Innovation in the Workplace Needs Emotional Intelligence

Posted on August 20, 2019
Innovation in the Workplace Needs Emotional Intelligence

The power of emotional intelligence (EI) in a workplace creates a motivated and engaged corporate culture and a more competitive business.

Most importantly, EI allows for an environment where employees can freely use innovation and problem-solving techniques. So why are so many organizations, as well as executive leaders, still not taking it seriously enough?

There is a stereotype of the “typical” emotionally stoic engineer or technician who is sorely lacking in warmth and social skills. Yet today the best developers, researchers and engineers engage emotional intelligence as a workplace standard and have seen innovation and productivity soar. Group cohesion, team spirit and open communication won’t exist without EI. After all, people have to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas, taking risks, engaging in experimentation and building on the ideas of others.

Psychologists have long known that cognitive processing and creativity are boosted by positive emotions and hampered by negative ones. Better judgements and decision making are more likely in an atmosphere of optimism and good will. Fear and insecurity make for miserable and unproductive workplaces.

Emotional intelligence is what sets the groundwork for the use of interpersonal skills. This allows organizations to connect with customers’ and clients’ needs and keep pace with social change. A more human-centered approach allows for empathy, meaning people can see different perspectives and engage in interdisciplinary collaboration without conflict or rivalry.

Organizations need to be aware of how their departments and teams are being led, and model leadership that enables psychological safety and open-mindedness in workers, using principles of emotional intelligence. A human-centred approach using EI creates a competitive advantage for companies in all sectors.


The topic of this article forms part of the curriculum for the Schulich ExecEd program Masters Certificate in Innovation Leadership (starting Sept. 30, 2019).

This program provides business and public-sector leaders with the critical innovation strategy leadership competencies to help their organizations execute creative responses to tough business challenges.