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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Technology, Attention & Social Intelligence

Call it the great paradox. This is an age where Presenteeism is plaguing corporates around the world and continuous partial attention fast becoming the norm. Courtesy of Manish saw this excellent interview with Daniel Goleman, well known amongst other things for his work on Emotional Intelligence. Mr. Goleman holds the view that social intelligence (this is a term being discussed for more than seven decades) is a composite of many abilities. You can also read his latest book, titled Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships,released recently on this topic. Some people might be fantastic at recognizing what clients need - that’s a form of empathy. Some people might be very good at feeling the mood of a room and tracking that moment-to-moment. Some people might be very skilled at making new connections, have extensive networks. Other people might be very good at understanding the political dynamics of a company. If you’re at a high level in business, odds are you’re pretty good at many of those. So how do the rest of us get better? The answer, Daniel Goleman says, is very simple: by listening.

“Listening poorly is the common cold of social intelligence. And it’s being made worse by technology. To have a human moment, you need to be fully present. You have to be away from your laptop, you put down your BlackBerry, you end your daydream and you pay full attention to the person you’re with. It may sound rudimentary, but think about how often we just keep multitasking and half pay attention. You can overcome that by becoming mindful of what is happening.”

How true – I can vouch that this malaise of attention deficit is getting more grave around the world – engaging people in an involved discussion is becoming more and more difficult.

Mr. Goleman adds,

Social intelligence is being smart about relationships, it’s the interpersonal part of intelligence. The brain is wired to acquire social intelligence from birth on. Just as the first time a mother and baby meet eyes, that baby has started to lay down a blueprint for interaction, it happens naturally through what are called mirroring neurons. These mirroring neurons are a class of brain cell that operate like an internal wi-fi - tracking the emotional flow and intentions of the interacting personalities.
He goes on to add,
Humankind are constantly engaged in a “neural ballet” that connects people - brain to brain - with those around . An enormous amount of learning from infancy and childhood goes on through modelling - through observing how others act - and bringing that into the brain as part of a potential repertoire for behavior and then using it in the right situations. The brain is designed to do that, it’s very efficient.…..

So how does it exactly matter in the fast paced life : The more rapport you have in a business setting, the quicker the deal will go down and the better people will work together as a team. It’s very important to attune to that and to realise that the inner states of people as they work together matter. A work environment that is emotionally toxic is also a great detriment to effectiveness. Socially intelligent leaders recognise that part of their world is to help other people be at their best - which is to be motivated, be enthused and be interested.

As I wrote before, full attention focus is essential as experiencing engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back. This may need other convergent forces - sociological and economical to operate in alignment with this technological advances. While the collaborative tools provide the technological support, social intelligence binds them together for effectiveness – what a neat combination!!

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
"All views expressed are my personal views are not related in any way to my employer"