The 4 Intelligences: Mind, Body, Emotion, Spirit

I was reading The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab (2017) last month and the closing chapter took an unexpected approach that relates to my own four-quadrant worldview that we have four principle realms in which we operate – Body, Mind, Emotion and Soul – and need to seek balance in each for our own wellbeing.

Much of my work revolves around these four quadrants, and the life wheel builds on this by further compartmentalising different aspects of each, and adding overarching themes which span multiple quadrants.

Here’s what Klaus Schwabb said:

The Fourth Industrial Revolution may be driving disruption but the challenges it presents are of our own making. It is thus in our power to address them and enact the changes and policies needed to adapt and flourish in our emerging new environment. We can only meaningfully address these challenges if we mobilise the collective wisdom of our minds, hearts and souls. To do so, I believe we must adapt, shape and harness the potential of disruption by nurturing and applying four different types of intelligence.

  • Contextual: the mind. How we understand and apply our knowledge.
  • Emotional: the heart. How we process and integrate our thoughts and feelings and relate to ourselves and to one another.
  • Inspired: the soul. How we use a sense of individual and shared purpose, trust, and other virtues to affect change and act towards the common good.
  • Physical: the body. How we cultivate and maintain our personal health and well being and that of those around us to be in a position to apply the energy required for both individual and systems transformation.

The book was largely neutral on most disruptive elements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, listing pros and cons of each in an engaging appendix (I like future-gazing). However, he did say that there is a risk that we can robotise humanity if we are not careful and outlined thought processes engaging each of the four areas to ensure we remain connected and vibrant as a species. The world may seem to have changed a lot in the last two years, but I think – now, more than ever – we need to embrace the Four Intelligences and build the world we want to see, even if we just start with ourselves and build the life we want to live.

He goes on to define them in more depth (emphasis is my own). I think these are an excellent overview of the Four Intelligences. How much are you applying in your life?

Contextual Intelligence. The Mind.

Good leaders understand and master contextual intelligence. A sense of context is defined as the ability and willingness to anticipate emerging trends and connect the dots. These have been common characteristics of effective leadership across generations and, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, they are a prerequisite for adaptation and survival.

To develop contextual intelligence, decision-makers must first understand the value of diverse networks. They can only confront significant levels of disruption if they are highly connected and well-networked across traditional boundaries. Decision-makers must possess a capacity and readiness to engage with all those who have a stake in the issue at hand. In this way, we should aspire to be more connected and inclusive. It is only by bringing together and working in collaboration with leaders from business, government, civil society, faith, academia, and the young generation that it becomes possible to obtain a holistic perspective of what is going on. In addition, this is critical to develop and implement integrated ideas and solutions that will result in sustainable change.

Boundaries between sectors and professions are artificial and are proving to be increasingly counterproductive. More than ever, it is essential to dissolve these barriers by engaging the power of networks to forge effective partnerships. Companies and organisations that fail to do this, and do not walk the talk by building diverse teams, will have a difficult time adjusting to the disruptions of the digital age. Leaders must also prove capable of changing their mental and conceptual framework and their organising principles.

In today’s disruptive, fast-changing world, thinking in silos and having a fixed view of the future is fossilising. Which is why it is better (in the dichotomy presented by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin in his 1953 essay about writers and thinkers) to be a fox than a hedgehog. Operating in an increasingly complex and disruptive environment requires the intellectual and social agility of the fox rather than the fixed and narrow focus of the hedgehog. In practical terms, this means that leaders cannot afford to think in silos. Their approach to problems, issues and challenges must be holistic, flexible and adaptive, continuously integrating many diverse interests and opinions.

Emotional Intelligence. The Heart.

As a complement to, not a substitute for, contextual intelligence is an increasingly essential attribute in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As management psychologist David Caruso, of the Yale Centre for emotional intelligence, has stated, it should not be seen as the opposite of rational intelligence or the triumph of heart-over-head. It is the unique intersection of both.

In academic literature, emotional intelligence is credited with allowing leaders to be more innovative and enabling them to be agents of change. For business leaders and policymakers, emotional intelligence is the vital foundation for skills critical to succeed in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Namely, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Academics who specialise in the study of emotional intelligence show that great decision makers are differentiated from average ones by their level of emotional intelligence and capacity to cultivate this quality continuously.

In a world characterised by persistent and intense change, institutions rich in leaders with high emotional intelligence will not only be more creative but will also be better equipped to be more agile and resilient – an essential trait for coping with disruption. The digital mindset, capable of institutionalising cross-functional collaboration, flattening hierarchies and building environments that encourage a generation of new ideas is profoundly dependent on emotional intelligence.

Inspired Intelligence. The Soul.

Alongside contextual and emotional intelligence, there is a third critical component for effectively navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is what I call inspired intelligence. Drawing from the latin spirare, to breathe, inspired intelligence is about the continuous search for meaning and purpose. It focuses on nourishing the creative impulse and lifting humanity to a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny.

Sharing is the key idea here. As I mentioned previously, if technology is one of the possible reasons why we are moving towards a me-centred society, it is an absolute necessity that we rebalance this trend towards a focus on the self with a pervasive sense of common purpose. We are all in this together, and risk being unable to tackle the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and reap the full benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution unless we collectively develop a sense of shared purpose. To do this, trust is essential.

A high level of trust favours engagement and teamwork, and this has made all the more acute in the Fourth Industrial Revolution where collaborative innovation is at the core. This process can only take place if it is nurtured in an environment of trust because there are so many different constituents and issues involved. Ultimately all stakeholders have a role in ensuring that innovation is directed to the common good. If any major group of stakeholders feels that this is not the case, trust will be eroded. In a world where nothing is constant anymore, trust becomes one of the most valuable attributes. Trust can only be earned and maintained if decision-makers are embedded within a community, and making decisions always in the common interest and not in pursuit of individual objectives.

Physical Intelligence. The Body.

Contextual, emotional, and inspired intelligence are all essential attributes for coping with, and benefiting from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They will, however, require the vital support of a fourth form of intelligence, the physical one, which involves supporting and nourishing personal health and wellbeing.

This is critical because, as the pace of change accelerates, as complexity increases and as the number of players involved in our decision-making processes adjacent to our own increases, the need to keep fit and remain calm under pressure becomes all the more essential.

Epigenetics, a field of biology that has flourished in recent years, is the process through which the environment modifies the expression of our genes. It shows incontrovertibly the critical importance of sleep, nutrition and exercise in our lives. Regular exercise, for example, has a positive impact on the way we think and feel. It directly affects our performance at work, and ultimately, our ability to succeed. Understanding and grasping new ways of keeping our physical bodies in harmony with our mind, our emotions, and the world at large is incredibly important, and we are learning more about this through the incredible advances being made in numerous areas, including medical sciences, wearable devices, implantable technologies and brain research. In addition, I often say that a leader requires good nerves to address effectively the many simultaneous and complex challenges that we are facing. This will be increasingly critical in order to navigate and harness the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

If you are interested in reading the book, you can buy it from Amazon.

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