• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Multiple intelligences and the knowledge-based organization

Multiple intelligences and the knowledge-based organization

Before Howard Gardner came up with his theory of multiple intelligences, intelligence was traditionally measured by one’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ). One was intelligent only to the extent that he or she is rated so via good scores on structured questions which were accepted as a good test of intelligence. Those who did not do well in such tests were generally regarded as “unintelligent”. But all that changed when in 1983, Howard Gardner showed that a human being can possess many forms of intelligence as explained below.

Linguistic: this refers to the capacity or intelligence to use either oral or written words effectively. It includes the ability to manipulate words to influence others or to achieve the desired result. Poets, journalists, and politicians with excellent written and oratorical skills fall under this category.

Logical-mathematical: this category of intelligence captures the capacity for effective use of numbers as well as good reasoning as in the case of mathematicians, statisticians, computer programmers, etc.

Managers should understand what motivates individual workers who must be seen as intelligent enough to know what they want out of the organisation

Spatial: this refers to an accurate sense of geography i.e., the ability to make a visual sense of the environment and to transform the environment to achieve a desired form or colour. Examples include hunters, scouts, artists, architects, etc.

Bodily-kinetic: this refers to the expert ability to apply one’s whole body in the expression of ideas and feelings. It also includes the ability to produce or transform things by oneself. Actors, dancers, athletes, sculptors, surgeons, etc. fall under this category.

Musical: this entails the capacity to perceive, criticize, transform, as well as express musical forms. It includes sensitivity to the rhythm, pitch, or melody of a piece of music. People with this category of intelligence include composers, performers, music fans and critics, etc.

Interpersonal: this category of intelligence involves the ability to grasp and distinguish among moods, intentions, motivations, and the feelings of others. It includes sensitivity to facial expressions, voice, gestures, and various types of interpersonal cues. Persons who possess this category of intelligence can effectively respond to interpersonal cues in a manner that leads to desired objectives like getting a group of people to follow a particular line of action.

Intrapersonal: this involves a good knowledge of self, an accurate understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses, inner moods, intentions, motivations, temperaments, desires, etc. It also includes the capacity for self-discipline and self-esteem.

Naturalist: This is a skill in the recognition and categorization of both plants and animals within an individual’s environment. It includes sensitivity to natural phenomena such as mountains and cloud formations.

Implications of the multiple intelligences concept for managerial behaviour in relation to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The concept of multiple intelligences has many implications for managerial practice in organisations. The first is that every worker comes with a set of intelligence, strengths, and weaknesses. No one is useless, and no one is a repository of knowledge.

Managers must relate with employees as intelligent beings, and the success or failure of managing depends on the manager’s ability to discern the individual needs of the worker and as much as possible fit such into the organisational objectives. This is where Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory comes in.

Maslow (2000) identified five levels of need around which the motivation of the individual at the workplace revolves. They are the basic physiological needs, safety needs, security needs, ego needs, and self-actualisation needs. Managers should understand what motivates individual workers who must be seen as intelligent enough to know what they want out of the organisation. Only by so doing will the workers key into organisational objectives with the passion that ensures success.

Closely related to the above is a second implication: to be able to retain the best and dedicated staff, organisations must know the intelligence sets a given individual possesses and provide jobs and tasks which will bring out the best in the worker.

Read also: How organisational interventions sustains leaders’ mental health (3)

Such jobs should match the individual’s intelligence sets to generate the level of motivation that will keep the worker in the organisation. Here, Maslow’s self-actualization needs become critical in motivating the individual not only to achieve organisational objectives but to also not seek satisfaction elsewhere.

Multiple intelligences and organisational metaphors

Broadly speaking, two metaphors of the organisation emerge from the categorisations of intelligence. They are the machine metaphor and the organism metaphor. Apart from the logical-mathematical category which falls under the machine metaphor, all others could be easily identified with the organism metaphor. Accordingly, within a mechanistic environment, persons with logical-mathematical intelligence will function more as managers/thinkers. On the other hand, persons with interpersonal/intrapersonal intelligence will function well in the organic organisation, especially as human resources professionals, and managers.


The concept of multiple intelligences is very compatible with observed reality. Oftentimes, persons declared as not possessing a high IQ with the traditional measurements are found to excel in sports, music, arts, etc. What this means is that every human being is capable of one or a set of intelligence(s). Organisations must keep this in mind and provide jobs that match individual strengths and motivate the workers not only to achieve organisational goals but to remain in the organisation in a time of high labour turnover among the highly skilled.