In this insightful discussion with Dr. Martyn Newman, Sir Ken Robinson – the most watched speaker in TED’s history – talks Creativity and Emotional Intelligence ahead of the EQ Summit in London.
Dr. Martyn Newman: A few weeks ago, I was speaking to Dan Goleman, the godfather of emotional intelligence himself. As you know, Dan rattled the cage about 20 years ago by challenging the very narrow view that we held, in society at large, about intelligence, and suggested that understanding and managing emotion intelligently was key to succeeding in life.
I know you’ve done your own share of cage-rattling by challenging traditional notions of intelligence. In your views, are the sorts of things you’re talking about here, do they fit in to a view of intelligence more broadly? Has our view of intelligence broadened sufficiently, and do you see any relationship between creativity and intelligence?
Sir Ken Robinson: Emotional Intelligence is a terrific and important book and Dan distilled a lot of research and experience into the idea of EQ. The literatures of psychology and psychiatry on the one hand and of the arts on the other for, have long recognised the intimate relationships between knowing and feeling.
“Psychology and psychiatry on the one hand, the arts on the other… has recognised the intimate, inextricable relationships between knowing and feeling”
The recognition that feelings are forms of cognition is one of the core arguments for the importance of the arts in schools.There’s a fascinating book by James Hemmings called ‘The Betrayal of Youth’, which was published in the 1970s. He quotes a psychologist at Oxford who’d been working with undergraduates for a long time and refers to the Oxford psychosis, which he describes as profound intellectual precocity combined with a profound emotional immaturity.
By the way, it’s interesting that in Ivy League universities, when kids are not in control of their own feelings and go around doing crazy things, it’s called ‘high spirits’ and they get indulged. When teenage kids in the inner cities do crazy things, they’re called hooligans and get locked up. Either way, the relationships between knowing and feeling are profoundly important. They are the foundations of theatre. They lie at the heart of music and of all the arts. And they’re often a key factor in creativity and inquiry in science.
“The relationships between knowing and feeling is deeply and profoundly important”
A lot of my work in the 1970s and 1980s was about the importance in schools of seeing the need for reconciliation between knowing and feeling. There was a fascinating book by the British sociologist Robert Witkin, which was published in 1974, on precisely this need. The prose in the book is rather oblique but it has a resonant title. It was called, ‘The Intelligence of Feeling’.
One of my mentors was the philosopher Louis Arnaud Reid, who had written eloquently in the 1920s and 30s, about the relationship between feeling and knowing.
So these ideas have been around for a long time and I expect that Dan would be the first to acknowledge that many of the ideas that he crystallised in Emotional Intelligence have deep roots. I think the book had the impact it had and deserved because it explained so clearly how our intellectual culture has mainly insisted on the separation of feeling and knowing. That’s certainly been true in schools, and it’s amounted to what R.D Lang once referred to as the ‘exile of feeling in our public life’.
“Our intellectual culture, has mainly insisted on the separation of feeling and knowing… and it’s amounted to what R.D Lang once referred to as the ‘exile of feeling in our public life'”
For me, recognising the relationships between feeling and knowing is fundamental to understanding the conditions for happiness and well-being. It’s about holism. It’s not that feelings originate in the right side of your brain and your intellect resides in the left. It’s far more nuanced. How we make sense of our being in the world is deeply textured by our emotional responses to the experiences that we’re having.
Consequently, the way that we should be encouraging emotional intelligence is not by having people give vent to their feelings but by giving them ways of making sense of them. The arts have a very important place in the education of feeling, because through them we can find ways of framing and understanding our own experience of the world around us.
I argue in ‘Out of Our Minds’, that people make too much of the differences between the arts and the sciences. They’re not wholly distinct. Many of the objective, skill-based conceptual processes that are essential to the proper pursuit of the sciences are at the very heart of how arts practices work. The arts too are deliberate, conscious processes focused on understanding the world around us and the world within us. One difference is that in the natural sciences, for example, we’re focused on the external world and trying to make sense of it in terms of itself. In the arts we are typically involved in trying to make sense of our experience in the world as human beings.
The problem in schools for a long time has been that we haven’t given children a language of feeling. We haven’t given them ways of making sense and understanding the feelings and the emotions that often whirl within them. It’s what happens in companies, too. It’s why people become disengaged. Their work doesn’t speak to their inner life. Understanding the relationship between feeling and knowing and our experience in the world as living creatures is fundamental to understanding what sort of cultures we need for people to flourish in.
“Understanding the relationship between feeling and knowing and our experience in the world as living creatures is fundamental to understanding what sort of cultures we need for people to flourish in.”
Stay tuned for the final part of Martyn and Ken’s discussion where they start to explore the role of mindfulness in the creative process.