Is “Connectional Intelligence” on Par with IQ and EQ?



Erica Dhawan suggests in her article at Fast Company  that we should add “connectional intelligence” to our understanding of brain-based acuity. Dhawan has some interesting notions about the special considerations and methods needed to generate passion and galvanize interest – in particular, public interest – around an idea or a cause. But do these tactics amount to an entire category of perception, judgment, insight, and aptitude?

Victor Hugo famously said, “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” But as anyone who has tried to create traction around an idea will tell you, getting to that tipping point – that moment when momentum itself seems to be its own driving force – can be a long, hard slog. To accelerate the schedule, Ms. Dhawan offers three principles: Understand Your Context, Have a Courageous Conversation, and Build Your Community.

Here’s our take on these:

  • Understand Your Context – Although “context” is usually about the set of circumstances or facts surrounding a particular situation, Dhawan is talking here more about function than content. In particular: the mechanics of media, or what she refers to as “tools.” The point is to use communication channels and methods that conform with your intended audience.
  • Have a Courageous Conversation – As we know from our immersion into emotional triggers, people want to be liked. They want to feel they belong. Consequently, most people resist the inclination to rock the boat by being confrontational. This sometimes results in a kind of co-dependency on belief systems or assumptions that may be outdated or even untrue. It takes courage to shine a light on incompetence, injustice, mediocrity – and risk becoming unpopular. What many fail to realize, however, is that often the reverse effect is what actually occurs: People will suddenly rally around the truth-teller.
  • Build Your Community – It’s exciting and gratifying to realize that you’ve succeeded in generating interest, consensus, involvement, and dedication around an idea or an initiative. Then you realize that this is only the beginning. It’s critical to maintain communication and provide incentive and motivation for continued participation.

These are solid recommendations for how to leverage your chances for success in propagating a cause or an idea, particularly in a public context. But intelligence categories are another matter.

It would seem that the litmus test for whether a set of principles can be considered an entirely new and undiscovered form of intelligence would be whether or not they can be used as lenses though which to understand virtually any human interaction – not just those that involve certain objectives or activities.

It’s a fairly straightforward exercise, for example, to extrapolate how emotional triggers are involved in each of the so-called “connectional intelligence” principles proposed here:

  • Context –  This is a combination of the Consistency and Authority Triggers. When determining which channels or modes of communication are likely to be most effective with your intended audience, choose those that people use and trust.
  • Courageous Conversations – The Contrast Trigger, straight up. When there is a passionate recognition of “the truth,” it is almost always because it is either counter to prevailing assumptions or light in the midst of darkness.
  • Community – Consistency and Friendship Triggers. If people have expressed support for a cause or an idea, they have an emotional imperative to stay on-course with that determination. Doesn’t mean they’ll always pursue it of their own accord – the key to the Consistency Trigger is to remind people of their existing or previous determinations. It shores up our identity and sense of self. In a team, corporate, or public context The Friendship Trigger is about shared interests and mutual affinities. It’s what binds us together and engenders loyalty and trust.

If it’s time to get your initiative, cause, or idea launched into the public consciousness, then definitely check out Erica Dhawan’s most excellent suggestions. But the notion that “connectional intelligence” is truly a lens through which we can interpret and codify a comprehensive scope of human behavior seems a bit, well, facile. Kudos for the effort. But it’s not a cause about which we’ll be getting passionate.

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