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How To Harness Your Experiential Intelligence

“Experiential Intelligence provides a new lens from which to view what makes you, you—and what makes your team and organization unique,” says Soren Kaplan, author of the new book, Experiential Intelligence. 

Kaplan explains that over 100 years ago, we established IQ (Intelligence Quotient) to predict success. Then we explored Emotional Intelligence (EQ), the theory of multiple intelligences, and mindsets that broaden the definition of smarts.


“Today, Experiential Intelligence (XQ) expands our understanding of what's needed to thrive in a disruptive world. While you can't change the past, your unique experiences and stories contain hidden strengths and untapped potential for the future,” explains Kaplan.


Experiential Intelligence is the combination of mindsets, abilities, and know-how gained from your unique life experiences that empowers you to achieve your goals. It allows you to get in touch with the accumulated wisdom and talents you have gained over time through your lived experience.


Digging deeper:

  • Mindsets: Your attitudes and beliefs about yourself, other people and the world.
  • Abilities: Your competencies that help you integrate your knowledge, skills, and experiences so you can respond to situations in the most effective way possible.
  • Know-how: Your knowledge and skills. 

“Many organizations haven’t fully tapped into the mindsets, abilities, and know-how that inherently exists across their people and teams. Leaders first need to recognize that the reality of life, including in business, is that everyone brings the whole of who they are with them wherever they go, including both their strengths as well as self-limiting beliefs. Until companies embrace this fact, they’ll never reach their full potential.”


“For example, we may need to help people overcome their limiting mindsets, or help them uncover their hidden assets derived from their full set of life experiences, not just their work experience." 

"Developing XQ helps people become better leaders. Teams that harness their collective XQ achieve greater collaboration and innovation. Organizations that recognize XQ as a strategic imperative can more fully leverage their talent and transform their cultures by scaling the assets that exist across their people,” explains Kaplan.


With powerful personal narratives, Kaplan reveals how XQ can be leveraged to help anyone to:

  • Become a better leader.
  • Increase team collaboration, innovation, and results.
  • Hire and develop talent using more strategic criteria.
  • Transform organizational culture.
  • Enhance personal growth. 

Book chapters 1—3 outline what Experiential Intelligence is, why it’s so important today, and how it relates to IQ and EQ.


Chapters 4—8 describe specific strategies and tools that you can use to further develop your XQ by growing it in yourself, amplifying it in your personal and professional relationships and assessing it over time.


Chapters 9—13 highlight how XQ applies in different contexts, including organizations, leadership, teams, and communities.


Be sure to note the QR codes at the beginning of each chapter. Those will take you to videos where Kaplan provides an overview of what you will read in the chapter, and he shares personal thoughts and ideas about the various chapter topics.


Additionally, toward the end of the book, Kaplan offers you a link to his XQ Toolkit – a practical set of digital tools that you can use to develop your Experiential Intelligence and apply it to your team and organization.


Soren Kaplan


Today, Kaplan shares these insights with us:


Question: Please further explain Experiential Intelligence?


Kaplan: Experiential Intelligence, or XQ for short, is your combination of mindsets, abilities, and know-how gained from your unique life experience.


Just like memorizing facts doesn't give you a high IQ, your Experiential Intelligence isn't merely what you've learned over time. It's how you perceive challenges, view opportunities, and tackle your goals.


Your XQ includes the beliefs and attitudes you hold about yourself, other people, and the world in general, along with the unique abilities that you’ve developed that make you, you.


Question: What can help advance your XQ awareness and abilities?


Kaplan: Experiential Intelligence exists on three levels. The most tangible is your know-how, which includes your practical knowledge and skills. The second level involves your abilities, which guides how you apply your knowledge and skills to use them in the most effective way possible. Abilities can include higher order things like pattern recognition or managing uncertainty. Your mindsets are your attitudes and beliefs about yourself, other people, and the world, which can be conscious or subconscious.


Gaining greater self-awareness of your mindsets, abilities, and know-how plays a big part in developing your XQ. When you understand what led you to adopt certain mindsets for example, you increase your ability to consciously change them, which can lead to growth in your abilities and know-how.


Question: What is the role of Experiential Intelligence in business, i.e., for leadership, teams, and organizational culture?


Kaplan: Companies including Google, Apple, Tesla, IBM, Home Depot, Bank of America, Starbucks, and Hilton no longer require a university degree for an interview. These organizations understand that future success relies on way more than diplomas.


So, the first big opportunity is to recognize the value of experience beyond just formal education and training. Hiring managers, team leaders, and talent and leadership development needs to seek out the higher order mindsets and abilities needed for the future versus pigeonhole people into narrow boxes.


Soren Kaplan, PhD, is an award-winning author, an affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California (USC), a former corporate executive, founder of three Silicon Valley startups, and a columnist for Inc. magazine. He is an international keynote speaker and has led professional development programs for thousands of executives around the world, including Disney, NBCUniversal, Visa, PayPal, Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly-Clark, Medtronic, Roche, Hershey’s, Red Bull, and many others.


Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book..


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