Dr. Sharp: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.
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Hey, welcome back everyone to another clinical episode with the Testing Psychologist. My guest today is Dr. Soren Kaplan. He is a bestselling and award-winning author, a writer for Psychology Today and Inc. Magazine, and an affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business. Soren [00:01:00] has lectured at the Harvard Business School, Copenhagen Business School, Melbourne Business School, and other MBA and executive education programs across the globe. He holds Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Organizational Psychology.
Soren is here to talk about the concept of experiential intelligence. Our experiences give us so much information. Over the course of our lives, we’ll have an untold number of data points that contribute to the way that we approach the world. And Dr. Kaplan has taken this idea rooted in positive psychology and crafted a construct called Experiential Intelligence.
So he’s here today to chat with me about all things “XQ”. These are just a few things that we talk about. We define XQ and what it is. We talk about how it’s related to traditional cognitive intelligence. We talk about how to apply XQ to our work with clients, [00:02:00] and also how to apply it to ourselves as business owners.
This was a great conversation and we could have gone any number of directions, but we tried to hone in on more applicable components of experiential intelligence in hopes that you can take some of this and apply it to your life.
So without further delay, here is my conversation with Dr. Soren Kaplan.
Hey Soren, welcome to the podcast.
Dr. Soren: Great to be here, Jeremy. Thanks a lot.
Dr. Sharp: I am excited to talk with you. I can’t say that I went out looking for someone who could speak on experiential intelligence. I don’t know that I even knew that that was a thing. [00:03:00] So I am grateful to be learning about something brand new today, and appreciate your time to jump on here for a little while.
Dr. Soren: Glad to be here. Thank you.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I’ll start the same way that I start every one of these interviews and just ask, out of all the things that you could spend your time and energy on in this field, why this?
Dr. Soren: This is a very personal topic to me. And you mentioned it’s new. It actually is not exactly new. It was introduced by a guy named Robert Sternberg, the former president of the American Psychological Association. I stumbled on it because of reflecting on my own experience.
I had a rough upbringing. My mother had a mental illness. My father was hardly around. By the time I was 15 years old, we had moved 16 times. So I had a lot of trauma in my early life. And I had [00:04:00] to get over that and heal from it but at the same time, over 50 years of my life now, I have recognized that even the things that traumatized me actually gave me some unique gifts and some assets and strengths that I have figured out how to leverage. And when I look at what that is, it actually, I was trying to understand myself a little bit better as I was going through life. It’s experiential intelligence.
And so what I wanted to do is take my own journey, ground it in research, and package it up so it’s accessible to other people. And it takes this concept of experiential intelligence that was introduced a number of years ago and makes it more readily available as a concept and with some tools that others can use for themselves.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I think that’s really powerful. There’s the [00:05:00] joke/not joke that a lot of us get into this field to heal ourselves in some capacity or another. I know I certainly have some of those characteristics as well. You just took it to another level. It’s pretty admirable how you have put all this time and research into it and turned it into a thing like you said.
Dr. Soren: Thank you.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. And that’s my mistake. I’m glad you clarified that Sternberg introduced this idea, it’s not a brand new thing, but I’m glad that we’re shooting the spotlight on it here.
Dr. Soren: Yeah. It’s one of those things where, if you look at the undercurrent of our whole society and our view of what leads to success, the IQ test has been around for a long time. And IQ as a concept has been this thing where we think, oh, well, [00:06:00] the smarter you are, the more successful you’ll be in life and business. And over and over when I ask the question to people, well, what percentage of your success is due to your intellect and your IQ score? Is it correlated? Most people are like, of course, not. It’s 20% maximum if they’re even giving it a number.
And then you have the emotional intelligence, EQ, which is, Dan Goman 1990s got popularized and you think, well, yeah, of course, being in touch with your emotions and being grounded and then also being able to empathize with others is a success factor in personal relationships as well in business, as you’re running a small business or just relating to people, and that’s all good.
Today’s world is faster changing, more disruptive, and chaotic. And what leads to success? It’s more than just being [00:07:00] intellectually smart. It’s more than just being in touch with your emotions and others.
We need to look at how do we leverage the experiences that we had in a concrete way, in a structured way because our experiences shape how we think our mindsets and shapes the abilities and the skills and knowledge that we develop over time. But we haven’t really had a way to talk about that from an intelligence standpoint. Street smarts are the best we can get in terms of that intelligence.
And so I’m just trying to articulate what has been introduced in the psychology world to say experience actually is a form of intelligence and is complimentary to other forms of intelligence that we’re talking about. It’s the third leg of the stool that we’ve been sitting on, but not really realizing it.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. So for you, we’ve got IQ, which is “traditional” cognitive intelligence, and we’ve got [00:08:00] EQ, emotional intelligence, and now this experiential intelligence, right?
Dr. Soren: Yeah.
Dr. Sharp: I wonder, we’re dipping into it already, but I’d love to get just a good solid working definition of XQ. Can I say XQ? Is that you…
Dr. Soren: That’s Soren calling it.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. Let’s go with that. Experiential intelligence, if you just had to give the elevator pitch, what is it?
Dr. Soren: I define it in my book as the combination of mindsets, abilities, and know-how gained from your unique life experience. And then I tag onto that empowers you to achieve your goals because it’s really grounded in positive psychology.
And so the idea would be like, let’s look at our mindsets, abilities, and know-how, I can define those further, but let’s look at those things that our experience gave us. Look at them as strengths and then what do you do with those strengths? You focus on what you want to create in your life, your [00:09:00] personal goals or your business goals however you want to decide what that is, but that’s really the essence of experiential intelligence. It’s those three elements.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I would love to define each of those a little bit more if you’re willing to do that. I think anything we can do to flesh this out would be fantastic.
Dr. Soren: Yeah, and I’ll bring it to life with both a generic example and then my own personal life examples because I think bringing it to life is really important because it can get a little theoretical. So mindsets, abilities, know-how. I also talk about, when we are learning things as children and growing up, it’s really about experience, experiential learning. You can read a book, but then you need to apply what you’re reading in the book to really internalize it.
There was a guy, Robert Kraft, who wrote this amazing article about the art of riding a bike. And so it established the notion of experiential learning and of the [00:10:00] education field. I was reading that article; I’m like, well, experiential learning really is experiential intelligence in terms of how it is created. If you think about riding a bike, how much of riding a bike did you learn to do because of your intellect? Zero, right?
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, zero in my case.
Dr. Soren: Me too. It’s like, you could probably read a book about how to ride a bike and still not be able to jump on a bike and ride it. So how does it work? You get on a bike and you probably follow over, maybe you have training wheels, and you struggle along a little bit. Maybe you get a little help. Maybe you take off one of the training wheels, you’re wobbly. Maybe you take off both of them. You fall down, you get back up and you’re still wobbly, but you get it. And then you’re still learning about it. Maybe you have a little accident or two, but you get back up and you’re wearing a helmet because you think safety’s important. So there’s a process of riding a bike that’s about the experience.
Okay. So let’s [00:11:00] decipher that a little bit. The nuts and bolts. The know-how. I look at that as level 1 experiential intelligence. It’s just the knowledge and skills that you have. So you learn how to break, you learn how to turn your handlebars. You learn how to get on the bike. Those are really the nuts and bolts of just operating a bike. Now that’s important. You have to know that.
Then you have the ability, that’s a higher-order element. The way I define abilities in the book, it’s competencies that integrate your knowledge and skills with your other experiences and also your mindsets.
So the abilities when you’re riding a bike would be like you’re riding down the road and you see some cars coming and you really realize I need to ride defensively. So you anticipate what’s going to happen or you see a pothole and you get ready and you realize, I [00:12:00] need to navigate around this. So there’s some higher-order anticipatory abilities that you’d have that go beyond just knowing the nuts and bolts.
Then you get to the mindset side of it. Okay, well what’s the bike? Well, it’s transportation, you could say. Well, you could also look at a bike as a way to relieve stress. Just go on a calm bike ride around the neighborhood, or around the countryside. You could look at it as a social activity, a joint bike ride with a bunch of people. You could look at it as transportation, getting to work. There’s a lot of ways in which you can internalize what that bike means to you or what the possibilities of the bike are.
So when you look at the whole notion of I haven’t experienced riding the bike, you’ve got mindsets going on, you got abilities, and you got the know-how that all come together to create that overarching ability to ride a bike and you can apply those same things.
I just had a conversation with [00:13:00] somebody about how to apply that in a manufacturing facility and in a carwash. And this guy’s example he gave me, he’s like, yeah, I used to run a carwash and our managers could hear when the compressor was going to break the following week because we could hear the sound. Now, no one else could know that, but they had so much experience they could anticipate what’s going to happen.
So you start to get into different domains and the way you would interpret mindsets, abilities, and know-how would be different, but that’s really the essence of it.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I like the integration of all those components. It got me thinking about business stuff. Of course, I know we’re going to try to talk more clinical here in the beginning, but it’s got me thinking about just experience as a leader. That’s top of mind for me right now as our practice is growing, then how that applies to [00:14:00] hiring, firing, managing folks, and different aspects of the business as well. Each of these components is super important.
Dr. Soren: They are. And some of this stuff gets also deep pretty fast too. In my book I reveal a lot. I really try to demonstrate vulnerability and leading with my heart and my emotion as well as the theory and all that. I grew up and my father was rarely around, and I felt like I wasn’t.. he didn’t spend a lot of time with me. He had other interests. We were in a fringe spiritual community in the San Francisco Bay Area and he was really dedicated to his teacher. And he wouldn’t really spend time with me, so I internalized this self-limiting belief.
So I had a bunch of experiences. That was my experiences, and they led to this self-limiting belief, which is a mindset, [00:15:00] that I really wasn’t worthy of attention or focus. I had to really heal from that. And at the same time, to compensate, I really became an overachiever so that I could get that external validation. I could do a whole bunch of stuff where I get recognized for whatever I’m achieving. I became a workaholic to a certain extent and overcompensated.
And so when you look at running a practice and you look at all the things that might have shaped how you maybe take feedback, maybe you don’t want to or you might have employees that have a hard time taking feedback because they have a fear of judgment. Well, that’s coming from somewhere, but it also is getting in the way of an adult relationship where you’re trying to make stuff better in the office.
So there’s a lot that can be connected to those experiences that you have, both positive as well as negative. And so the trick with [00:16:00] experiential intelligence is how do you look at your own assets that you have from life experience, not necessarily always just education, and then how do you look at the team that you might have around you in your office and not just hire people who might have broader experience than that specific job description, but also build a team that compliments each other from a diverse experience standpoint as well. Life experience.
Dr. Sharp: Right. Oh, my gosh, I have so many thoughts and questions from everything you said over the last two minutes. First of all, it sounds like we maybe had similar growing up experiences, maybe not in the day-to-day, the specific details, but the outcome certainly. I really identify with that process of overachieving as a coping mechanism if you want to frame it that way. So that stood out to me right away and it’s already trying to rein my mind in from going [00:17:00] down that path. And just thinking about how my experiences might apply to all these.
Dr. Soren: And maybe just to drill on that and thank you for sharing your personal experience because that doesn’t always happen in these kinds of conversations. I get that you’re in the field and you’re probably more in touch with that side, but if you look at probably how you addressed some of the challenges from your childhood, you’ve created a thriving practice, you’ve got this podcast, and if you are not aware of those things, you could be on autopilot and you can be driven by those things without awareness and be “successful” in many ways, but not be fulfilled and not be satisfied.
And I think part of connecting into that experiential intelligence; you clearly have self-awareness around that, and so you then have choices to say, I’m going to [00:18:00] have balance and not be driven by this. I’m going to leverage what I learned to do be to be successful because I enjoy being successful, it helps other people in my practice to be successful and I can contribute new knowledge through this podcast to other practitioners and allow you to contribute to the world in the way you want to contribute in the world while at the same time not being limited by your past.
And so I think that’s really the value of the concept of experiential intelligence itself because you’re really harnessing the strengths that you have in terms of what you’re able to think about and do.
Dr. Sharp: I appreciate that. Yeah, it’s got me thinking about just the idea that the outcome may be the same. So I might still have a podcast and relatively successful practice and you may continue to have the being an author and researcher and speaker and so forth [00:19:00] and the process behind it is different, right? It’s, I don’t know if you’d say more of a choice, but it’s a conscious decision to go that route versus just a reactive coping mechanism where you’re just doing it blindly and you end up where you end up but the why is important.
Dr. Soren: Yeah, I totally agree. And going deeper into the psychology behind all of this, these are some of the bigger things that we’re talking about, but there’s a lot of little things. If you look at some of the research of books like Bessel van der Kolk and The Body Keeps the Score, and even Oprah Winfrey and Bruce Perry wrote the book, What Happened To You? It’s all about those traumas and how they impact you and wire your brain and how trauma works, but there’s a lot of these little teeny events [00:20:00] that can add up or that can impact you. Sometimes they’re in the subconscious.
And so by looking at those experiences, I’ll give you one just personal example. You can start to decipher, are there things that are driving you that might get in your way or have given a direction that maybe you want to lean into a little bit more? My example was, when I was a teenager, I think this was like 17; my father took me to go buy a car. So he had the typical used cars men experience where it it was little bait and switch, and my father, I could see viscerally, he was getting really uptight and it was really a uncomfortable situation. And the energy in the room, I was silent but I just could feel the tension and it was uncomfortable. And I’m talking to my father later; he was talking about the [00:21:00] lack of ethics with the salesperson.
So after that, we did buy the car, by the way, but after that, I realized over time that when I would come in contact with other salespeople, or anyone who I thought was trying to sell me something, I would viscerally feel anxious. I know that I showed up in that anxious hard way and I’m sure I wasn’t pleasant to be around even when someone was just trying to help me like find something or buy something. And so on the one hand, that got in my way.
I wanted to be pleasant when I’m out there in the public. And so I looked at my experience, I’m like, wow, I need to work on that. And that is something that I’ve worked on. And it also gave me some drive to understand people’s motivations, to see different [00:22:00] stakeholders if I’m doing an organizational change project, understand different stakeholder perspectives, decipher facial expression so I can read the room pretty well.
I gravitated to those things and I looked at these experiences that shaped me and then I said, okay, well those are strengths. How do I continue to build on those strengths and maybe teach other people those strengths too?
And so creating that line of sight, sometimes it’s hard to create that line of sight, but by just doing an inventory of your experiences, the ones especially that conjure up some kind of emotion, you can start identify the things that had some impacts both positive and maybe negative, and then understand them a little bit better.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. At the risk of totally oversimplifying, which is something that I do probably way too often, just to help me understand. It really is, you used the word repackage in the beginning, I think, but it is like pulling these strings of trauma [00:23:00] response, experiential learning, insight, and some of that attachment, maybe some attachment theory and building this construct, I suppose, of XQ or experiential intelligence.
Dr. Soren: Yeah. I am the first person to say, it’s a no-brainer that our experiences have some impact on us and shape us. It’s a no-brainer. And there are a lot of different theories and models out there. All I’m trying to do is simplify it further just like you did because I think there’s value in that. Okay, our experiences give us some kind of intelligence that we can navigate the world with. Let’s talk it about it as mindsets, abilities, and know-how. And add it to the other types of intelligence and understand it, appreciate it, and then maybe apply it to real life in some way, and like, how do we apply it in real life? And then you can get into that too. But yes, I appreciate the simplification because it really is simple and that’s the point.[00:24:00] Dr. Sharp: I like that. We talk a lot in our field about how experiences inform your behavior and emotions and so forth, right? And having something like this, it’s a nice heuristic, I suppose, to go to and say, okay, yeah, this is how we can conceptualize this and pull it all together and like you said, apply it.
Dr. Soren: Yeah. I think the one thing that I would over-index on with experiential intelligence is the positive psychology nature of it.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I wanted to ask about that. Yeah, go for it.
Dr. Soren: There’s a lot on trauma and there’s a lot on how trauma impacts you and healing from trauma and all the modalities to address it from EMDR to meditation and other things. That’s pretty well known and I think that’s unfortunately, a trend in our society to need support around trauma.[00:25:00] There is this established yet growing field of positive psychology coming out of University of Pennsylvania. I’ve done a lot of work with a guy named David Cooperrider at a Case Western Reserve University and Lindsey Godwin at a Champlain College, who are using the principles of appreciative inquiry to understand individuals strengths and the strengths of social systems, teams and organizations and communities.
And so the way that I’ve approached experiential intelligence is, recognizing our past experiences, we can do two things with them. We can look at them and the negative experiences we can heal from and we can look at them and look at the assets that we gained from them and see how we can leverage that. And so I address both in the book, but really [00:26:00]I think we have undervalued, not undervalued, but just missed opportunities to formally recognize like, yes, our challenges, maybe some traumas, but challenges and other experiences deliver gifts, and how do we decipher that and leverage that from a positive psychology standpoint.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, that’s really important. Did you use the term, was it appreciative inquiry?
Dr. Soren: Appreciative inquiry. Yes.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. That’s great. Could you dive into that quickly? That’s a term I haven’t heard before.
Dr. Soren: Oh yeah, sure. So it’s mostly been applied in the business world but there’s been work with the United Nations and work with nonprofits and others using appreciative inquiry and what it means, let’s break it down.
Appreciate means to value what something is; to find the best in something. And then the inquiry part is to be curious and inquire into what’s making that [00:27:00] really great. And so when you combine appreciate and inquiry, appreciative inquiry, it’s really about looking at whatever you’re looking at, it could be an organization, it could be a team, it could be an individual in this case, in many ways we’ve been talking about it at the individual level and having appreciation and curiosity for what you’re finding, not looking at what’s broken, not looking at the deficits, not looking at the gaps.
Now, that’s not to say you don’t eventually want to do that, but it’s really taking a lens of appreciation and curiosity to find the best in what exists. And so that’s really what appreciative inquiry and positive psychology in a big way is based upon.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I really resonate with that. Now, we might pivot just a little bit. I know this is The Testing Psychologist podcast, so I’m sure folks out there are curious about the research [00:28:00] behind this construct and I’m curious how we might measure it, if that is possible because we do a lot of measuring here in this listenership. So can you touch on that?
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Dr. Soren: Yeah, sure. The research base that I’ve leveraged and applied to the concept and then woven into a certain extent, I do have a very light assessment I would say, but from some mindsets research coming out of Stanford, Carol Dweck, Alia Crum at the Mind Body Lab at Stanford, I’ve also looked a lot at the positive psychology work coming out of university of Pennsylvania.
Jeremy Clifton, he’s created this thing called the primal world beliefs model and it’s 26 beliefs that cross-culturally people typically hold. They ladder up to the world as good, the world is bad, but he takes it to really [00:30:00] dimensionalizes it and has an amazing model that will help you understand like, what are your beliefs and are they on the negative side or positive side? And understand whether or not you’ve had that growth mindset or fixed mindset.
And he’s got a tool too, which is really a growing base of research. He’s building up based on that tool. So I looked at that. I have that actually in my book. All the positive psychology and appreciative inquiry work. And then some of the trauma work we talked about.
The assessment that I’ve got really, I tried to look at four dimensions; I guess you could say, within an assessment. It’s a very simple assessment and it’s got 12 questions. It’s very simple. I call the four dimensions ability appreciation. The ability to appreciate that you’ve got abilities, [00:31:00] impact awareness. So the recognition and the awareness that you’ve been shaped or we’ve been shaped and impacted by our experiences, so that even happens and that there could be things that create self-limiting beliefs or things that create self-expanding beliefs as well.
Mindset flexibility, so your view of yourself and your ability to change your mind essentially, and recognizing that what you believe today as you have more experiences probably will change, and that kind of self-awareness. And then what I call amplification. Amplification really is about taking those three other dimensions as you gain greater self-awareness and as you practice those things in your life and helping others do it too because as you help others, you oftentimes grow it yourself.
And so I look at those [00:32:00] four things. So there’s four dimensions. Then I’ve got three questions for each, and one is a question about your past, one’s about the current day present and one’s about the future.
And I say I, I use the word I here in the assessment, but this assessment was co-developed with Dr. Lindsey Godwin, who runs the Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College on the East Coast. And so we’ve refined this over time but it’s really new. I think there’s a lot of opportunity. It’s really designed mostly for adults. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to figure out what are the new ways to look at experiential intelligence and assess it.
You’ve got various assessments like ACEs that look at trauma. What’s the corollary of around positive psychology for experiential intelligence? I think there’s a lot of opportunity there. But this one assessment really just gives you a profile three [00:33:00] levels, either you have low, medium, high, and there’s words for it and descriptions of it, but that’s a starting point just to get the concept out there and get people feeling like there’s a way to start to understand it and quantify it to a certain extent, but definitely, more work and opportunity needed to develop that further.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. Well, if there’s anybody listening out there who needs a dissertation or a research project, send me an email. We’ll figure it out.
You said something a minute ago that maybe think of a question to clarify. I’m guessing the majority of this work is happening with adults. Is that right? Is there anything happening with kids or do we know much about how the developmental aspects of experiential intelligence?
Dr. Soren: I had a consulting coach working with me on my book who is [00:34:00] probably one of the leading experts in parenting and childhood development. Her name’s Sheri Glucoft Wong. She is in Berkeley. She’s been the resident parenting coach at Gymboree and Apple and others. She has a book out as well.
I consulted with her and was thinking about including a chapter or a supplement on early childhood education and parenting as related to experiential intelligence because it is a concept that is broadly applicable in my view. And I had to bite off as much as I could chew with this book, and because my background is more on the business side, even though I have a PhD in Organizational Psychology, I decided to make this a little bit more about the individual leadership teams and organizations. I’m talking to Sheri [00:35:00] about how do we take this and start talking about it around parenting and education.
One of the other consultants on this book that I worked with, she was a consultant to the movie Race to Nowhere and is really involved with education as well. Her name’s Sara Truebridge.
The idea here is that I wanted to start somewhere and then I think that this could take multiple paths around parenting, education, couples relationships and beyond. Personally, I don’t need to do it. My goal is to get this concept out there. I’d love others to run with it from a research standpoint, practice standpoint, and make this just widely accessible so we can reframe what does it mean to be smart in our world, equalize the playing field and appreciate everyone’s gifts. That’s really what [00:36:00] I hope will happen.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I like that. We talk about that a lot actually in the Testing Community around. There’s so much loaded onto IQ and people have a lot of thoughts and feelings about that and buy into it maybe more than they should sometimes. And so having another way to describe folks’ assets and intelligence.
Dr. Soren: Yeah. We’re in a place in our culture where it’s become ingrained in professions as well as our norms and values in our society. So it’s hard to let those things go. And I think part of it is not saying you got to let anything go. It’s saying, let’s add this other thing. Let’s expand how we look at what leads to personal growth and success and what [00:37:00] creates purpose for people. It’s easy if you look at your own child that doesn’t have as high of an IQ as you want and feel bad about yourself. There’s so much wrapped up in that. Let’s expand it so that we all can find those strengths in us that we can tap into and achieve success, however, we might want to define success for ourselves.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Well, I wonder maybe we move a little bit into more application. I love application, of course, and I think a lot of folks listening are always like, how can I integrate this into my practice somehow?
I do want to talk to you about the business side, like we discussed, there’s plenty of folks here who are private practice owners. The vast majority of folks are. So there are business applications. I am curious though, how we might bring this into play for our [00:38:00] clients, right? So if we’re administering a battery of measures to get at our client’s strengths and challenges and figure out how to support them, are there any things off the top of your head around how we might integrate this into an assessment process?
Dr. Soren: Yeah. I think the instrument that I’ve created could be potentially used from an adult standpoint. If you’re looking at children, probably not exactly a fit. So I think there’s probably opportunities to build out assessments that are more focused on younger people if you’re really focused on assessments like quantified testing.
I do believe though, and in my own work, when I assess organizational culture or team effectiveness, I use two types of measures. I use the quantitative and I use the qualitative. So it depends on if [00:39:00] your listeners here are interested in more complimenting some of the assessments that they do with qualitative, then you can start to have conversations and the tools that I’ve put in my book, I’ll just go through how to think about capturing, I call it the experiential intelligence snapshot. Like on a single page, how do you just capture what your experiential intelligence is, mindset, abilities, and know-how.
And so the way I look at it is you could compliment what you’re already doing with a series of questions that would start out with what experiences have you had that have had the greatest impact on you? And that’s a very qualitative, open-ended question, but you’ll get things like some of the stories that we’ve been talking about and then you can take those and you can look at things like, what messages did you take away from those experiences.[00:40:00] And if you understand the messages that you took away, and those could be probably through your own filter, not as necessarily objective, but what messages did you take away? And then what beliefs did you develop because of those messages that you were given?
That’s really deciphering your mindset. It’s decoding your mindset. You have a bunch of experiences, you have a bunch of messages that were given to you, and now you have your beliefs. That’s decoding your mindset. That’s what a mindset is. It’s your attitudes and beliefs about life and other people in the world.
And so that will give you a good snapshot of what a mindset is. And then as you look at that, you can then start to say, okay, well, what has been really serving me well in my life? What mindsets? And then what have I done in my life that have developed based on those mindsets certain abilities? What personal [00:41:00] competencies did I develop that’s helped me do the things that have made me whatever I would call successful or have helped me navigate things in a workable way. And then what knowledge and skills do I have based on all of that, the practical stuff.
That’ll give you a snapshot of you. And then that’s an opportunity to say, based on what I want to do in life, based on what I want to do in my family, based on what I want to do in my profession, how do I leverage that? How do I take those things and use them in my practice, use them with my team, with my staff, use them in life.
And so, that snapshot is a springboard for a conversation. I’m advocating a little bit more of a qualitative approach right now with this, only because I think that the quantitative measures really need to be developed. I have a [00:42:00] starting point. It’s the kind of the mindset map where I call it in the XQ snapshot, is two ways to start to get at that.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. Thinking about all of that, it feels important because we, for better or for worse, and despite our best efforts, I think, fall into this deficit model of assessment where, it’s a medical model, we’re trying to figure out the diagnosis, and a lot of that hinges on what might be “going wrong” in somebody’s life and what’s challenging, what’s holding them back. But this presents a little bit of a different framework for a positive approach. It makes sense, but a strengths-based approach, and adds a little bit more structure to that side of things. I think a lot of us want to do strengths-based assessment and sometimes it’s hard to escape the [00:43:00] […]
Dr. Soren: The funny analogy is, if you’re a parent and your kid comes home, they’ve got their report card and they have seven classes and they’ve got six A’s and a B, what do you focus on? You focus on the B.
Dr. Sharp: Where that B come from.
Dr. Soren: Yeah. Right. Okay. Well, I know from personal experience, I came home with a report card in high school; I think I was a junior. I had six A’s and a D. I had an A in precalculus and a D in chemistry. And there’s a lot of reasons I believe I had a D in chemistry, but it’s also because I don’t get chemistry. It’s not my thing. I didn’t have the response like, oh, what’s wrong with you? You got the D. It was like, let’s talk about it. But what it also gave [00:44:00] to me was, what did I get all the A’s in and why am I getting A’s here?
Well, it’s interesting. I have an aptitude for writing and my English is pretty good. All of those kinds of things are our opportunities to say, well, we don’t have to fill every single gap necessarily. How do we lean into and leverage those strengths that give us satisfaction and allow us to grow in the areas we want to grow in. Not to say that you want to ignore every D but like this always, and a B is just kind of that intuitive example, like, yeah, we’re focused on the deficits.
So there are opportunities to do like to focus on the positive and to bring that out more in assessments because I think that doing an assessment from some of the ones I’ve done in the corporate world as well as, [00:45:00] just a little bit in psychology, is it draws your eye to the gaps and things that are broken instantly. And then you get to the other stuff.
I think there’s an also an opportunity to have two versions of wo types of assessments: One that’s, you’re going to look at the gaps, but one that you’re going to look at the strengths first off, like how do you just have the first off view gap, strengths, let’s put them together. And that’s I think, what’s needed more out there, just in general.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, when you bring that up, it makes me wonder, do you focus on that in training folks in this model or in talking to folks about this model? And if so, how can we train ourselves to look more toward a balanced approach or even a strengths-based approach versus a deficit-based approach? [00:46:00] Do you have any thoughts on that?
Dr. Soren: Well, it’s about practice. It’s about having experience doing it. And so I think that there is, in the field of appreciative inquiry, as I mentioned, and we can apply it to having a practice just like your own or others might have on in this podcast. When you’re working really well as a practice, what are you doing? What’s giving life to your practice? And how often do you do you think like that? Usually you think, well, why didn’t somebody return this call?
Well, it’s not about that, you might need to address that, but if you really focus on, well, when we’re really humming as a team, everybody knows their role. We’ve got clear expectations. The communication’s really good. We’re getting positive feedback from those that we’re seeing our clients or patients. And we’re [00:47:00] hearing about it. And we’re talking about the impact we’re having, you can start to really unearth the things that give life to you individually and to you as a social system, a team or maybe family or maybe organization.
And so it’s making sure that you just take time to put on that positive lens to unearth real competencies, capabilities, skills, ways of thinking, make it explicit and then say, let’s get more of this and let’s look at the behaviors that we’re leading to this, and how do we get more of it.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. I like that. This has got my wheels turning about our practice on the business side and the clinical side. That’s really good. So, let’s see. I’m curious how you deliver feedback once you have [00:48:00] some sense of, these questions that we’re asking or experiential intelligence, where does feedback come into play and how might you share some of this with folks to be?
Dr. Soren: I’ll bring this to life with probably just an example. I did a session, well-known name, brand, company, but I can’t mention them. I had about 100 people in the room. They were coming together after Covid for the first time in two years. And there were three different departments within this organization that were all coming together and they were meeting and some people were meeting face-to-face for the first time, even though they had been on Zooms and other things.
And they basically said, how do we get to know each other in a way that allows us to move forward together as a team way more effectively than we could otherwise. And I’m going to get to the individual [00:49:00] side too around this, but what we did is we asked people to think about three of the most poignant stories in their lives, examples of things that they’ve experienced that had a significant impact on them. It was pretty simple. That was a question.
They came into the room and what we did is we had people pair up and share their stories. And we gave them some prompts to share the story, like share the experience. What were you feeling? What you were thinking at the time? How did this shape your trajectory in life?
We gave prompts to the people who were listening to be curious, don’t have judgment, draw out some of the feelings that they had, try to understand their mindsets, their abilities, [00:50:00] and the know how they developed from those things.
And so what that did, some people shared stories that they were in tears. We’re talking a corporate environment. They were in tears because what those experiences were and they were listened to and empathized with, and it really brought forth, even a newer, deeper understanding of their own experience. And the people who were listening could start to understand their own experience from the lens of the other person’s experience that they had just heard, and seeing how mindsets connect to abilities connect to know-how and what those strengths are of that person.
So the feedback was less like, oh, you’ve got this trauma and this is how it’s impacted you and gotten you stuck. It was more like, you’ve had these experiences, whatever they [00:51:00] were, and some of them were trauma-based experiences, but they are also trying to look at it from a lens of like, here’s how I have dealt with it and here’s how I’m dealing with it today, and here’s how I’m going to apply this moving forward. And then we took all of that.
So these were pair discussions, we got in little groups and talked about the themes of those as a team. And then we started to understand what are people bringing to the team because of their life experience. And we basically created a little inventory of the competencies of the team.
And we had a 100 people in the room. So we probably had, I don’t know, 12 or 13 tables and every table had their top 3 or 4 competencies. And we looked at them and we realized like 80% of them were very similar. And like there’s some other nuances and like how do we as now as a team move forward and leverage all of what we’re bringing? Not just the job [00:52:00] descriptions, but all of what we’re bringing as people and the leader in that meeting had set the stage by saying, they want the whole person to show up at work. They value the whole person.
So we also had a leader who was very open and encouraging of that and they got it. So that would be an example of feedback, but maybe a little bit different from maybe what you’re asking, but that’s on the positive psychology side of it.
Dr. Sharp: Right. That’s a great story of vulnerability encourages vulnerability. I think we have, I know there are so many instruments out there for assessment in the corporate world and whatnot, but this cuts underneath that and just gets right to it for folks and lets them share some things that are actually meaningful versus a personality profile that might be a little dry.
Dr. Soren: Yeah, I think that, [00:53:00] that meeting was an experience also. Meaning people went through a process. It was an experiential process and it was a business meeting and so it did result in like, here are the competencies that we’re going to make sure we highlight and use as we move through our next year, and here are opportunities from an innovation stand point to do new things that use those competencies.
So being able to tie it to practical, I know that if you’re working with an individual, it’s like this is a little more businessy, but being able to say, what do we want to change for the better in our practice or in our organization or in our team, and how do we use those strengths that we all bring to do that? Connecting those two things together can be pretty powerful.
Dr. Sharp: Absolutely. And I’m thinking about how we might apply those with our clients as well and bringing some of this into [00:54:00] our feedback sessions. When we deliver the results for the assessment, we can easily have some of these similar conversations with folks around their experiences and their mindset and what they’ve learned and taken away, and how that might shape intervention going forward or how they approach even the diagnosis itself or whatever may have come from the evaluation.
Dr. Soren: One of my first mentors would, I was working with him and we would have feedback sessions. It was more like development sessions but he always did it this way. He said he provided some positive feedback, then he gave me the feedback about my growth and then we ended with positive feedback. Got the growth sandwich.
But those are also opportunities to, I think, apply this too to have someone understand and [00:55:00] identify their own strengths at the beginning as well as the end and end in that way where, people support what they help create. That’s a principle in organizational development, and if you’re working with someone and they help identify their own strengths, and you validate that and you delve into that and you talk about how that can propel them into the future, it’s very empowering.
And so compliment that with an assessment that says here’s your development opportunities, create that development sandwich and end with that. And I think that there can be some real opportunities to create another level of motivation and engagement in change basically.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. That’s a great point. People support what they help create. That applies on a lot of levels.
Well, let me see, we’ve talked through [00:56:00] a lot of components of this construct, and I know that we could keep talking for hours about a lot of these things and some personal experiences and so forth. But as we start to wrap up, I’m curious if there’s anything from your perspective that we may have missed or feels important to highlight before we take off.
Dr. Soren: You were very thorough actually, and I really appreciated that. And I appreciated the personal connections and reflections that you gave about even your own experience.
So with that said, I think that the essence of it is that, I believe we all have experiential intelligence. It’s like our internal fingerprint. And we all have the ability to look at our experiences and decipher them to understand the strengths that we got from them. And so, it’s an accessible concept. [00:57:00] It’s qualitative right now and there’s a lot of opportunities to create a little bit more quantifiable view of this.
I hope that it happens. I think that some of the people may be listening now might have that inclination because of the topic of what you talk about all the time, Jeremy. And so I encourage people to look at how this could apply to their own world, look at the assessments that do work out there and how this could be a fit.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. I really do hope there’s somebody out there who might want to pick this up as an area of research to develop it a little bit further. It’s a really cool construct. And for anybody who wants to dig a little deeper, of course your book is out there. That’ll be in the show notes for folks to be able to grab that. It’s great.
I just [00:58:00] appreciate your time and your own willingness to share some personal details from your life. We don’t always go down that path on this podcast just by virtue of the typical content. So it’s really nice to be able to talk through some of that and have more of that deeper connections.
Dr. Soren: Well, I appreciate the positive feedback. I find that we all have stories. Sometimes we don’t tell them, but when we do, it gives an opportunity for others to connect to them and understand themselves better as well. So I appreciate the opportunity.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, it’s so true. I know we’re wrapping up, but it makes me think we were talking about the book, The Culture Code, in our pre-podcast chat. I’ve listened to this book twice now over the past two weeks. And there’s a little snippet in there where he says that stories just make our brains light up 100 times more than wrote, just theoretical or factual information. When you start to tell a story, it [00:59:00] really helps connect us to the content. So I appreciate you doing that. That’s a great learning principle that we bring into life here. So thanks again. This has been great.
Dr. Soren: A real pleasure. Thank you, Jeremy.
Dr. Sharp: All right, y’all. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and in your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes, so make sure to check those out.
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