Leadership Experiential Intelligence: What It Is and How to Grow...


Experiential Intelligence: What It Is and How to Grow It

WHEN WE THINK of success and influence, there’s more to it than just IQ and EQ. What pulls it all together and contributes to our ability to show up and achieve our goals is the sum total of our experiences and what we take away from them. What we’re talking about is our Experiential Intelligence or our XQ.

In Experiential Intelligence, author Soren Kaplan describes XQ as “the combination of mindsets, abilities, and know-how gained from your unique life experience that empowers you to achieve your goals.” He adds, “XQ provides a holistic way to understand what’s needed for success in today’s world by getting in touch with the accumulated wisdom and talents you have gained over time through your lived experience.”

Lessons learned from our experiences alone do not make for Experiential Intelligence alone. XQ is a framework that provides a lens through which we can view our experiences. We create meaning or intelligence through a process that is based on three elements or building blocks:

Mindsets: Your attitudes and beliefs about yourself, other people, and the world. These attitudes and beliefs can either get in your way or propel you forward. When you fully tap into your XQ you’re able to uncover the self-limiting belief you hold.

Abilities: Your competencies that help you integrate your knowledge, skills, and experiences so you can respond to situations in the most effective way possible. “Abilities are specific competencies that bridge your mindsets with your know-how. Your abilities represent broader approaches to how you do what you do, so you can apply what you know how to do in different contexts. Your mindsets guide what you see as possible as desirable, which influences where and how you decide to apply your abilities.”

Know-How: Your knowledge and skills. This includes both formal education and tacit knowledge that is learned through practice or performing.

Mindsets, abilities, and know-how collectively comprise XQ. When we treat these components as building blocks, with know-how as the base, abilities in the middle, and mindsets at the top, we get a progression from the tangible to the more amorphous when it comes to self-awareness. Understanding that you possess certain knowledge and skills generally comes more easily than seeing your broader abilities. Recognizing that you possess specific mindsets that influence your thinking and behavior is even more challenging.

You can grow your XQ. Unfortunate experiences in your life can prepare you for a better future. “Embracing your XQ means looking for the unrealized assets you already possess and you’ve developed because of your experiences, whatever they may be.”

You grow your XQ in three ways: Reinventing your attitudes and beliefs (mindsets), Enhancing your abilities, and Building your knowledge and skills. Going deeper into your mindsets is the powerful thing you can do to drive significant change and breakthroughs.

Look for connections you have made between things that don’t belong together. Look for links between your past experiences and how they influence you today and decide what to keep and what to let go of or reframe. It usually requires taking a broader view of your experiences.

Kaplan provides specific questions and methods to dig into each of the three areas. Online you can take the XQ Assessment.

Kaplan also goes into developing for your team and organization using five strategies: Connecting the dots to find focus, Rewriting unwritten rules, Exploring uncertainty to discover new opportunities, Crating experiences to spark positive change, and Amplifying strengths to amplify impact.

Properly understood, XQ goes beyond just finding more creative solutions but grows your influence and gives you a better lens to hire and develop people for and in your organization.

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