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Developing Positive Intelligence

You know those times when a great idea or a solution to a difficult issue comes to you when you least expect it?  Perhaps it’s when you’re in the shower or taking a walk or at the gym?

According to a great book I’ve just finished reading (Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine) the reason this happens is that in these moments you have managed to turn down the judging part of your brain and turn up the innovative, exploratory, creative side.  As a result you suddenly get a flash of insight into things that may have been causing you worry and concern.  It’s almost like as soon as we stop ‘trying’ to solve the problem, our brain switches into gear and presents an elegant solution to us.

Interestingly, a similar message was delivered by Dr. Derek Rogers in a talk I attended this week on Resilience.  He talked about the concept of most of us going through life in a semi-sleeping state without realising how often we are judging ourselves and other people, regularly self-criticising and as a result increasing our stress levels and reducing our ability to think clearly and act decisively.

Both pieces of work complement much of the work we do in Altris in coaching and the development programmes we run.  In these we look to help leaders to find authentic ways to operate which play to their strengths and values – while acknowledging and managing significant blockers that can get in the way.  We use the science of axiology to help leaders to understand more about their thinking styles and biases and to create strategies to overcome their blockers. Synthesising the techniques suggested by Shirzad Chamine and Derek Rogers will only add to the effectiveness of our work.

Some key takeaways for me from the Positive Intelligence book:

  • PQ = Positive Intelligence Quotient – the percentage of the time your mind is acting as your friend rather than your enemy.  75% is seen as the tipping point.
  • We all have Saboteurs in our minds that work against our own best interests. You can train yourself to notice when these Saboteurs are in play and as a result, minimise their impact, while also boosting the power of your Sage (the deeper and wiser part of us).
  • The techniques are practical and take very little time to learn and apply. Most simply require you to get more present (‘Wake up’ in Derek Rogers’ terms) and to notice what’s happening around you, as this re-engages the Sage part of your brain which opens up your ability to think creatively and solve problems.
  • Increasing PQ has positive impacts on reducing stress levels and increasing happiness, increasing effectiveness in sales and in teams and improving relationships (business and personal).

By starting to apply the techniques explained in the book I have already noticed a difference in my mood and better interactions with colleagues and business clients.

Positive Intelligence may well be one of the most important books I’ve read.  I encourage you to have a look and let me know what you think.



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