The world watched in wonder at NASA’s Perseverance robotic rover in February successfully landed on the surface of Mars with the aim of researching evidence of past life on the red planet. The technology itself was, of course, amazing. But what really captivated audiences was the video taken by two miniature cameras from consumer smartphones attached to the landing module. The idea came from NASA Assistant Program Director Matt Wallace, who was inspired when his daughter showed him a video she made while attaching a camera to her body during gymnastics. “I felt for a moment that I had a glimpse of what it would be like if I could go back,” he said. The New York Times.
With this simple idea, Wallace helped NASA captivate and inspire humanity.
EQ as a differentiator
Even though the world is rapidly adopting increasingly complex technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), it is still the human connection that holds our attention. It makes emotional intelligence (EQ) more important than ever. In a now digital world, it is crucial to design products and lead people in the analog world, based on our humanity. Those who understand this will inspire and lead their staff more effectively, appeal to their customers, and spark more innovation.
Emotional intelligence was developed as a psychological theory in the 1990s by Peter Salovey and John Mayer. In a series of books, journalist Daniel Goleman refined and popularized the idea, breaking it down into five characteristics:
- Self-awareness: recognizing and understanding your emotions and how they affect others.
- Self-regulation: controlling your impulses and moods, especially to pause and think before you act.
- Internal Motivation: Being motivated by something other than external rewards like money.
- Empathy: understanding how others feel.
- Social skills: knowing how to build and manage good relationships.
EQ is increasingly recognized as a competitive advantage, according to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. He revealed that emotionally intelligent organizations get an innovation bonus. These organizations reported more creativity, higher levels of productivity and employee engagement, a significantly stronger customer experience, and higher levels of customer loyalty, advocacy and profitability. Organizations that did not focus on emotional intelligence had “significant consequences, including low productivity, lukewarm innovation, and an uninspired workforce.” says the report.
With the recent crisis of a global pandemic, EQ has become even more important in leadership. Verizon questioned business leaders both before and after covid-19. Before the pandemic, less than 20% of respondents said EQ would be an important skill for the future. But since covid, EI has increased in importance for 69% of respondents.
The emotional appeal of perseverance
NASA’s persistence exemplifies the application of equalizer in many ways. The complex technology came not only from the rocket scientists at NASA, but also from various small American companies identified, maintained and funded through two programs: the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR). Together, they allocate some $ 200 million a year to small businesses to develop technology for NASA.
Gynelle Steele, deputy director of programs for these programs, says EQ is key to her work on many levels, including how she directs her staff and how the programs nurture small businesses. As a leader, she needs to be insightful about what kind of innovation NASA needs, how small businesses can deliver it, and how it can bring them together. Like the manager who put smartphone cameras on the Perseverance, Steele and his staff try to stay open to new ideas and perspectives.
“A sure way to stifle innovation is to not have the emotional maturity to recognize that innovation and creativity can come from many sources,” Steele says. “I think our agency has benefited enormously from research institutes, large companies, small companies and individual contributors.” She continues, “The ability to recognize untapped sources of innovation, and then pull them together into a system, is a great ability to have.”
Perseverance incorporates technology from several small businesses that are or were formerly part of Steele’s programs. For example, small companies have developed the rover’s seven-foot robotic arm, which will drill into Martian rock to collect and analyze core samples, as well as a dust mitigation tool and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. .
Incorporating these contributions into the larger conception of NASA is like conducting an orchestra in a symphony. “Bringing all of these technologies together into a bigger mission becomes very poetic,” she says.
The end result is something that resonates with us on a human level: it is satisfying for Steele as a leader and for the staff of NASA – fueling their internal motivation to advance humanity’s exploration of the final frontier. And it reinforces a strong emotional connection with the American public, which is NASA’s ultimate “client”. Everyone feels inspired and experiences a sense of higher purpose. “This feeling of being an explorer – of constantly pushing the limits – is something that even as kids, most of us enjoy,” Steele says.
Bring the benefits of equalization to the ground
While NASA is a universal example, EQ is just as important in the design and leadership of ground vehicles. Americans already tend to bond emotionally with their cars, for example. One of Lexus’ latest models illustrates how this company infuses EQ into its design.
As a brand, Lexus uses omotenashi, a Japanese concept that embodies a spirit of hospitality that anticipates and meets the needs of people, from the design of the car to the showroom. Lexus dealerships are known to treat customers like guests in their homes, trying to make them feel comfortable in many ways on many levels. Lexus dealers consistently rank highly for their helpfulness, attitude, high standards and technical knowledge. In the design, the builder uses what he calls “L-finesse,” which he describes as a cutting edge design applied with finesse. It involves anticipating customer needs and making the technology as complex, simple, and happily intuitive for the customer to use, what the company calls “incisive simplicity.” It also aims for “intriguing elegance,” a design that captures and holds people’s attention, drawing them to the car.
The LS has been Lexus’ flagship sedan since the brand’s inception. “Flagship products are leaders who show the way forward, embodying values that will always guide us,” says the company. In the LS, Lexus uses these concepts to bring emotional satisfaction to customers through technology that embodies the human touch. This includes features such as comforting ambient lighting inspired by andon paper lanterns and an available internal climate system that senses the surface temperatures of passengers and automatically adapts to their comfort level. It even incorporates Japanese shiatsu massage technology into the seats of some packages.
And while Lexus uses advanced technology, it leads with EQ, the company says. He wants to demonstrate the power of the intangible world by keeping an emotional understanding of his clients at the heart of what he does. It uses EQ to achieve the highest levels of design and customer experience. It strengthens the bond with customers on a human level, inspiring owners and nurturing their sense of purpose.
Like Steele and NASA, the Lexus LS uses EQ to capture the imagination. It feeds people’s emotional urge to explore and inspires them to push the boundaries.
This content was produced by Insights, the personalized content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.