Developing Social and Emotional Intelligence 

Brad C. Anderson

Organizational wisdom is a group activity. Working well with people requires social and emotional intelligence. You can develop this type of intelligence through:

  • Cooperative learning
  • Taking interdisciplinary courses
  • Indulging your interest in whatever art forms you enjoy (the most enjoyable bit of advice ever).

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Cooperative Learning (i.e., group work)

Cooperative learning means working in groups. Life gives us no shortage of opportunities to engage in group work. These opportunities include playing on sports teams, joining clubs, being a part of a workgroup, team projects in class, and so forth.

The best opportunities to develop your social and emotional intelligence come from being in a group working towards a particular goal under pressure. This pressure forces people to interact in productive ways.

Combining these activities with your reflection journal can create potent opportunities to deepen your insight into social and emotional considerations of group efforts.[1][2]

Interdisciplinary Courses

Chapter V’s discussion on rationality alluded to the idea that different disciplines indoctrinate their practitioners into various forms of rationality (e.g., business schools teach economic rationality, science schools technocratic, and so on). When all you know is one form of rationality, people acting on different types of rationality may seem strange and, perhaps, a bit clueless about the things you think are essential. Fear not, for they likely feel the same way about you!

Breaking this barrier requires you to work with people from different educational backgrounds. If you are in school, look for interdisciplinary classes where not only are your fellow students from different disciplines, but so are the teachers.[3]

Outside of school, look for opportunities to volunteer or work with community groups of diverse backgrounds. Again, combining this experience with your reflection journal will help you see the blind spots of your preferred form of rationality and see others’ strengths.

Indulge your Appreciation for the Arts

Arts include any form of human expression, such as cinema, literature, music, dance, painting, baking, crafts–any artistic endeavour. An appreciation of the arts can develop social and emotional intelligence through increasing imagination, empathy, and a sense of connectedness.[4][5]

Most people are drawn to some art form. Follow your interests and dive into them. If you participate in art as a hobby, say, playing the guitar or drawing, carve time into your week to practice your craft. If you are not called to create, you still most likely enjoy experiencing artistic endeavours, whether reading, watching live music, attending dance performances, or whatever. Indulge that interest.

Yes, that’s right. A school textbook is telling you to turn off the computer and do something fun.


Key Takeaways

  • Organizational wisdom is a group activity, and working well with others requires social and emotional intelligence.
  • You can develop your social and emotional intelligence through:
    • Cooperative learning: Working with groups. Combine this with reflection journaling for enhanced learning
    • Interdisciplinary courses: These are courses where teachers from multiple disciplines teach students from various disciplines
    • Indulging in your appreciation of the arts: All forms of artistic expression increase imagination, empathy, and a sense of connectedness

  1. Cooper, J. L., Robinson, P., & McKinney, M. (1994). Cooperative Learning in the Classroom. In D. F. Halpern (Ed.), Changing College Classrooms: New Teaching and Learning Strategies for an Increasingly Complex World (pp. 74–92). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Smith, K. A. (1991). Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co.
  3. Fukami, C. V., Clouse, M. L., Howard, C. T., McGowan, R. P., Mullins, J. W., Silver, W. S., … Wittmer, D. P. (1996). The Road Less Traveled: The Joys and Sorrows of Team Teaching. Journal of Management Education, 20(4), 409–410.
  4. Freeman, R. E., Dunham, L., & McVea, J. (2007). Strategic Ethics--Strategy, Wisdom, and Stakeholder Theory: A Pragmatic and Entrepreneurial View of Stakeholder Strategy. In E. H. Kessler & J. R. Bailey (Eds.), Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Wisdom (pp. 151–177). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.
  5. What Businesses Can Learn from the Arts. (2019). Retrieved December 9, 2019, from


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Developing Social and Emotional Intelligence  Copyright © 2020 by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book