Heart Intelligence

How to Love your Way to Innovation, Creativity, and Connection

When I was in graduate school, I read bell hooks on love and pedagogy. She talked about teaching as a loving interaction. That was, at the time, a pretty scandalous thing to say. But it resonated for me. I knew that I was trying to create more loving communities and that teaching in and of itself, was a loving endeavor. Years later, I worked at an organization whose mission was also to create more loving communities. Every time I articulated it as such, eyes rolled.

When I decided to move on from that organization, I marketed myself as a humanist, writer and strategist. I wanted to work from a place of ability and strength, within the context of a loving work culture.

Most organizations were pretty excited about this. They were looking for employees who were curious, could generate excitement, and who could work skillfully within a dynamic organizational culture.” I heard a lot of, “we want folks with creative intelligence who can collaboratively problem solve, but also think outside of the box.” I also heard, “we want employees who can make us laugh, who are smart, human, authentic AND vulnerable.”

What I learned during that time was that businesses were looking for a particular and unnamed thing. That thing is what I want to unpack here. What is it? How can it be helpful? Why do we want it and where is it?

Heart Intelligence is an embodied intelligence. It’s a technology of sorts—or what Aristotle calls a “techne,” a knowledge of making or doing (as opposed to a disinterested understanding). So, it’s not theoretical knowledge which resides in your mind and is reserved for discourse. It’s not practical knowledge, which resides in “direction” and is about doing. Techne resides in your body and is about making. Heart Intelligence is a techne, it’s an embodied knowing and, with it, one can communicate and innovate more lovingly.

Heart intelligence is characterized by:

  1. Compassion: the belief that people ARE doing the best that they can do (even if we think they are not doing enough). Compassion is also the understanding that we are, all of us, seeking connection;
  2. Generosity/Open-Heartedness: a commitment to being collaborative, accountable, hard on issues and soft on people;
  3. Vulnerability: as Brene Brown defines it, “daring to show up and let yourself be seen—instead of sitting on the side lines and judging;”
  4. Curiosity: contemplating what people think, feel, why they do what they do, why you do what you do, how you can, together, support mission .

When I brought this concept to my colleagues, I discovered the following:

  1. People were scared to talk about love.
  2. My colleagues were more animated and more curious about this topic than I’d seen them in years.
  3. People were willing to believe that love was a a craft that could transform organizational culture and support innovative collaboration.

So, heart intelligence—the techne characterized by compassion, warm-heartedness, generosity, vulnerability, collaboration and curiosity—is a rich and nourishing place to explore.

Case Study: Justin Bieber

My kids love Justin Bieber. I do too. In fact, I pawned my wedding rings to purchase tickets to his 2012 concert. I get that he seems erratic and unpredictable. That’s why he’s a good case study.

So, if you were hired by his team to develop a communications strategy (brand advocacy, customer loyalty, etc..) how and why you would tell his story? How would you utilize heart intelligence to develop questions and find solutions that you might not otherwise access?

You might ask: why do people hate him? Why do they love him? What is happening to him? What will happen to him? And what does that tell us about our culture?

Conversation regarding these questions would emerge in the spirit of compassion, connectivity, being hard on issues and soft on people, knowing people do the best they can (so without blame), authentic curiosity (without an outcome already in mind).

You might develop more pointed questions on which to base his story:

· What are the impacts of his actions on our youth (not solely, “how do we sell more effectively to youth?”)?

· Where is he and what is he capable of, given his situation and our cultural context (not, “how do we get him to change?”)?

· What is “good,” for him and what is “good,” for his customers (in addition to, “how do we make more money?”)?

· What kinds of knowledge do we need to make available to both him and his customers to ensure that goodness happens? How do we make good things happen in the world?

· Who are his customers, what are they consuming (gossip, for example) and why? Is that “damaging or helpful?”

The point of these questions? Well, if we can open ourselves up to them, we may discover that content strategy, brand, customer loyalty, social media and storytelling can do more than increase revenue and/or credibility. Approaching these tools and issues through heart intelligence can also help us build healthier and more loving communities. The bottom line is multiple—money and love. And maybe at some point we can address that money issue in a way that is more open-hearted as well.