Experiential Intelligence – what capabilities has your life experiences given you so far?

Is Experiential Intelligence the best way tease out tacti knowledge and more useful than IQ and even EQ? This article explains it may well be.

Intelligence Quotient, (IQ), and Emotional Intelligence, (EI), have been recognised for many years now as valid ways to assess a person’s capabilities. These tools, often complemented with personality tools, such as Insights or Clarity 4D, and impact proclivity tools, such as the excellent GC Index, give leaders and recruiters some useful insights and valuable data about candidates, colleagues and teams.

What is often overlooked however are the lessons derived from our journey through life; our Experiential Intelligence (EX). These University of Life insights are at least as valuable, if not more valuable, as they give a window into our tacit knowledge. This knowledge is sometimes shared via stories and anecdotes but fades to insignificance behind our qualifications, personality and proclivity profile data. I am not sure this is the best way to carry on?

I recently listened to Soren Kaplan in Greg McKeown’s excellent podcast in which he cogently made a case that we undervalue the experiences we have in our life when it comes to assessing our own capabilities. In essence, we devalue the insights they imprint on us, as we lack the mechanism to codify and extract these insights in a way that makes sense to us and to others who want to know about us.

Lifeline Exercise

This is a simple exercise that enables you to reveal your life story, exploring what your experiences have taught you so far. The question to stimulate the thinking is ‘what emotional residue has been left behind from all of the most poignant experiences in your life so far?’ Positive, joyous, shame, trauma all should be included

The process goes something like this;

  • Get a blank piece of paper and a pen, (or a piece of flipchart paper)
  • Put a cross with your date of birth in the top left hand corner of the page and today’s date against a cross in the bottom right hand corner of the same page.
  • Draw a meandering line from one cross to the other taking up all of the page as shown in the diagram below.
  • This is your lifeline and on it you can drop the key experiences in your life that you consider has made you into the person you are today.
  • When using this exercise in a team selection, or recruitment situation, what is interesting to me in this exercise is not only what gets put down, but also what gets left off.
  • In addition I look for the degree to which the person doing the exercise has both the ability to re-connect with their experiences and deduce what they have learned from them. What new skills and capabilities have they gained as a result?
  • For example, I had one candidate in a job interview who simply listed all of their academic achievements in chronological order, completely missing off the fact they had lived in many countries so had an intuitive understanding of different cultures.
  • Soren Kaplin, shared in the podcast that, without any formal education to speak of, one of his job candidates had lead a group of soldiers in a warzone as part of their time in the army. This meant they had figured out how to lead through trauma as, quite literally, their life depended on it! What was notable was that their CV alone would have never got them through the door for the interview.

This life-line exercise is a great way to start a higher order conversation with yourself. If enough trust exists then sharing these insights with your boss, colleagues, subordinates and team members can be really valuable if you have a psychological safe working culture.

Then consider what insights these visceral experiences have given you and how they have affected your beliefs and mindset? This will begin to expose your higher order capabilities that are driven by these experiences as your beliefs drive your actions, that in turn form your habits that eventually result in your character as a person.

These higher order capabilities can be evidenced against your life to date and are highly useful in understanding yourself and your behaviours. In addition, if you can share this with someone you trust you may well discover additional insights and abilities you did not appreciate you had.

Warning, this is hard thinking, but once done will equip you to better understand yourself and those around you too. If you require any help with this heavy lifting, then get in touch as this is what my breakthrough coaching service is designed to achieve.