Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Child of Four

“A four-year-old child could understand that,” Groucho Marx once said. “Run out and find me a four-year-old child.” Groucho’s joke contains a truth we can use right now. Just look around at the mess of a capitalist system some of the "smartest" people have made. Their monumental mistakes remind me that now – more than ever – is the time for gut instinct. Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m wary of technical expertise. The people I know who are real experts don’t do jargon, back away from formulas and process, and sit out the brag sessions. This is because their expertise is fueled by something special – and it’s not the ability to read balance sheets (although they can usually do that too). The special quality I’m talking about is empathy. High intelligence has always struck me as a great gift, but I believe the real treasure you want for your kids is an empathetic connection with the world around you and the people who live in it.

Now you can see why I was delighted that academics at the University of Toronto have found that IQ tests would be hugely improved if they considered a wider range of human skills like the ability to make decisions and prioritize sensibly. The kicker is that researcher, Keith Stanovich, describes these skills as rational and labels everything leftover as irrational. Hang on a moment though, don’t we know now that making decisions and setting priorities are the very things we have to do with high levels of emotion? Emotion doesn’t make us irrational, it makes us effective. You say irrational, I say raised antennae. I’ve seen the brightest people make silly mistakes because they didn’t think with their hearts and their bodies. It has been the same since the world began. That’s why we have rules of thumb, following our instincts, and playing to our gut feelings. The people who ran Detroit all those years without connecting with car buyers, the bankers who invested in sloppy ventures, and anyone who did anything that didn’t feel quite right at the time were probably high on IQ but low on empathy.

Counting to ten and listening to your feelings is one of the most useful business tools. As someone once said, “If it feels too good to be true, it probably is”.


Charlotte said...

I agree. That's why I say one of the most powerful world changing actions a person can take is to be an emotionally available and attached parent. To parent and remain connected to our children, to respond to their cries from birth onwards, is to teach these people that what they feel is right and true, and to trust their feelings. This is positive social change in it's pure and simple form. And in order to do this, we have to deeply trust our gut as parents, never mind the myriad of 'sound advice' provided by people, some who have never parented. We have to meet our social, emotional, physical, spiritual needs, or we can't be responsive to ourselves, let alone our little ones. This too, takes a deep trust in our intuition. And the rewards ... well they're ongoing, and continue to reverberate through future generations.

bighafidz said...

i love the photographed "quote"

Kelvin Woodley said...

As principal of a small school I ask first about compassion and personal attitudes of new staff before making an appointment. A clinitian with all the technical skill and knowledge is highly ineffective if they are unable to connect with the children they teach.

Bruce Nicol said...

I believe I could not put it better than Cahrlotte. A child given full nurturing and clear boundaries will allow them to have fully open neural pathways and to be fully in touch with their emotional and spiritual Self.
With sleep time having three times the reflective capacity than the awakening state, the child can use the REM state to fully integrate the impacts on the body and integrate this in their body. This allows the full expression of their deepest values- the creative expressions.
This is a skimpy rationale for Denis Dutton's "The Art Instinct". I would call this artistic expression your expression of your authentic intuitions.
This is the state that we have evolved to. Now all we have to do is to practice this. maybe with the opening up of the Obama team it can give us a chance.
Kindest regards
Bruce Nicol

Kevin Roberts said...

Kelvin, you are quite right. Teachers play such an important role in the development of a child’s imagination and their thirst for knowledge. A teacher who teaches, but doesn’t engage and connect with his students is cheating them out of a proper education.

Jordan Chénard said...

@Kelvin Woodley AND Kevin Roberts

Waw... I really should send your two quotes to A LOT of schools here in Montreal. And even in all the province of Québec.

It's incredible how a lot of people can't focus on long term. It's all about results right now. This is bad...

Being able to connect with kids will help them to believe that learning things is a pleasure, not a torture.

This is the kind of thinking that will make the kids learning all their life instead of stopping after unerversity. (like so much people I know :P)

Being able to connect with people will help to create a relation, not just a discussion.

reemy said...

I completely agree. This post reminds me of 'Blink', the book by Malcolm Gladwell, where he examines several instances where snap judgments are more accurate than detailed analysis. These unconscious -irrational- processes, he argues, can deliver better results than formal analysis.

As a consultant, I was discussing how to price a start-up's product with the founder. I told her it was gut. She was surprised I wasn't using more sophisticated techniques, what with a Wharton MBA & all. I explained that sure, I could do all the analysis she wanted and could refer her to consulting firms that do pricing exclusively - but I recommend briefly studying the market, making a quick -gut- decision, and testing out a couple hypothesis directly in the marketplace. She'll have a product up & running, have more reliable pricing results, and she will only be spending what she needs to spend to launch her product anyway.

I hadn't realized that my user focus was based on empathy with the user. Thanks for the insight!