What If We Need Intelligent Emotions More Than Emotional Intelligence?

We know that intelligence and emotions are not the same. Certainly, people may be capable of great intellectual prowess but be cold and unfeeling. Other people may be kind and generous without having any particular academic inclination. While there may be extreme cases, most of us, and especially leaders and managers, live with the delicate task of keeping our minds and emotions healthily engaged. Moreover, Emotional Intelligence is mentioned in a World Economic forum report among the ten top skills needed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Is it a case of the mind against the heart? Are these two areas of our personalities at battle with each other? What can we do about it?

Emotional intelligence — a new awareness

We can thank Daniel Goleman for drawing attention to the importance of the emotional sphere of our existence. The success of his books shows that he has struck a chord. The Wikipedia definition of emotional intelligence includes “to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” This seems to be a reaction against what may have been a logic-dominated stance in the past. However, while we certainly need to learn not to ignore or suppress emotional information, might this be putting the cart before the horse? Without the guidance of reason, emotion can degenerate into sentimentality, gullibility, sometimes rage.

Not just logical thinking tools

Ideally, we would want there to be a balance among the faculties of emotion and thought. Increasingly people are aware of a need to develop their consciousness to cope with their personal and professional lives. There are many techniques available. Meditation and mindfulness offer some valuable paths to self development. The question becomes, what is the goal? Suppressing emotion is not an answer. We would like to suggest that it is about channeling emotions in a positive and constructive direction.

The Thinking Process Tools developed by Dr. Eli Goldratt as part of the Theory of Constraints offer a clear way to create the kind of balance between emotions and thinking that helps constructive action and interaction. The Conflict Cloud tool in particular can be used at multiple levels, from solving day-to-day conflicts, personal dilemmas all the way through to resolving major disruption.

Sometimes these tools are referred to as “logical thinking tools” but this is misleading as it robs them of a large part of their purpose, i.e. to defuse negative emotions connected with conflict. How do they do this? By allowing those involved to recognize their own mental models/assumptions and challenge them. It shifts the focus away from ‘you against me’ to ‘you and me against the problem’, as Goldratt has said. Other tools follow the Conflict Cloud to enable people to build solutions towards the new possibilities that emerge from solving the conflict.

The wisdom of the heart

In almost twenty years of working with these tools in organizations, they have proved to be a fundamental support to both personal development in individuals and improved ability for people to work together. They work on a systemic level, and allow people to see connections they otherwise would not. By using these tools on are regular and consistent basis, both individually and in groups, we have a very concrete and methodical way to do emotional and mental “push-ups”, training our mind and feelings in the direction of balance. The more we do so, the less likely we are to be dominated either by our emotions or by flawed logic. We gain the opportunity to access, at least sometimes, the wisdom of the heart.

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About the Author

Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management, founded by Dr. Domenico Lepore. Angela’s new business novel+ website The Human Constraint looks at how Deming and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation.