Leadership Intelligences™

Cross-Domain Application of Knowledge & Jugaad

It was around a discussion on cross-domain knowledge that I realized that there was no better place to look for instances of these than in India. India is a hotbed for innovation using cross-domain knowledge, most of which gets pushed under the umbrella of jugaad, a concept we find is commonly misinterpreted & misunderstood.


At Vivékin, we’ve understood jugaad to be a form of innovation, which while fabulously inventive and immensely beneficial to the immediate community of the concerned innovator, very often tends to be restrictive due to its inability to scale up and last long. In other words, jugaad is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. What makes jugaad truly an innovation is when it lends itself to being a scalable long-term solution to a problem.


Instances of innovation using the application of lateral thinking and cross-domain knowledge in India are many. The living bridges of Meghalaya, a tradition that was started sometime in ancient India, where bridges are built by coaxing the young roots of trees (planted on the riverbank) into formation – a practice that spans several decades; the MittiCool, an electricity-free refrigerator invented by a small time entrepreneur, Manuskhbhai Prajapati, by applying the cooling principle of the clay pot in which drinking water is stored in the hot summer months;  a water mill that generates electricity, designed by Siddappa, a farmer in Karnataka, using a giant wheel, plastic basins and a dynamo.


Instances elsewhere in the world – the windmill built by William Kamkwamba of Malawi, Africa, a 14 year old school dropout at the time, using spare parts from a tractor and bicycle to generate electricity for his family; or in the corporate context, the car-parts incubator (for new born babies) designed by a nonprofit firm in Massachussets, USA, “Design that Matters”, using the same technology used in cars to allow people in third world and developing countries to be able to easily repair them.


Some of the instances above could be classified as jugaad, like the makeshift water mill by farmer Siddappa, and the windmill by William Kamkwamba, but most of the others are true innovations resulting from the application of lateral thinking and long-term vision.

The Dreaded Stairs – Or is It?

Here is an interesting video that has been doing the rounds on the net for a while now. It shows how a group of engineers motivate people to take the stairs instead of the escalator.

Well, what do you think are the dominant intelligences/combination of intelligences that are in play here?

Putting on Vivekin’s lenses, I would say that the Inventive and the Operational are the key intelligences used in this project. And as it is done with the ‘greater good’ in mind (getting people to exercise by walking up the stairs), Ethical intelligence too. Your comments?

Communicating effectively in every day scenarios

What is the power of the spoken or the written word? Churchill said, “We are masters of the unsaid word, but slaves of those we let slip out” and Jean-Paul Sarte claimed “Words are loaded pistols.”

All of us have, at some point in our personal or professional lives, been confronted with situations where we have either averted a major “disaster” or fallen headfirst into one because of what we said. And when we look back on what transpired, very often we realize, it isn’t “what” we said, but “how” we said something that produced that desirable (or disastrous) outcome.
There is no getting away from it, or getting around it – communicating effectively is something we all need to do, in all walks of life, day in and day out.

The video below is a wonderful example of how your choice of words can influence people or situations differently.


Of the five Leadership Intelligences (Analytical, Communicative, Inventive, Operational and Ethical), it is evident that it is the Communicative Leadership Intelligence that comes into play here. In the video, the lady (in black) exercises this LI to change the way the visually challenged gentleman is perceived by people around (it can also be argued that she does this by appealing to the crowd’s Ethical Leadership Intelligence) thereby considerably increasing the donations made to him.

How to measure a leader’s capacity to adapt

The leadership guru Warren Bennis says that the key competence of a leader is “adaptive capacity”–the ability to deal with change. Adaptability is also at the core of innovation. Vivekin’s Leadership Intelligences Framework (LIF) is centrally concerned with measuring and developing a person’s ability to adapt. It does this comprehensively using 5 different intelligences: analytical, operational, inventive, communicative, and most importantly, ethical intelligence. Vivekin’s LIF is comprehensive in another way too: it measures both one’s aptitude to adapt and one’s ability to adapt.
We’re trying to benchmark LIF against other measures of adaptability. One such metric is Lumina Learning Inc.’s Spark–which uses a Jungian approach . Do you know of any other framework or system that measures the adaptive capacity of an individual? Do you use any such system in your organization?

Enhance your Leadership Intelligences Through Exercise (ELITE): Communicative Intelligence Exercise 110901

Leadership intelligences are like muscles. The more you exercise them, the stronger they become.
Vivekin’s ELITE (Enhance your Leadership Intelligences Through Exercise) program provides exercises
drawn from daily life that are structured to help you develop each of the five leadership intelligences.

Watch every Monday morning for a leadership intelligence exercise that Vivekin Group selects from
its ELITE program and provides free of cost to its subscribers.
Want to get such exercises regularly? Make sure you sign up for Vivekin’s RSS feed.


The Exercise
This week’s exercise helps you work on your communicative leadership intelligence.
It involves reading a joke and then providing a response to the question that follows.

The Joke
Three men are on death row–an Italian, an American, and an Indian–and are to be executed on the same day. On the scheduled day, the prison warden comes to them and asks the Italian, “What would you like for your last meal?” The Italian says “Nothing better than a big bowl of spaghetti with meat balls rolling in rich marinara sauce!” And then turning to his friends he remarks in a sad voice, “Reminds me of my mother.” The dish is procured quickly, the Italian relishes it, and is executed. The warden then asks the American what he would like to eat. The American sighs and says, “Oh! I’d love to have a steak real rare, and a few slices of fresh risen bread.” It takes some time to cook this meal because they have to wait for the bread to rise. But after a few hours, the meal is brought to the American. He relishes it, and is executed. Now the warden turns to the Indian and says, “Brownie! What would you like to eat?” The Indian exclaims, “Oh! What would I give for a bowlful of fresh mangoes from the plains of south India!” The warden exclaims, “What? Mangoes! They’re out of season and will take at least a year to get here!” The Indian replies, “No problem! I’ll wait.”

As with most jokes, there are several versions of this joke. One version appears in
Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein’s, Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through the Pearly Gates

The Task
You now have three minutes to respond to the following question:
If you were fourth in line to be executed, what would you request for your last meal?

Provide your response through the comments box below this post. Comments will be made public late in the evening on Tuesday.

The exercise will help enhance your communicative intelligence by doing three things.

  • It will exercise your capacity for wit
  • It will enhance your ability to understand the pattern of previous responses in the joke and
  • It will exercise your intelligence in building on that pattern to provide a better response

Leadership requires a child-like questioning ability

We often forget to ask fundamental questions, especially, “Why?” and “Why not?” Children have that ability to ask the most searching, “Why?” and “Why not?” questions, and all without an element of prejudice. We seem to lose it as we grow up–society (which includes ourselves) teaches us to stop asking such questions. Instead, we make assumptions, we develop stereotypes, and when it comes to using our analytical leadership intelligence, since we think we already know, we neglect to ask the fundamental questions.Here’s an exercise:I was reading a book with my six-year old daughter. The book’s called Fire on Toytown Hill and is written by Jenny Giles. A fire truck finds it cannot put out the fire on a hillside and radios a helicopter for assistance. The helicopter arrives and puts out the fire with a barrel of water.Here are two pictures from that book–the first one shows the helicopter arriving and the second one shows it pouring the water. Before I tell you the question my daughter asked, I’d like you to look at the two pictures and think of some fundamental “Why?” or “How? questions.

Toytown Hill on Fire
Toytown Hill fire being put out Continue reading

Visual and Verbal Branding of Leadership: Gandhi&Martin Luther King

Leaders–whether unconsciously or self-consciously–become associated with brands. In fact, it is more right to say, they become brands themselves. Watch the video below of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. Notice the headgear of all the people around MLK. They’re called “Gandhi caps” after Mahatma Gandhi, who started to wear the cloth cap–a traditional headgear in rural India–to express a political view. The Gandhi cap became symbolic of non-violent resistance all over the world. Gandhi embraced visual branding strongly–through his loin cloth, his round eye glasses, and of course, his long walking stick. After all, he went to meet the King and Queen of England dressed in the same fashion.To quote from the Nov 16, 1931 issue of Time:

The same frayed sandals that carried St. Gandhi on his illegal salt march through India 19 months ago carried him last week up the crimson-carpeted stair of Buckingham Palace. Flunkies in scarlet & gold bowed the small, unrepentant lawbreaker into the Picture Gallery. There at the head of the receiving line stood George V in striped trousers and morning coat, Queen Mary in a shimmering silver tea gown and Edward of Wales (who had flown down especially from Liverpool) dressed like his father. The Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Cromer, advanced through a horde of 500 tea guests, some of them Maharajas wearing pearls as big as butterballs.

MLK, on the other hand, developed his brand through rhetoric–like the “I have a dream” speech below.

MLK\’s I Have a Dream Speech

How Mahatma Gandhi taught ethical intelligence

Ethical intelligence reflects the leader’s ability to recognize and act upon the ethical dimensions of an issue. It is not about the ethical beliefs of a leader or how ethical you perceive the leader to be. It is also not about doing “good work” (as in “the ethical mind” that Howard Gardner of Harvard has proposed in Five Minds for the Future). Rather, this aspect of intelligence reflects how capable the leader is of recognizing and understanding the ethical implications of a new situation. Ethical leadership intelligence makes the difference between why somebody like Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln is called a great leader and why somebody like Hitler is called a demagogue.Great leaders display the ability to lift the question of ethics from that of the personal, and transform it into a question that reflects and impacts the ethics of all of humanity. For a demonstration of how to practice this intelligence, watch Richard Attenborough’s movie, Gandhi. Toward the close, there is a scene that depicts Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the immediate aftermath of Hindu-Muslim religious riots that followed the partition of India. Gandhi went on a fast-unto-death if the riots did not end. The scene that I mention shows that the riots have stopped, and rioters are going by the house in which Gandhi lies. They are throwing down the arms they used in the riots in front of Gandhi who lies on a cot. Suddenly a Hindu man rushes toward Gandhi’s bed, throws a piece of bread at Gandhi, and orders him to eat it; the man then breaks down and tells Gandhi of how he killed a small Muslim boy because the Muslims killed his young son. Gandhi’s answer: “Adopt a Muslim boy the same age as your son, and bring him up as a Muslim.”Watch the clip:


Donate to Help Haiti Earthquake Victims

As the work week begins in the USA after the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, I urge you to make a donation to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Stories of true leadership emerge everyday from amidst the ruins and the disorder, but the need of the hour is our help.Donate through UNICEF:

Help Victims of Earthquake in Haiti through UNICEF.

Or through the American Red Cross:

Donate through Red Cross to help Earthquake Victims in Haiti.