Why emotional intelligence is a key pillar of diversity and inclusion

Emotional intelligence can have massive benefits for any organization, but why? How do we maximize our groups' EQ?

This series on diversity and inclusion is sponsored by Amway, which supports a prosperous economy through having a diverse workplace. Companies committed to diversity and inclusion are better equipped to innovate and drive performance. For more information, visit amwayglobal.com/our-story.


We’ve all known about IQ, shorthand for intelligence quotient, for a very long time. More recently, as studies show intelligence can be broken down into several pieces, other notions of intelligence have come to the forefront of research. One of the most prominent of these is emotional intelligence or EQ. 

What is emotional intelligence?

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and journalist who popularized the term, explains that “Emotional intelligence refers to how well we handle ourselves and our relationships.” It is another kind of brain power, but rather than helping us solve puzzles it helps us regulate our emotions and understand others.

People who have a high EQ can enjoy a variety of benefits, including a better sense of self-awareness, superior regulation of emotions, the ability to understand others, greater motivation, a broader social network, and a higher income. In an age where we are more connected than ever before with diverse people we might not share histories with, emotional intelligence is a vital tool for success.

A more harmonious and productive workplace

Emotional intelligence allows us to better understand the people we work with. This, in turn, promotes productivity in the workplace by making it easier for teams to bring out the best in everyone. While this seems like something that can be done with procedures and rules, it takes more than that to really make a team function at its best.

As Daniel Goleman explains,

“If you see a star performing team, you’re seeing a very high group IQ. But what predicts the actual productivity or effectiveness of a team is not the potential—that is, the best talents of every person—it's how people are valued on that team. It's how people feel there’s harmony, that we get along, that we surface simmering issues, that we take time to celebrate, that we know each person’s strengths and that we step aside when its time for this person to come forward. In other words, that we are a team that has a high emotional intelligence.”

Before a team can work well, the people in it have to not only be comfortable enough with one another to cooperate, but they also have to establish an environment where they understand each other and know they are appreciated. This allows each person to feel secure enough not to have to take the lead when they see another person could do it better. This cannot be done with procedures alone; it requires a level of trust only a high EQ can provide.

Is there hard data for this? 

michael-bush-when-data-drives-diversity-and-inclusion-good-things-happen

A study of polyester manufacturing teams also found that the groups with the highest EQs produced more fabric than did any other team. In this article written for the Harvard Business Review, Vanessa Druskat, an expert on EQ and professor at New Hampshire, offers many examples of how businesses can maximize the EQ a team has and reap the benefits.  

Several other studies have also shown that EQ correlates with job performance better than academic achievement, quality of references, or other methods commonly used in hiring. However, the exact strength of the correlation between performance and EQ varies wildly between studies, while remaining positive.

How can I know my EQ?

There are many tests available to find out what your score is. Here are three great tests to start with.

1. Psychology Today’s test
2. The University of California at Berkley’s test
3. Mind Tool’s test

How can we raise EQ in the workplace?

There are many ways to raise EQ without having to resort to cheesy teambuilding exercises.  Vanessa Druskat tells us that there are many simple methods of increasing EQ. It might be less about flashy actions and more about attitudes.

“Group emotional intelligence is about the small acts that make a big difference. It is not about a team member working all night to meet a deadline; it is about saying thank you for doing so. It is not about in-depth discussion of ideas; it is about asking a quiet member for his/her thoughts. It is not about harmony, lack of tension and all members liking each other: it is about acknowledging when harmony is false, tension is unexpressed, and about treating others with respect.” 

For managers

Social entrepreneur John Rampton breaks Druskat's concepts into a few concrete steps you can take. It advises that you:

1. Have a team leader who understands emotional intelligence.

2. Understand the team member’s strengths and weaknesses.

3. Know how to motivate those team members.

4. Have rules that reflect team values and make people feel valued.

5. Have systems to deal with problems that don’t, in turn, unduly increase stress.

6. Make sure all voices are heard.

7. Encourage group bonding.

For individuals

The Emotional Intelligence and Diversity Institute is a wonderful resource for understanding what makes diversity work, and how to extend diversity into inclusivity. It has a set of questions that individuals can ask themselves to tap into their EQ in moments of ambiguity, and to develop long-term intercultural literacy skills:

  • What else could a particular behavior mean?
  • What might be the reasons for the person’s behavior?
  • How might it feel to be in that person’s situation?
  • When have I been in a similar situation and felt that way?

How diversity boosts EQ

Daniel Goleman suggests aiming for a diverse workplace as a part of any strategy to increase EQ. His primary argument is one of pure potential, as seen in this interview:

…So when it comes to diversity, you’re seeing people who have a range of backgrounds, of understandings, and of abilities. And the more diverse team is going to be the one with the largest array of talents, and so it will be the one with the potential best performance.

He is on to something. Diverse workplaces require us to think outside of our cultural boxes and encourage the same skills that emotional intelligence promotes. The same activities that can help ease intercultural issues in an office setting, such as shared activities between people of differing backgrounds and outings to places unfamiliar to some workers, would also work to help people develop emotional intelligence. It can be a virtuous cycle. 

In a Dutch study on the subject, diverse teams made up of people who were willing to learn performed better than homogenous teams. It supports the notion that when people have high EQs and are willing to learn, diversity becomes a limitless resource. However, the study also showed that that potential was wasted on teams who were less open to people who were different from them.

Dr. Goleman summarizes the statistics on the benefits of diversity when he says: “The more diverse the members of the team, the better it’s potential performance will be.” This is only true, however, if the team is willing and able to take advantage of the tools it has. 

Emotional intelligence is a vital part of any effective team. Despite the numerous benefits of promoting it, people still only have a vague idea of what it is or how it can help them and their business.  As the old saying goes, “teamwork makes the dream work,” and emotional intelligence can help make teamwork go much further than ever before. 

Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.

To boost your self-esteem, write about chapters of your life

If you're lacking confidence and feel like you could benefit from an ego boost, try writing your life story.

Personal Growth

In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.

Ashes of cat named Pikachu to be launched into space

A space memorial company plans to launch the ashes of "Pikachu," a well-loved Tabby, into space.

GoFundMe/Steve Munt
Culture & Religion
  • Steve Munt, Pikachu's owner, created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the mission.
  • If all goes according to plan, Pikachu will be the second cat to enter space, the first being a French feline named Felicette.
  • It might seem frivolous, but the cat-lovers commenting on Munt's GoFundMe page would likely disagree.
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