4 Business Ideas That Changed the World: Emotional Intelligence

4 Business Ideas That Changed the World: Emotional Intelligence
October 27, 2022

In the early 1990s, publishers told science journalist Daniel Goleman not to use the word “emotion” in a business book. The popular conception was that emotions had little role in the workplace. When HBR was founded in October 1922, the practice of management focused on workers’ physical productivity, not their feelings.

And while over the decades psychologists studied “social intelligence” and “emotional strength,” businesses cultivated the so-called hard skills that drove the bottom line. Until 1990, when psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer published their landmark journal article. It proposed “emotional intelligence” as the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as those of others.

Daniel Goleman popularized the idea in his 1995 book, and companies came to hire for “EI” and teach it. It’s now widely seen as a key ingredient in engaged teams, empathetic leadership, and inclusive organizations. However, critics question whether emotional intelligence operates can be meaningfully measured and contend that it acts as a catchall term for personality traits and values.

4 Business Ideas That Changed the World is a special series from HBR IdeaCast. Each week, an HBR editor talks to world-class scholars and experts on the most influential ideas of HBR’s first 100 years, such as disruptive innovation, shareholder value, and scientific management.

Discussing emotional intelligence with HBR executive editor Alison Beard are:

  • Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence
  • Susan David, psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of Emotional Agility
  • Andy Parks, management professor at Central Washington University

Further reading:

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