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Coaching the Eight Definitions of Intelligence


Coaching the Eight Definitions of Intelligence

Pam Fox Rollin shares an article she co-wrote with Dario Nardi on multiple intelligences and how they can be applied to coaching.

I always do well, but I still worry I’m not as smart as my peers,” confesses a Senior Director of Technology at a leading software company. “In management meetings they zing ideas around so quickly my head spins.”

Is intelligence measured, as this client believes, by how fast you talk and respond? As a coach, how rich is your definition of smart? And, how does your concept of “smart” open up potential for your clients?

Traditionally, intelligence has been understood as a single measure of ability that is largely immutable from birth. In this view, smart people have greater horsepower that can be applied to any situation. The smarter you are, as measured on an IQ test, the better you can handle anything in your path. Given research that people with high IQs did better in school, regardless of the subject, this view took hold and shaped our popular understanding of intelligence.

Yet, as coaches know, how you frame the question powerfully affects the answer. Since most schooling draws on the same narrow range of performance that IQ tests measure, that correlation means little in understanding “smart” in everyday life and work.

Advances in neuropsychology, evolutionary biology, and child development show us the “one horse” view is tragically flawed. Flawed because it can’t account for performance outside of school, across the full range of human activity — intelligence as a chef, as an author, as an athlete, as a mother. Tragic because we dampen human potential as long as we believe there is one linear scale of intelligence.

Many of us who care about human potential understand this intuitively, yet we have no other way of talking about it.

To find a better way, Harvard Education professor Howard Gardner spent years putting together research and wisdom about intelligence across disciplines and across cultures. He synthesized what he learned in his model of “Multiple Intelligences” (MI). Using rigorous empirical criteria, he has recognized eight distinct intelligences. (See The Eight Intelligences, below).

Key points include:

  • Definitions of intelligence

  • Apply Multiple Intelligences to coaching

  • Verbal-Linguistic intelligences

Read the full article, Multiple Intelligences: 8 ways coaches and clients are smart, on LinkedIn.