Does Texting Affect Emotional Intelligence?

The single biggest problem in communication is the
illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

B @ mtg b&e Wed. C U @ 9. **//

No, this is not a new programming language or a secret code in some clandestine society; it is a sample of communication sent through texting.

When the message is translated, it says, “Be at meeting bright and early Wednesday. See you at 9:00 a.m.”

The message ends with “**//,” which means, “Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.”

There’s nothing wrong with texting if your objective is to communicate quickly and informally. In fact, it has become the preferred method of communication for kids and young adults. Nearly one in three kids send more than 100 instant messages per day. Some teenagers can text with one hand in a pocket or two hands behind their back. Then, there are some teenagers who would rather send a text instead of talk, even if they are sitting side by side.

With the rise in the number of people texting, researchers are finding that over-texting is contributing to a significant decline in the quality of communication in the workplace. Emailing, thought by many to be the “first cousin” to texting, is equally impersonal. Although email is often longer in length by comparison, both methods have led to decreased civility, compromised interpersonal relationships, and even aggression. It is ironic that email has the potential to be more thoughtful, yet it often provokes the opposite tendency to be immediately reactive.

Up to 93% of communication is conveyed in tone of voice and body language, while only 7% is conveyed in words. With these statistics, it is no wonder that digital communication can be misinterpreted or be offensive inadvertently.

Why do people prefer digital communication? Researchers say that it’s not just for efficiency. It is a way to communicate with protection. Texts and emails allow you to hide your tone of voice, facial expressions, and feelings. You can also avoid dealing with the feelings of others. In comparison to traditional methods of communication, digital messaging is superficial and keeps a distance between you and others.

It is well known that humans are social animals, so perhaps it is not surprising that the use of emotional icons (emoticons) has increased in tandem with the increase in digital messaging. These begin as punctuation marks to portray a person’s feelings and can include numbers and letters. Maybe it’s just our human reaction to satisfy a need to express emotion. There seems to be a growing trend for more emotional expression, as witnessed by the Emoji keyboard; a set of images and emoticons that originated in Japan. This keyboard has become so popular that the images and emoticons are now standardized and built into the handsets of many types of digital devices, like the iPhone.

Nevertheless, there are still psychological and physical consequences to digital communication. One psychological consequence is the over-reliance on digital messaging, which can compromise the ability to develop the emotional intelligence skills associated with interpersonal relationships. Teenagers who rely on digital messaging do not learn to exhibit, or read, the emotional cues that aid in understanding each other. Without the practice of day-to-day conversations, they lose their ability to modify their tone and style depending upon whom they talk to. This, of course, can affect interpersonal situations such as job interviews, managing conflict, and the ability to resolve problems with others. The effectiveness of every relationship depends upon emotional communication.

With respect to physical consequences, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, there are also hormonal changes that apparently occur based on the medium of communication. In an interesting study of 68 girls between the ages of 8 and 12, researchers found that stress hormones differed according to whether they communicated with their mothers through text, phone, or in person.[1] After completing a stressful math and verbal test, the texting group had significantly more stress hormones. Clearly, digital messaging has not been around long enough to know the long-term effects, but this study suggests that more exploration is needed.

In the meantime, it is well known that people with high emotional intelligence have stronger interpersonal relationships. Generally, they are better able to cope with life’s demands and have a better quality of life. Learning this complex set of skills begins early on in life through face-to-face communication and continues to be learnt over time. Since digital communication is here to stay, here are five tips to help ensure you maintain a strong level of emotional intelligence:

  1. Use digital messaging only for non-emotional issues. Emotion has a lot of context, and context is too easily misunderstood through text or email only;
  2. Use digital messaging when you want to broaden your communication, not deepen it. Communication platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have undoubtedly positively affected the extent of our reach to others, but it is no substitute for the immediate, multi-sensual conversation where we pick up emotional cues through our eyes, ears, and sixth sense;
  3. Set boundaries as to when you will communicate through text and email. This tip is similar to some time management techniques where you allot specific times of the day to different activities. Following this guideline will decrease your thought interruptions and allow more time for real-time interactions;
  4. Practice reading emotional expressions. Doing so will sharpen your interpersonal skills, specifically empathy and your ability to read others. Watch a TV program or movie (with good actors), and turn off the sound. This exercise will increase your attention to facial expressions and your accuracy will improve over time; and,
  5. Set an example. Return messages by phone when you can. You’ll probably have a more meaningful discussion and decrease the unnecessary back-and-forth messages that add no value to the discussion. Like muscles, interpersonal skills are strengthened with continued use. Practice using those important listening skills that you won’t get in texting or emailing.

In case you are unfamiliar with texting abbreviations, here is a list of some that are commonly used:

  • ATM – At the moment
  • LMK – Let me know
  • BTW – By the way
  • BAK  – Back at keyboard
  • BAU  – Business as usual
  • BBC  – Big bad challenge
  • IMO  –  In my opinion
  • B2W  – Back to work
  • BRB  –  Be right back
  • FYI  –   For your information
  • W8  –   What?
  • WA8 – Wait
  • XME –  Excuse Me

In case in-person communication is impossible, you don’t have to give up the emotional connection. Here is a list of some alternative methods that incorporate both video and chat:

  • Skype
  • Face Time
  • Google Hang Out
  • Blink
  • ooVoo
  • WeChat

[1] Seltzer, L. (2012). Instant messages vs. speech: Hormones and why we still need to hear each other. Journal of Evolution and Human Behavior, V. 33, p. 43–45.


Did the Sharks Eat Your Idea?

In my travels around corporate America I’m frequently asked for suggestions to make Imagecreativity and innovation a permanent part of the culture. “How do you institutionalize it?” they ask.  It’s a good question and important to ensuring that employees have the ability to develop new ideas. Many good ideas fizzle out, never making it to prototyping or testing.

There is nothing more fragile than a new idea. When you come up with one during a brainstorm session, (assuming you’re brave enough to throw one out  and  risk being perceived as sub-intelligent  because the idea isn’t perfect), the filters appear. Reasons why it won’t work pop up right away – it costs too much, it doesn’t fit the strategy, or the market just isn’t ready for it. There are always lots of reasons why it won’t work.

So the voices of judgment filter out that idea and you know the rest. Companies end up designing incremental improvements, but nothing exciting.

The other day a client announced that they were going to raise the bar. They are going to turn creativity and innovation into a contest and really have some fun. It would be their rendition of Shark Tank. Give everyone the opportunity to come forth with an idea. All they have to do is present it to the senior team and be prepared to defend themselves for the attack.

Well, no doubt they’ll get some takers. The strong, vocal and probably more senior folks in the company will present some ideas. They’ll be real careful to be politically correct so they don’t step on anyone’s toes. They’ll be highly logical so the idea can withstand the toughest criticism. And they’ll ensure that the new idea is something that will fit within the budget. For their sake, I hope I’m wrong, but my prediction is that it will be fun at first, but then will sizzle out. What’s wrong with this approach?

With all due respect, I  think that Shark Tank is a terrific show. It’s entertaining, refreshing and some excellent ideas are presented. But this approach doesn’t have longevity inside a company because:

– Only a small percentage of the creative thinking will be unleashed. There’s lots of creativity within the ranks that with just a little stoking can learn to develop the seeds of their ideas into something great. In a shark tank approach, it is only the vocal, brave and probably more senior folks who will participate. It’s intimidating to face the senior team to ‘sell’ an idea. They are the folks who employ you so why risk your job, reputation and future within the company? If your idea is ‘out there’, and you can’t  persuade them otherwise, there’s a lot at stake for you.

Seeds of ideas don’t fit the cost, budget or strategy. While in the realm of illogic or even ridiculousness, they are to be massaged and stroked, and further developed until they begin to form. Only then can they be built into something great. There are no sharks. No voice of judgment. Not yet.

New ideas are fragile and need protection.  They need dolphins that can protect them from the sharks until they’re developed into solid, workable and practical ideas. Only then can they withstand the shark attacks, but then they will likely survive.

Innovation Leadership Assessment in Spanish



I am pleased to report that the Innovation Leadership Assessment is now available in Spanish as well as English. This is an assessment that measures the factors that translate creativity into innovation. We all know that a lot of good ideas die on the vine because there are many inherent hurdles inside companies that prevent them from surfacing. Such factors as self-confidence, political savvy and employee engagement will help to clear the path and help to make innovation a reality. In fact, we found that there are 15 important factors that can significantly enhance a company’s success in achieving innovation.

For more information, ask us about the ILA. The report takes less than 10 minutes to complete online and is highly valid and reliable.

Nature’s Answers to Noise: Can You Hear It?

Any time you hear a piece of machinery making noise, it is an indication of inefficient design. The noise is excess energy. Engineers continually strive to design machinery in the most efficient way, but apparently we need some technological breakthroughs to eradicate the noise altogether. It is interesting to see those science fiction movies that show low-flying airplanes that are completely silent. One day it will probably happen.

As I listen to the obnoxious sounds of leaf blowers, I am reminded that the U.S. EPA says noise degrades our quality of life by impairing communication and social interaction. It reduces the accuracy of work and it also creates stressful levels of frustration and aggravation that last even when the noise has stopped. It doesn’t have to be this way.

During one of my green innovation field trips, while learning some of the principles of biomimetics, I walked through a rainforest with engineers who worked for a well-known airplane manufacturer. They were looking for nature’s answers to noise to find new ways of reducing the noise inside an airplane. Their challenge was to find ways to do this while not adding any materials, such as a fiberglass blanket, to absorb sound, and thereby increase weight.

There were lots of examples of creatures that manage noise. Leaf cutter ants, spiders and some birds actively shape the noise they make.

Leaf cutter ants, for example, produce high frequency vibrations through their mandibles that cause leaves to stiffen, enabling them to cut pieces. Spiders sit in their webs waiting to catch insects. The vibrations caused by the insect alerts the spider to its next meal. Both are examples of using the energy of sound, through vibrations, to positive ends. If the engineers could determine where vibrations occur most in the plane, they mused, then maybe they could design a structure to dampen the noise.

The Kingfisher bird has a long beak and can withstand sudden changes of air pressure as it dives into the water to hunt for food. The Japanese, who have one of the most stringent noise standards in the world, used this bird’s beak as a model to design the front car of the Bullet Train to eliminate the sonic boom that occurred upon exiting tunnels.

There are plenty more examples of nature-inspired innovations in just about every area of human need for improvement. But I have to go right now because the noise of a nearby chainsaw is becoming irritating and affecting my concentration. I’ll be back with much more.

What Do Zebras and Termites Have in Common? Green Ideas for Innovation in Air Conditioning

Very little on the surface, but if you’re looking for ideas to live in a temperate climate, without the cost or environmental impact of air conditioning, they provide some cool answers. There have been many improvements in the heating and air conditioning industry, specifically reducing and eliminating the use of ozone damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Even before the Montreal Protocol or the Kyoto Agreement, this industry voluntarily began to improve their products. The main improvement is the replacement of CFCs with Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) because of their safety, performance, and lack of effect on ozone depletion. In other words, they have less global warming potential.

Kudos to them. They’re going in the right direction. But here’s a greener approach: Instead of adding machinery to cool air, re-design the architecture so that it cools itself. Enter the zebra. The black and white stripes, according to biologist Benyus, create variations in air temperature just above the skin’s surface to create an air current and natural cooling system that surrounds the animal.

Let’s run with this idea. Could we paint stripes on buildings to achieve the same effect? Treat this as a seed of an idea before you pitch it. Before you envision an optical nightmare of numerous black and white striped buildings existing everywhere, open up your mind to considering similar ideas where a removable skin could be applied only in the hottest months. The skin could have other more eye-pleasing shapes of differing colors. Or perhaps movable reflectors that can be added to surfaces where the solar energy can be re-directed to darker areas that need light while reflecting heat away from hotter areas.

If you don’t like this direction in thinking, look toward termites. They are natural farmers that farm their own food source of fungus. The challenge is that some termites live in 100-degree weather yet their fungus must be kept at exactly 87 degrees. It’s not a problem for the termites though. Their towers are built to contain a series of heating and cooling vents that suck in air at the lowest part of the termite mound, down into their muddy wall enclosures and then back up to the peak. They constantly dig new vents and plug up the old ones throughout the day to regulate temperature.

At first glance, that isn’t an appealing idea because of all of the effort involved every day. But if you take it as only the seed of an idea, there’s a lot to work with. Architect Mick Pearce did exactly that. He designed the Eastgate Shopping Center in Harare, Zimbabwe, using both these ideas in a passive cooling system. This system works by storing heat in the day and venting it at night as temperatures drop. At the start of day, the building is cool. As the day gets warmer, and machines, people and the sun generate heat, the heat is absorbed by a fabric in the building, so that the temperature inside increases but not greatly.
In the evening, the temperatures outside drop and the warm internal air is vented through chimneys and fans, drawing in denser cool air at the bottom of the building. At night this process continues, the cold air flow in through cavities in the floor slabs until the building’s fabric has reached the ideal temperature to start the next day.

Eastgate uses only 10% of the energy needed saving millions each year and is completely environmentally friendly.

See what happens when you keep an open mind?

Cross-Pollination the Steve Jobs’ Way

This past week America lost an iconic leader known as one of the world’s foremost innovators, Steve Jobs. As chairman and chief executive officer of Apple Inc., he was also the man behind the slogan “think differently’.

Jobs, along with this senior vice president, Ron Johnson, exemplified the concept of cross-pollination to bolster creativity, shown in the design of the Apple stores.Their inspiration, apparently, came from the Four Seasons Hotel.
Notice that when you walk into an Apple store, you do not find a cashier. You find a concierge. Go to the back of the store and you won’t find a bar serving alcoholic drinks. You will find the genius bar where you get advice. Advice that you won’t get as easily if you bought a computer from Microsoft.

Cross-pollination is an effective way to spawn ideas. There are many ideas in history that came this way. The microwave oven came from work scientists were doing related to radar in World War II. The HP-Crospon skin patch, a drug delivery system that is safer and more efficient than most injections, came from the inkjet printer. The mechanism for he submarine’s ascent and descent came from a fish bladder, which inflates or deflates with gas to change depth.

So what’s the best way to cross-pollinate ideas? Begin by being very alert. Notice what is in your environment. Be curious. Ask questions. And always entertain possibilities of thinking that you normally would not.

Biomimicry at the Global Level

It is only a few days since the onslaught of Hurricane Irene and we’re hearing lots of accounts of flooding on the east coast. Indeed, many people are still evacuating their homes as nearby rivers and streams are swelling and causing devastating destruction.
Water levels have been changing around the world where some areas are
witnessing more floods than ever while others are experiencing debilitating droughts.
Many believe that this is part of a global warming crisis. Whatever the cause, it is instructive to look toward the science of biomimicry and ask: How does nature accommodate changing water levels? How does nature provide protection from the elements? These are important questions at a global level.

Nature shows us plenty of examples. Wetlands are one example because they constantly experience fluctuations in water levels. In fact, wetlands have a variety of water depths where plants that are normally submersed may have to endure periods without any water at all. And yet they survive, by their ability to change their morphology. They can, quite simply, adjust their growth as water levels change.

In building structures close to the water’s edge, an immediate danger is a building that will block water, and therefore become vulnerable to its pressure. If you look at plants that grow in water, you will often see long, narrow, relatively sturdy stems, which allow water to flow through them. We can take this idea and build homes on stilts to avoid obstructing water flows.

Mangroves are another example of survival in changing water levels, as well as water desalination, which is an important issue because most of the Earth’s cover is salt water. Mangroves extract salt from water via transpiration and filtering through their membranes, and they do all of this in a harsh environment. Twice a day the tide rises to cover their roots, and then recedes to expose those roots to the air. Moreover, that water changes: it is salty in the tide’s rise, but nearly fresh with the tide’s flow out to sea. The slightest eddy in the current will remove the mud that was deposited the day before. And the mangroves survive despite this highly changing environment, giving us the opportunity to learn from their adaptations.

The need for safe drinking water increases every day. Across the globe, four in ten people are affected by water scarcity. Companies like GE are taking lessons from these natural examples by building desalination stations that use a membrane technology to transform salt water into fresh water, and for irrigation and industrial applications. GE’s desalination stations are reclaiming more than 2 billion gallons of water a day, an amount equal to the daily water required by more than 150 million people.

As this science becomes better known, you will hear of more successes. In the meantime, I’m doing my best in using this scientific toolkit to help companies achieve Earth-friendly innovations.