‘Brain Sciences’ have made significant contributions to the workplace by delivering an ongoing, non-intrusive and relevant understanding of the human psyche and that research has helped to enhance workplace practices, make people better leaders and work schedules less stressful.
Over the decades, we have learned that it is not just Intelligence Quotient (IQ) – or rational ability – that makes a good contributor, but also the Emotional Quotient (EQ) – the ability to judge a situation and behave. The ability to empathize, fit in, to understand one’s self and others are the principles that underpin EI. A deeper ability and fundamental to making IQ work, EI comes from the areas of the brain that enable us feel. If this is damaged, then our ability to think also gets impacted.
More recently, however, yet another, even deeper, ring of Intelligence has been introduced: Spiritual Intelligence. Spiritual Intelligence – and Spiritual Quotient (SQ), as its unit of measure – allows human beings to look at problems related to meaning and value. So that life and actions can be placed in a wider richer, meaning-giving context. So that one can assess how one life-path is more meaningful than another.
Before anyone asks, it is necessary to clarify that spiritual intelligence has little to do with traditionally accepted religions. It is backed by scientific evidence as Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall have discussed in their book “SQ Spiritual Intelligence, The Ultimate Intelligence”.
Studies show that there are three distinct neural arrangements in the human brain. These allow three different types of thinking – corresponding to the three types of Intelligence: IQ, EQ and SQ. Simplistically presented, if the 3 Q’s are placed in a linear configuration:
- Serial Thinking: is done across neural tracts. Measured by IQ, this is about logical and rational thought processes
- Associative Thinking is done across neural networks. It underlies EQ. It helps with mental associations, or connections. It creates patterns that we can recognize like faces, odours; learn skills like playing an instrument or driving a car. All through life, associative learning happens and progresses by trial and error. All emotional responses have an associative base. And as we know, our personal emotions are often hard to explain to others.
- Unitive Thinking is creative, intuitive and insightful and comes from much deeper within, from our personal ‘centre’ – our SQ. While we learn and understand with IQ and EQ, it is SQ that gives us the ability to create and invent.
Zohar and Marshall tout Spiritual Intelligence to be the “ultimate intelligence”. It helps fill the gap that comes from our primary – and indeed eternal – search for meaning in our lives.
They diagnose that the fundamental crisis of our times is a spiritual one and go on to describe the symptoms of a meaning-deprived society. Some of these are: Obsession with health, fear of death, ‘diseases of meaning’ like cancer, heart disease etc; extinction; search for instant pleasure and satisfaction because of a poor capacity for imagination. To a very large extent, many symptoms related to the workplace!
Daniel Goleman, who has written several books on Emotional Intelligence, insisted that it can be learned, developed and enhanced because the brain has a place for it. The same goes for Spiritual Intelligence. However, SQ needs to be relevant and acceptable to you and me!
Zohar and Marshall have taken help from the Holland Occupational Themes – or the Holland Codes. Developed by John Lewis Holland, psychologist and former Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, these codes form a theory of careers and vocational choices based on 6 personality types (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional: RIASEC), as determined by the tests he developed. They create a link between the 6 personality types and their theory of the 6 paths to greater Spiritual Intelligence. En route, they determine the traits, motivations, an inventory of possible professions and what traits could lead to becoming spiritually stunted.
Around the same time that Goleman was penning the tenets of Emotional Intelligence, neuropsychologist Michael Persinger and neurologist V.S. Ramachandran identified what they called the ‘God-Spot’ in the human brain. Located in the neural connections in the temporal lobes of the brain, this spot lights up under scans with sharply increasing levels of activity during spiritual conversations. The reactions were different depending on the culture of the subjects. People from the West reacted to the idea of ‘God’ while people of Hindu or Buddhist orientation, responded better to symbols.
Zohar and Marshall concur that the God-Spot contributes to spiritual experiences but not necessarily to the Spiritual Quotient. However, one can use the spiritual to bring greater meaning to life, to live a richer life and to achieve a sense of personal wholeness, purpose and direction – that is what a high SQ is all about.
Persinger and Ramachandran did not present the God-Spot as proof that God exists, much like CERN presented their ‘God Particle’. What they did find was that the brain has the ability to ask and process the ‘ultimate’ questions. Thereby enabling Zohar and Marshall to indicate that when people meditate, or pray, or communicate with God, they are actually communicating with their deepest inner selves – their SQ.
Today’s workplace is a battle zone with constant fights for market share, visibility, top-of-mind, revenues, profitability and talent. As in any war, in the office too, it is the people who invariably get impacted. Pressure to perform amidst workplace and environment challenges tells on employee morale, engagement and wellness. And it takes a toll: Stress, dissatisfaction, ill-health… But we know that already!
Corporate leaders, in their own way, work hard to help their employees cope and get on top of the challenges of a tough job. The Human Resources (HR) fraternity has constantly been on the lookout for programmes that could help people work better and as a team.
As mentioned earlier, today’s crisis is a spiritual one – in the world at large and in the workplace as well. Helping people identify themselves and enhance their own SQ is a good way to improve engagement, interpersonal connections and the general ease of working together, while keeping stress down.
Zohar and Marshall recommend 7 practical steps towards a better SQ:
- Become aware of where I am now
- Feel strongly what I want to change
- Reflect on what my own centre is and on my deepest motivations
- Discover and dissolve obstacles
- Explore many possibilities to proceed forward
- Commit myself to a path
- Remain aware that there are many paths
Assessing individual SQ
To begin any process, an assessment is necessary. Questions need to be asked to determine where one stands, where one needs to go and the gap between the two. Questions around each of the paths to greater SQ to determine which one(s) to eventually take.
India Inc has made a few interesting efforts towards implementing the tenets of SQ in the workplace. The Future Group – owners of brands like Big Bazaar and Pantaloons – have had a Chief Belief Officer for some time now. Individual consultants have set up shop as Chief Spiritual Officers. Their role is to understand the zeitgeist of the organization and make sure that everyone – specially the C-Suite – is driving towards the same goals.
With deft productisation and some slick marketing, SQ can make its way into the Indian workplace for sure. And it will work! Indian traditions and values ensure that we come to work ‘factory-fitted’ with an inherent belief in the spiritual aspects of life. We may mix it with our religious beliefs and use the two interchangeably – but that’s fine!
As long as we know that we can tap into our inner goodness not only when crisis strikes but also on a run-of-the-mill Monday. Someday I would like to hear business leaders refer to their people as enlightened souls!