The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Driving Innovation

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Driving Innovation

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Today’s business world savors innovation, and intellectuals attribute the ability to innovate to numerous factors such as skills, resources, and knowledge. Yet, there seems to be a commonly neglected factor that plays a significant role in driving innovation – Emotional Intelligence (EI). Increasingly, EI is recognized as not just a complement to innovation, but an integral part complementing it to those who master it. This article aims to illustrate the strategic underpinnings of Emotional Intelligence that drives innovation and its correlation with success, as demonstrated with two case studies.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in an effective and positive way. It encapsulates skills such as emotional awareness, self-management, empathy, and relationship management. These skills have a significant role in driving the cognitive processes underlying innovative thinking and actions.

1. Self-Awareness: Self-aware individuals recognize their emotions and how they can impact their thoughts and behavior. Therefore, they do not react instantly but take the time to weigh options before making a decision – a crucial factor driving the innovative process.

2. Self-Management: An individual who can manage their emotions, optimist or pessimist, has control over their thoughts, ideally dealing with adversity or stress, skills essential for innovation.

3. Empathy: Empathy fosters understanding other perspectives, promoting diverse thinking, a prerequisite of innovation.

4. Relationship Management: Building strong, positive relationships encourage open communication and teamwork, which is essential for sharing and combining ideas that lead to innovation.

Case Study 1: Google’s Project Aristotle

In 2012, Google launched Project Aristotle to determine why some of their teams excelled at being innovative while others didn’t. Scrutinizing countless factors, from team composition to management style, Google’s statisticians found the key to high-performing teams was not about who was on the team but how the team worked together.

Here emerges the link to Emotional Intelligence. Google’s successful teams exhibited high levels of ‘psychological safety’ – the ability to take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed, essentially, a team’s emotional intelligence. This recognition has led Google to focus on EI development, conditioning their employees to be more aware, controlled, and empathetic.

Case Study 2: The Turnaround at Siemens

In the late 90s, Siemens, reeling from a loss of innovation and market share, appointed Klaus Kleinfeld as CEO. He emphasized emotional intelligence within the company’s leadership, focusing on self-awareness, optimism, empathy and functional interpersonal relationships.

This shift resulted in a renewed culture of open communication, reduced fear of taking risks, and greater collaborative input into the innovation process. The result – Siemens turned around its downturn, with the company becoming one of the world’s top innovators.

These cases reiterate the profound impact emotional intelligence can have on an organization’s ability to innovate. It shapes an environment that promotes risk-taking, open communication, and collaboration – key catalysts for innovation.

Emphasizing emotional intelligence in organizations’ leadership development programs or recruiting practices is no longer a nice-to-have—it has become essential.


Companies who understand the power of emotional intelligence will be the trailblazers, successfully linking emotional intelligence to innovation. They will lead changes that impact industries and shape our world—proving that EQ is as significant as IQ, if not more, in driving innovation.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Pexels

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *