Session Summary

September 14, 1999

"The Ultimate Intelligence"

Danah Zohar
on Rewiring the Biological
and Organizational

Report by Michael Finley

For over a century we have been aware of ordinary IQ. With the publication of a best-selling book by Daniel Goleman five years ago, we became aware of the emotional dimension of intelligence -- EQ. Now comes author and educator Danah Zohar to cap the other two with SQ, for spiritual intelligence.

Spiritual intelligence is not necessarily about being religious. It is about the human need and talent for finding meaning in experience. It is the force underlying religion, and much else besides.

So SQ is more than one last buzzphrase of a buzzy millennium. Zohar says it is real, it is empirically evident in brain physiology, and it is important: without it, we describe human nature without a center, and existence without meaning.

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The Universe

"Quantum physics tells us that the Universe actually consists of patterns of dynamic energy, self-organizing wave patterns like so many whirlpools, the boundaries of each interlaced with those of all the others.

"The essence of quantum physics describes an infixed, both/and level of reality that thrives on ambiguity and uncertainty at something very like the edge of chaos."

Danah Zohar










Longtime members of The Masters Forum will remember Meg Wheatley's session in 1994. Like Zohar, she too talked about how quantum science had altered the way we see the world, and therefore should logically alter the way we do business. Wheatley's provocative 1992 study Leadership and the New Science was a tour de force that critiqued the Newtonian view, introduced readers to the gamut of 20th-century scientific insight, and then proposed ways in which the new science was relevant to and could be applied to mundane organizations.

To read a short, recent essay by Wheatley, click here.









"You cannot solve a problem from the frame of mind that created the problem in the first place."




"The more precisely the POSITION is determined, the less precisely the MOMENTUM is known"













Seven steps to greater spiritual intelligence

  • Become aware of where I am now.
  • Feel strongly that I want to change.
  • Reflect on what my own center is and on what are my deepest motivations.
  • Discover and dissolve obstacles, inner and outer.
  • Explore many possibilities to go forward.
  • Commit myself to a path.
  • Remain aware there are many paths.







To order Zohar's book, Rewiring the Corporate Brain, click on the book cover.

Other books by Danah Zohar





































Care to comment on Danah Zohar's talk? We've created a special Danah Zohar bulletin board for you to post remarks:



Michael Finley

Begin, says Danah Zohar, author of Rewiring the Corporate Brain, with the brain. Whether corporations make good use of the brains they pay for is an open question. But there is no question that human brain function is still the best analog to organizational function.

There are three ways the brain thinks, and each one corresponds to a different kind of intelligence:

When one neuron in a neural tract links to the next, and to the next and to the next, and passes the solution of a problem on to the brain as a whole, that is IQ in action -- linear rational thought. The biology of IQ is very similar to the way a computer thinks. And you can't run a body or a company without this kind of rule-bound logic.

When a nest or network of neurons interact continuously with one another, in a crackling exchange of electrical impulses, that is EQ in action -- the fuzzier, less mechanistic, but more complex intelligence of comparing, associating, and evaluating. It is a richer form of intelligence, because it seeks appropriate choices -- again, indispensable to team-based business.

But it is the third kind of intelligence that takes the cake. It is the intelligence that makes sense of everything. Recent brain research shows that there is a special kind of 40 megahertz oscillation that takes place at times across the entire brain. And that it happens when the brain is trying to make sense of an experience, like evaluating a glasses case.

The oscillation dances back and forth to the parts of the brain responsible for understanding color, and size, and stored memories about the glasses case. The oscillation locates and corroborates patterns of encephalic recognition. In this oscillation, the myriad specialized parts of the brain converge into a functional whole.

In effect, the oscillation is the physical manifestation of the brain seeking meaning, sense, understanding. In effect, the oscillation is the closest scientists have come to identifying that part of the physical brain that corresponds to the soul.

SQ defined

"Spritual intelligence," Zohar said, "is our access to and use of meaning, vision and value in the way that we think and the decision that we make."

It is the intelligence that makes us whole, that gives us out integrity. It is the soul's intelligence, the intelligence of the deep self. It is the intelligence with which we ask fundamental questions and with which we reframe our answers. It is our transformative intelligence.

"Spiritual intelligence," she said, "is necessary for the effective functioning of both IQ and EQ. It is our ultimate intelligence."

We are creatures of meaning, asking "Why?" and "Whither?" In all the universe that we know, we are the only creatures asking what the universe is all about.

And spirit, she said, derives its meaning from the Latin word for wind or breath. It is literally a wind that is blowing through us, the principle that makes us alive and human.

Where IQ and EQ are naturally bounded, and can be quantitatively measured, it is in the nature of SQ to defy boundaries, to continually seek a broader perspective, a bigger picture. As such it resists quantification. Indeed, its essence is not about quantity, but quality.

Heady Stuff

 Zohar made some powerful assertions in her talk:

  • She said that humans come into the world nearly empty of hardwired instinctual knowledge, but that we make extraordinary adaptations in the first two years. A 12-month old baby can utter every morpheme in the 800-plus linguistic catalog. By 24 months, the baby will master only those morphemes native to his or her language.
  • She said that each human brain contains not only a memory of the formation of the universe (because we are made of the stuff that resulted from the Big Bang) but also the knowledge and mentality of every creature that has ever lived (because we stand at the end of an evolutionary chain with a collective unconscious encompassing all that went before).
  • She said that there is a region of the brain, in the temporal lobe, that some are labeling the "God spot" because it is where activity increases when we ponder ultimate questions. Epileptics routinely evidence heightened activity here during seizures, and report it as spiritual thought and experience. Zohar does not identify this God spot as the source of SQ -- but notes that it is fascinating that even experiences we have always classified as supernatural have a biological component.


The Post-Newtonian Universe

At this point, you may be wondering: "So, what does this have to do with my business?"

Zohar's answer is that business is part of the real world, but in so many ways it functions as it did centuries before science peeled away its rind of certainty. She contrasted the rock-solid worldview propagated by Sir Isaac Newton, which became the worldview for all rational western thinking, with the squishier view of the universe that has come into view in our century.

Newton, whom some historians think may have had the highest pure IQ of any human ever, described a universe dominated by a simple, understandable force, gravity. Once you got the idea, that large objects have more of this power than smaller ones, a mechanistic universe yields all its secrets.

This rational approach came to characterize other fields as well. John Locke sought to similarly catalog and index philosophy and natural law. Freud sought to become the Newton of the mind, pinning an immense theory of self on the gravitational power of motherhood. And Frederick Taylor in our century sought to codify and categorize every motion in the workplace, turning the art and craft of business into pure science.

Newton's laws were simple, neat, and described a world that could ultimately be controlled.

But they didn't work.

In the past century, refutations to the mechanistic view proliferated. Nietzsche torched logical philosophy. Picasso set naturalism and perspective in painting ablaze. Jung's decidedly unscientific approach to psychoanalysis undid the angular constructs of Freud.

And quantum physics. Quantum physics blew Newton's universe clean away. Scientists studying subatomic behavior, light, and astronomy discovered that Newton's tidy explanations didn't hold water. German Physicist Werner Heisenberg's famous "uncertainty principle," which held that the very act of observing a phenomena changed it, replaced Newton's apple as the metaphor for an ambiguous age.

Instead of simple, law-abiding, and controllable, quantum physics described a universe that was complex, chaotic, and uncertain. Instead of a cleanly dichotomous either/or universe, it was a paradoxical, mischievous, both/and universe.

The question businesses must ask, therefore, is which century they wish to do business in -- the 17th or the 21st?

Criteria for high SQ

What steps were most missing from the waltz of Newton's celestial spheres? It was missing what SQ supplies in abundance -- meaning.

Zohar referred to psychologist Abraham Maslow's famous pyramid of human needs. At the base of the pyramid are SURVIVAL, then SAFETY/SECURITY, then BELONGING/SOCIAL, then ESTEEM/EGO, then, finally, capping the top of the triangle, the highest need of all, SELF-ACTUALIZATION.

Maslow was right, Zohar said, except his pyramid would have been inverted and stuck in the sand. Yes, self-actualization is our loftiest need. But it is not true that we suspend our need for meaning until we are fed, clothed, and given a high-paying job. Meaning and self-knowledge are the very bedrock of a true pyramid of needs.

A new model for the self

Zohar took a stab at creating a graphic of her own, a model for personality types. As a basic shape, she chose a favorite form, the lotus, long associated with wisdom and beauty, yet it is a flower that grows upward from swamp slime.

She took the six petals of the lotus shape, and assigned a personality type, with terminology borrowed from John Holland and J.R. Cattell, to each:

    the Conventional arising from a core of Gregariousness

    the Social, arising from a core of Intimacy

    the Investigative, arising from a core of Exploration

    the Artistic, arising from a core of Creativity

    the Realistic, arising from a core of Self-Assertion

    the Enterprising, arising from a core of Responsibility

Each type involves about 15% of the population. Most of us figure strongly in three types. A truly balanced individual, one with spectacular SQ, would score strongly in all six types.

But what makes Zohar's typology interesting is that all six types share a common center, the heart of the flower. "That is the self," she said. "Unlike other typologies and theories, I believe in a center."

And the center, she said, is where those 40 Mhz oscillations seizes the bicameral brain in a shiver of understanding.

Criteria for high SQ

  • Be flexible. Ain't no way a person can swap paradigms without inner flexibility. The world is a place of multiple realities -- live in it.

  • Be self-aware. Americans especially are uncomfortable with empty space and silence, perhaps because they force us to look inward, and we're afraid of what we'll find.

  • Have a vision and be led by your values.

  • Use adversity. Viktor Frankl wrote about the power of looking horror in the face and finding leverage in it to survive. Don't flinch, don't or deny -- learn from death, failure, and the things you fear.

  • Be holistic. If the brain truly connects, which is the thesis of SQ, so must you. See the big picture. Synthesize!

  • Be open to diversity. Find ways to like flexibility, to enjoy difference. The quantum level of reality is infinitely diverse.

  • Be field-independent. Stand out from the crowd. Be your own person. Doubt everything you are told, and find true faith in your own convictions.

  • Ask "Why?" It works for kids, it will work for you.

  • Reframe. Find the broader context of what you see. Step back. Be like the goldfish that leaps above the bowl, and realizes the universe may be a bit bigger than previously suspected.

  • Practice servant leadership. Like the holy lama in the story that acted as a sherpa guide, don't let position and status go to your head.

Finally, Zohar said, create conditions sufficient for change. Which is what SQ is about -- integrating, understanding, and ever adapting to new perspectives. The inner you -- whether you call it your brain, your mind, or your soul -- is infinitely elastic. You have the capability change till you are 110 and beyond.

But you may have to worry a little. The rewiring necessary for this adaptation occurs only during a state of excited tension. Between the states of lassitude or entitlement and full-tilt galloping panic. This is as true of organizations as it is of individual human beings.

Danah Zohar calls this in-between state the edge of chaos. It is a place where one become comfortable being a little uncomfortable, where learning and innovation is most likely to occur.

Zohar's advice: advance to the edge, pitch your tent, and breathe in the crackling particles of change.