Emotional Intelligence in Technology

February 20, 2010 — 19 Comments

The other day I had a sudden realization about the importance of emotion and logic.  When I was managing a small computer support service provider, I would work closely with specialized technicians, programmers, integrators, accounting personnel, legal professionals, medical directors, and the obvious internal staffing of my company. Over the handful of years, I’d found it to be challenging to find people that had “the balance” of emotional and logical skill set in which I thought to be a “common sense standard”.  With the above established, I decided to put together the following blurb of research that I’ve recently developed:

A generalized overview with the expansion of the Internet and the resulting globalization of business activity, the capacity of the influence of information technology (now referenced as IT) has increased significantly. Many innovative business practices are being enabled specifically by IT. The capacity for integration of information in alpha/numeric, text, voice, and video form will give rise to an even greater abundance and impact of IT in the future. Also, the information systems (now referenced as IS) development profession has been maturing and IS has been recognized as a socio-technical endeavor for some time. For system developers, the need to communicate effectively with users and team members has been increased significantly.

A survey taken in 1993 of 192 human resource personnel responsible for hiring new IS graduates in the Denver, Colorado area discovered that, in addition to knowledge in applied computing and business, it was very important that a new IS hire be educated in: 1) the ability to learn, 2) the ability to work in teams, 3) oral and written communication, 4) problem solving and reasoning, and 5) a point of reference to health and wellness. In short, adaptability, communication, and stress management are seen as key skills for the IS professional. Yet, such skills are not developed through logic alone, but involve the “soft areas” of feelings, instinct, and senses.

A little over 25 years ago, there were two researchers, Couger and Zawacki, who  reported that, while IS professionals (systems analysts and programmers) had the lowest needs for social interaction on the job, they reported much higher “growth needs” than the other professionals surveyed. While at the time, growth needs were largely understood as greater development of professional proficiencies, there now appears to be some evidence that the IS development profession may be ready for a more holistic approach to growth.

For example, a management scientist, in his book on IS management, has called for extending Maslow’s hierarchy of needs beyond self-actualization to “self-donation” and has provided a concrete example of such a stage in the career of a systems analyst. An article in Computerworld has called for “emotional literacy among IS professionals” in the context of personality awareness. There was a convention of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), where a keynote speaker proposed that “love” and not confrontation be the model for organizational communication, and received a standing ovation. A job advertisement for IT professionals within an insurance company in a prominent U.S. software center points out that this employer is interested in contributing to the employee’s professional and personal life, and advises candidates to “listen to their inner voice.” A prominent U.S. textbook author has referred, in the dedication of his text on IS for the Internetworked Enterprise to “experiencing the Light within.” In a recent Canadian survey on stress among IS professionals, the most frequently mentioned desired coping resource was “personal development seminars,” closely followed by “conflict resolution seminars.”

Also, the concept of “emotional intelligence” is being increasingly emphasized in management literature. It is being recognized that, while the traditional IQ (intelligence quotient) can help a person to get a job, it is the EQ (emotional quotient) that will allow the person to keep the job and to progress satisfactorily in his/her career.

Thus, the stage appears to be set for a preliminary attempt to address specific psychological factors as applied to the work of various IT professionals such as system and data analysts, programmers, project managers, help desk personnel, and also software engineers, telecommunications designers, and others. In this context, the term IT is considered to include a broader range of positions, whereas IS is more restricted to the activities of planning, analysis, design, development, and deployment of computerized business application systems.

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I'm just a tech guy who loves finally met the love of his life -- with hopes that this blog will help me become a better man, through writing, so I may effectively communicate with my wife... and raise a family of our own.