Home » Daniel Goleman on Social Intelligence @ Talks at Google (Transcript)

Daniel Goleman on Social Intelligence @ Talks at Google (Transcript)

Full text of psychologist Daniel Goleman’s talk on Social Intelligence @ Talks at Google conference. This event took place on August 3, 2007 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA.


Peter Allen: I’m Peter Allen. And I’m the director of Google University. And Meng asked to me introduce Daniel Goleman to you.

Daniel Goleman presents a challenge to us at Google. Having recently been hired here myself and having worked on hiring others, I know how sharply we focus on the quantitative evidence of intellect. We look hard at grades and standardized test scores because we believe they demonstrate ability and predict success at Google.

Now, IQ matters, of course, but Daniel Goleman has based his career as a writer and psychologist on the argument that IQ is only a part of what makes people succeed in their work and personal lives and not necessarily the most important part either.

In his books, Dr. Goleman addresses the role that emotions such as anger, humor, anxiety, optimism, melancholy, and happiness play in all aspects of our lives. He argues also that people can learn how to manage these emotions and that we therefore have the power to transform our relationship with our emotions and through them the relationships we have with our colleagues, our families, and our friends.

Perhaps most interestingly, he also argues that relationships have the power to mold not only human experience, but also human biology. In his belief that the power of education and in his belief in the power of education that –in his belief that positive characteristics like empathy are innate, Dr. Goleman reveals that he is fundamentally an optimist.

What distinguishes Daniel Goleman from old line proponents of positive thinking, however, is his grounding in psychology and neuroscience. Armed with a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard and a first-rate journalism background at the New York Times, Dr. Goleman has authored half a dozen books that explore the physical and chemical workings of the brain and their relationships with what we experience as everyday life.

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His most recent book is called “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.” In addition to his writing, he has also played important roles in numerous organizations, including the Collaborative for Academics, Social and Emotional Learning and the Mind & Life Institute. The American Psychological Association has given him its career achievement award for journalism and he’s also been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Goleman’s talk today draws on recent data from cognitive and brain science to show how emotional intelligence adds to the IQ intelligence of which most of us today here are more familiar. He will show that skills such as self-awareness, emotional mastery, motivation, empathy, and social effectiveness have a greater impact than raw intelligence on career success, outstanding individual performance, leadership, and the creation of successful teams.

I’m feeling myself become smarter, more empathetic and more self-aware already, and I’m delighted to introduce Daniel Goleman to Google and Google to Daniel Goleman. Let’s hear what he has to say.

Daniel Goleman: Thank you Peter, for that very kind introduction. But, first, a disclaimer, just hearing about this is not going to make anybody more emotionally and socially intelligent. It might interest you in pursuing some of this.

What I want to do is build the case that these soft skills have hard value in an environment, of work environment like this. Even though the culture of tech may not necessarily explicitly value things like empathy or other elements of emotional intelligence, implicitly, this is what makes people highly effective no matter what they do.

And I want to give you the neuroscience behind this and some concepts that might help you rethink what the elements of success are in the workplace.

So here is the question. What is the relationship between raw intellect, IQ, and the other metrics of IQ, and emotional intelligence? So, by emotional intelligence, I mean how we handle ourselves, how we handle our relationships, the soft side of ability.

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I’m going to argue that, because of the way the brain is structured, these soft skills have hard consequence because they are catalytic for whatever other abilities we have. They allow us to make the best use of them, to apply them, and to leverage them.

Now, here’s an interesting way of thinking about it. If you were to do a scatter plot of a large population sample and you did IQ against emotional intelligence, they’re roughly independent, so, you get a kind of a random distribution.

Now, if you take this pool and you map it on Google, or any other company that hires, that places a premium on cognitive abilities, this is the total sample. What you’ve done is really interesting because you’re skimming the top. Okay, let’s say this is IQ of 150 or whatever, it’s very high.

What you have now done is to make a very small difference for IQ, a very little variation in the population at the very top and a very large difference for emotional intelligence. That means that whatever emotional intelligence contributes to success in an environment like this, it matters more per unit than IQ does.

So there’s actually a floor effect here for IQ. You wouldn’t expect that IQ alone is going to help you be highly effective in this work environment because it’s not that much different from every other IQ on the floor.

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