardner has since identified an eighth intelligence called naturalist intelligence and has alluded to a ninth intelligence as existential intelligence, which he feels at the moment lacks the neurological evidence to be added to the list.

Gardner readily admits that we all intuitively understand this concept. When I was growing up I marveled at how Larry Bird could make sense out of chaos on the basketball court in a way others simply could not. It's what made him a basketball genius, yet he was hardly regarded as a classic intellectual. Gardner; however, took this beyond mere intuition and built a framework of intelligences and then conducted the requisite research to support his theory.

For a quick look at how MI compares with IQ, here's a short video that provides a bit more clarity:

Recognizing how people are smart and leveraging that intelligence for your organization can be a powerful tool for matching the right people with the right clients and challenges. What's more, as a leader and coach, you can more readily recognize people's strengths and build on them.

While many of you may have taken online IQ tests, try taking a free, self-scoring multiple intelligence test based on Howard Gardner's model. Even if you're not smarter than a fifth grader, take comfort that you likely possess your own brand of intelligence.

*Image from


  1. Leo:
    Big believer in this kind of stuff. Also a fan of Sir Ken Robinson. You can read his book The Element and also find him on Ted. I learned long ago that you can't fit people to a job, but rather you have to structure a job around people's skills and talents. Doing the former leads to frustration. Taking the latter approach engenders all kinds of possibiliites and lets people shine. Thanks for this.

  2. I appreciate the comment and heads up re: Sir Ken Robinson on TED. I'll be sure to check it out!

    Recent blog:=- How Smart Is Your Team?



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