What is Intelligence?

For centuries, people have been trying to define intelligence. However, a universally agreed upon definition proves to be elusive so far. To some, intelligence is the ability to acquire new information and to adjust to new circumstances, while others regard the skills to solve complex problems as more important. Thus, many contrasting theories have emerged. The four theories with the largest number of followers are the theory of general intelligence, the theory of primary mental abilities, the multiple intelligences theory, and the triarchic theory of intelligence.

General intelligence

The oldest theory is that of British psychologist Charles Spearman, who, at the beginning of the 20th century, proposed the existence of general intelligence. He observed that people’s scores on different IQ tests tend to correlate. In other words, somebody who received a high score on one IQ test usually scored high on all other IQ tests, and vice versa. Therefore, he concluded that intelligence tests all measure one common factor, which he called general intelligence or “g”. In addition to that, Spearman argued that each test also measures some specific ability, which he termed “s” – vocabulary knowledge or mathematical skills, for example. However, what was of real importance to Spearman was general intelligence, which he believed to be the basis of all intellectual activities.

Crystallized and fluid intelligence

A similar theory by R. Cattell and J. Horn argues that there are two types of intelligence – fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is one’s biological ability to reason and acquire new information. On the other hand, crystallized intelligence is the set of specific knowledge and abilities that an individual has acquired by learning and experience throughout his life (1).

Primary mental abilities

In 1938 American psychologist L. Thurstone suggested, that intelligence is composed of seven independent factors, which he called primary mental abilities:

  1. verbal comprehension;
  2. verbal fluency;
  3. mathematical ability;
  4. memory;
  5. speed of perception;
  6. reasoning skills;
  7. spatial visualization (2).

Multiple intelligences

Similar to Thurstone’s theory is that of Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner. In 1983, he proposed the existence of multiple intelligences, which are independent from each other. According to him, everybody possesses a certain combination of the following:

  1. Linguistic intelligence;
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence;
  3. Spatial intelligence;
  4. Musical intelligence;
  5. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence;
  6. Interpersonal intelligence;
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence (3).

The Triarchic theory of intelligence

Finally, there is the Triarchic (three-part) theory of intelligence by R. Sternberg. According to him, there are three different types of intelligence. The first one is analytic intelligence, which is the ability to reason. It resembles the notion of general intelligence. The other component of intelligence, as defined by Sternberg, is creative intelligence or the ability to draw upon previous experience in order to solve new problems. The last part of intelligence, Sternberg argues, is practical intelligence, which reflects one’s ability to deal with everyday situations (4).

In conclusion, no unified theory of intelligence has been proposed yet. Until that happens, the debates on what intelligence really is are bound to continue.


  1. Jensen, Arthur R. Straight Talk About Mental Tests. New York: The Free Press, 1981. 62-63.
  2. Intelligence. Encarta Reference Library 2003. Microsoft Corporation, 2002.
  3. Armstrong, Thomas. 7 kinds of smart: identifying and developing your multiple intelligences. New York: Plume, 1999.
  4. Sternberg, Robert J. How practical and creative intelligence determines success in life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

What Is Creative Intelligence?

My longtime fascination with the topic of creative intelligence ignited into something more one day, when I read a passing comment in an old magazine interview by the great psychologist, Abraham Maslow. “The key question,” he said, “isn’t ‘What fosters creativity?’ But it is ‘Why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative?’

Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled?”

This flared off the page at me, as if written in flashing neon. At that time, my day job was focussed on the end stage of the creative process – teaching writers about technique and bringing them to publication.

Reading the article changed my focus to the inception and germination stages, to tackling Maslow’s “key” question of how inspiration is best fostered and encouraged.

So now I write and blog and speak about creative intelligence, working to spread the understanding that creative imagining is not just for writers and artists, but everyone.

If that makes sense to you, read on.

That is, if you don’t mind becoming the sort of person who makes life-changing decisions on the basis of passing comments in an old magazine.

1. What is Creative Intelligence?

By definition, the creative is unconventional, anarchic, flexible, open and difficult to pin down. What the concept of ‘creative intelligence’ does is enable us to understand and apply this dimension of human life that can sometimes feel so erratic or nebulous. We are all creating all the time – both consciously and unconsciously – but our understanding of how, and our confidence in the process, has been suppressed in us (see 6 & 7 below).

2. Can you give me a definition?

Creative intelligence is our ability to own and hone our innate creative potential. We do this by understanding how the creative process works and learning how to apply it. Human creativity is activated through processes of intention and attention. When we become aware of these processes, and learn how to direct them into what psychologists call creative flow, we wake up to life in a whole new way.

3. What happens?

I like this, very ancient, description of creative intelligence in action: “All your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world [where]…dormant forces, faculties and talents come alive.” This is how it was expressed, more than 2000 years old by Patanjali, the humble physician credited with putting the yoga sutras into writing. Essentially, your creative intelligence is the faculty that allows you to access this state of inspiration.

4. But isn’t inspiration a gift?

We can’t control it. Trying to catch hold of inspiration is like trying to squeeze water – the tighter your grasp, the less you hold. What we can do though is understand the conditions, states and practices that enable it to flow (see 11 below) and make changes that encourage them. Being inspired is, in many ways, a choice.

5. So creative intelligence is not just something for writers and artists?

No. Productive writers and artists have learned how to apply this intelligence to their work (though not necessarily to their lives). But the intelligence itself is present, though often suppressed, in us all. We all own it, we can all hone it.

6. Who suppressed it in us?

We ourselves mostly – with help from family members, school, workplaces, consumer culture and authority figures of all kinds.

7. I wasn’t taught about this intelligence in school?

Education has traditionally focussed on a different dimension of our intelligence: the sort (poorly) measured by IQ tests – the analytical, organizational abilities of the brain, those essential to sorting, ordering, figuring out. In favouring this ‘Top Mind’, we learned to repress the deeper dimensions of our intelligence.

8. Why did educators do this?

Creative intelligence is more difficult to facilitate and measure. And schools and workplaces favored analytical intelligence because it trained us for efficiency – the highest value in the industrial (19th century) and information (20th century) economies. Now, as we move into the more fluid and flexible creative (21st century) economy, intelligence values are changing.

9. Does that mean we no long need analytical intelligence?

No. We will always need to know how to order, rank and figure things out. It is just that we are realising our minds are capable of much more than we have traditionally allowed.

10. If I was creatively intelligent, how would I know?

You would recognise the relationship with your own creative process as the No 1 relationship in your life, the one that defines all the others. You would feel free to observe, allow and express your unique and individual essence and experience. You would be awake to life through seven senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, overall perception and intuition). You would know how to summon stillness, awareness and presence and do so regularly.

You would see that you are not separate from the creative, creating world, that the invisible intelligence that creates a new day, a tall tree, a full moon is also flowing through you. You would allow challenging relationships and events in your life to teach you what you need to know. You would understand that creative intelligence is not something we acquire, it is something we access. You would feel confident of your ability to create what you really want because you would know how to tune into your creative potential.

11. How can I use my creative intelligence?

However you want. Once you understand the process and how it works, you can apply it to any aspect of life – relationships, hobbies, money, work – to create what you truly want and enjoy the process of bringing it into being.

12. That sounds too good to be true.

It is pretty wonderful – but it does ask for effort on your part. Firstly, engaging your creative intelligence generally requires you to go beyond what is given. In writing and art, the ‘given’ takes the form of cliche, of tried-and-tested forms and ideas. In life, the ‘given’ includes the societal dynamics into which we are born; the friends, relatives or work colleagues who know what we should do or say or think. And, most significantly, what I call our ABCDEs – the attitudes, beliefs, concepts, denials and expectations that make up our habitual thoughts and feelings about what is possible or desirable. Many of us struggle with that process. Secondly, when we let go of our ‘givens’, we open new dimensions of mental and emotional freedom and possibility. And sometimes that’s scary. For both these reasons, people often resist their own creative spirit.

13. OK, you’ve convinced me to give it a go. Where do I start?

F-R-E-E-Writing and Meditation are two proven practices that foster self-awareness and creative breakthrough. These practices are easy to learn – but they require regular commitment and the ability to recognise and overcome internal resistance (as in 12 above) to be effective.

Emotionally Intelligent Conversations For Improving Relationships

EQ for difficult conversations:

What is a difficult conversation?
What is EQ?
How can we improve EQ?
How can EQ get us to a win-win with our difficult conversations?

What is a difficult conversation?

A difficult conversation:

Wife: I told you to leave your clothes there; you never listen to me?
Me: I told you that I do not understand there; where is there?
Wife: Now you are unnecessarily arguing, you know where there is.
Me: Sorry Madam, but your there changes everyday, so where is there today.
Wife: Why do you have to always argue and find fault with me?
Me: What is always? How many counts do you have of me arguing in the last week?
Wife: Why do I always have to be wrong?

And on and on and on, till one or the other walks off.

What is happening here? How do simple conversations become difficult?

All of us intuitively know when we are about to have a difficult conversation or when a conversation becomes difficult, including when it is about to become difficult. Yet, there are very few of us who do not have difficult conversations almost every day of our life with our significant others, whether at work, at home or at play. Usually a difficult conversation means happens when we share (give and/or receive) negative feedback with anyone. That anyone may be a boss, spouse, good friend, child, colleague or someone we love and admire and care for. Some conversations can also seem difficult because we think that we have a lot at stake or we have already taken a position which we feel a retraction will lead to loss of face. Conversations also become difficult due to our past conditioning – we expect it to be difficult because it has been so in the past. We deal with conversations in a routine manner without stopping to reflect.
Reflection questions for a difficult conversation:

1. Why do I want to have this conversation? (Self-awareness)
2. What will happen by not having this conversation? What will happen by having this conversation? (Emotional maturity)
3. What am I afraid of? What is the worst possible outcome? What is my stake? What do I expect – the best outcome? (Self-motivation)
4. What untested assumptions and inferences am I making? How can I step into the space of the other person to test my assumptions and inferences so that I can understand all perspectives with equanimity? ( Empathy and Understanding)
5. Can I make a commitment to listen and understand and communicate that understanding? Can I just listen and not make any proposition until I have fully understood the other and have a confirmation to that effect? ( Quality communication)

What is EQ?

Social psychologists started looking at Emotional Intelligence in their studies of ‘Social Intelligence’. E.L. Thorndike in 1920, was the first to identify Emotional Intelligence. We have moved away from IQ for intelligence to eleven kinds of intelligence. Psychologists have grouped them into three clusters:

1. Abstract intelligence (the ability to understand and manipulate and apply verbal and mathematic symbols – the social and physical sciences).
2. Concrete intelligence (the ability to understand and manipulate and with objects – engineering, construction, art).
3. Social intelligence (interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships).
Thorndike defined social intelligence as, “The ability to understand and manage men and women, boys and girls – to act wisely in human relations.” Gardner further improved upon this to include inter- and intrapersonal intelligences in his theory of multiple intelligences. These two intelligences comprise social intelligence. He defines them as follows:

- Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand other people: what motivates them, how they work, how to work cooperatively with them. Successful salespeople, politicians, teachers, clinicians, and religious leaders are all likely to be individuals with high degrees of interpersonal intelligence.
- Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to know and understand oneself accurately and truthfully and use that information effectively for inter-personal relationship as well as one’s own personal growth and development..

Emotional Intelligence (often given the acronym EQ, the emotional-intelligence equivalent of IQ) is therefore knowing yourself and knowing others and integrating the two – balancing the head and the heart, combining the left and right brain, the ying and the yan, the masculine and the feminine. What we see, we see with our objective mind and then try to make meaning on the basis of our conditioning, life experiences and BS (Belief Systems). This coloring leads to an outcome from the subjective mind – therefore the perceiver perceives not what is perceived by the sensory organs but what the perceiver perceives as perceived with the help of the subjective mind. Based on this we either respond reactively or proactively – which we call within our control or not within our control.

For a long time IQ was considered the leading determinant of success – those who had a high IQ were expected to succeed. This however, was not always true. It is now proven that there are as many successful with a medium IQ score than high IQ score. There are even successful people with a low IQ score. Based on brain and behavioral research, Daniel Goleman argued that our IQ-oriented view of intelligence is far too limited and narrow as it ignores many other determinants of success. narrow. According to Goleman emotional intelligence (EQ) is the strongest indicator of human success. His definition of emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, emotional maturity, self-motivation, empathic understanding and quality communication. High EQ leads to higher success in work and relationships.

How can we improve EQ?

EQ can be developed through practice and learning. Most of us have forgotten to recognize our feelings. We often mistake our thinking for our feelings. Thus we have become far removed from ourselves.

EQ involves development of discriminatory knowledge – the difference between the perceiver and perceived, the subject and the object. To recognize others emotion and our own emotions as separate rather than mixing the two as a response to each other. There are five main abilities in EQ:

1. Self-awareness:
Knowing self. Being aware. Being aware of our physical, mental and emotional activities. To be in touch with ourselves. It takes practice to observe ourselves. Once we recognize our emotional state we can bring about changes to suit the situation.
2. Emotional maturity:
Once we are aware of our inner self, maturity means to face up to all the dimensions of ourselves without judgment. To accept things as they are. Having the courage to explore our blocks and to turn them around to help us to deal with our situations constructively.
3. Self-motivation:
Taking responsibility for our emotions and actions. Knowing that everything we do, we do for a reason and have a choice to do or not to do. When we make a choice, we do so to get away from pain and to receive pleasure. Pain and pleasure are the biggest two dimensions of motivation. Removal of pain moves us to great heights and then once we have removed pain we can move towards adding pleasure. This is our greatest motivation.
4. Empathic understanding:
Stepping out of one’s own framework and entering the others mental model and looking at it entirely from the others point of view. To understand in the others framework and to communicate the understanding in the language of the other and to receive confirmation of that understanding, rather than adding any meaning of one’s own to it.
5. Quality communication:
Active listening; communicating empathy and understanding; understanding before wanting to be understood.

How to use EQ in difficult conversations?

We can develop some general principles on how to have difficult conversations where EQ plays a very large role for the conversations to be win-win for both parties.

1. Clarify your own purpose and intent.

The EQ qualities of self-awareness and emotional maturity can help us to clarify our purpose and intent. Ask yourself why you wish to have this conversation? If your intention is unilateral – to have someone agree or support you – you are likely to have a very defensive response. If you really wish to move forward, you may enter the conversation with curiosity to explore the situation and verify the accuracy of your views. Knowing your own purpose and intent will help you to learn how to productively change your own behavior before having an impact on the other. Self-awareness helps you to clarify your intent and purpose.

Each difficult conversation is really about three things: what really happened, how you feel about what happened, and what the situation says about your identity. Get in touch with your thinking and feelings to know your fears and what your hot button issues are. This will help you to test your assumptions and attributions and validate your data. Some questions to test your emotional maturity:

- Am I being compassionate towards all?
- Am I open and curious or do I come with preconceived ideas? Am I willing to learn?
- Am I being transparent in sharing all I know?
- Am I fully committed to the outcome?
- What are my worst fears? What are my deepest desires?
- Am I holding myself accountable for my contributions?

2. Build a foundation for the conversation

Agree with the other person on the purpose of the conversation – what is it that you want to talk about? What is your interest in bringing about this conversation? Without this the other person is often more likely to stick with their own inferences and become defensive thereby not allowing you to make your proposition. Self-motivation is the quality that is most likely to help you as you know that you are having this conversation as a matter of choice – even though it is difficult. By using the qualities of empathy and understanding you can make the other person realize that this is not just a unilateral conversation but needs to be jointly discussed for mutual benefit. You can build the foundation in the four steps of:

- Don’t just say what you think happened also ask for the others view of what they think happened.
- Talk about how the other feels and then share how you feel
- Proposition your interests after clarifying the others needs and interests
- Don’t advocate solutions, ask for inputs to jointly design solutions

3. Stay focused on jointly designed process

Normally in difficult conversations we tend to go back to the history of the situation and lose track of the future goals as jointly designed. This will again require self-awareness and emotional maturity to be authentic, to realize where the process is getting derailed and to focus on the process. It will also require self-motivation to continue to the end of the process. Old data is often flawed as our reasoning is faulty when we are fearful of a situation or frustrated about a relationship. Self-motivated focus will help us to stay in the present and continue towards progress in the future.

4. Agree to monitor progress and discuss again

Success in difficult situations is achieved when both do something different. As this is about changing behaviour it is needed to fine-tune intentions with actions. Always agree to monitor progress and celebrate success at the end of difficult conversations.