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Analytics vs emotional intelligence

I wonder what my readers would say are the two main trends in the business management community today, but for me these trends are the rise of analytics (we are at Analytics 3.0 now, apparently) and the importance of emotional intelligence, pioneered by Daniel Goleman, as well as the role of grit as key to success. Goleman has written several important books on the types of skills leaders should have now to success, but this 2004 HBR article he authored gives you a preview of the four groups of EQ strengths: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

Back in 2004, Goleman wrote: "Although a certain degree of analytical and technical skill is a minimum requirement for success, studies indicate that emotional intelligence may be the key attribute that distinguishes outstanding performers from those who are merely adequate." This reminded me of what people say about tenure at a research institution: you have to be an excellent researcher but you only need to meet the minimum requirements as a teacher (be "not-terrible-enough") to succeed as a professor. It seems that what Goleman wrote in 2004 could be paraphrased as: a leader succeeds by knowing the viable minimum about the technical or analytical side of his business and excelling at emotional intelligence.

Perhaps this was understandable eleven years ago; yet I can't help but wonder if the trends of analytics and emotional intelligence will collide, or if they will merge to yield tomorrow's industry superstar, the emotionally-intelligent data scientist. Or are people who like both data and people barely more common than unicorns? (This would make them in even higher demand in the marketplace, then!) This would be a data scientist who understands himself and his motivations and also can work well with his team to achieve the desired goal of using data to help the company fulfill its mission. You will say that perhaps data scientists are not leaders, but if emotionally-intelligent data scientists are tomorrow's superstars, then they will be C-suite executives the day after tomorrow. 

Yet, implementing this vision presents a number of challenges, starting with the fact that the people teaching tomorrow's data scientists may not have high EQ. This is in part because, in some disciplines, the trend to collaborate on certain projects among colleagues rather than with one's graduate students has emerged only recently. Also, the people who teach EQ-related subjects in college may not be superstars of Daniel Goleman's caliber and may, in fact, have underwhelming credibility. Successful leaders (often leaders with high EQ) may come and give a talk at a university here and there but this does not amount to teaching students how to develop high EQ. 

Emotional intelligence is also perhaps not a skill best learned in the classroom. Perhaps it is best to let students observe peers and managers from up close once they are working and try to identify what they think they make this person successful and that less so. To learn that in college, there would need to be debriefing courses or seminars that the students take after they return from summer internships.

The best book I have found on emotional intelligence in business is the poorly-titled Primal Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence. Once you get past the bad title and the just-as-bad cover, you discover a very useful book that should be required reading of all college students, in particular all students in industrial & systems engineering or operations research programs. IE/OR students are already been taught the analytical skills in such high demand, and developing their emotional intelligence would undoubtedly position them for great success in the workforce. 


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