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Experiential Intelligence with Soren Kaplan

George Grombacher April 25, 2023

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Experiential Intelligence with Soren Kaplan

LifeBlood: We talked about experiential intelligence, the value and importance of knowing and understanding your lived experiences, how to know what you’re good at, and how this practice can deepen your personal and professional relationships, with Soren Kaplan, entrepreneur, former corporate executive, and award-winning author.    

Listen to learn how to tap into the third leg of the intelligence stool!

You can learn more about Soren at, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Get your copy of Experiential Intelligence HERE

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Soren Kaplan

Soren Kaplan

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Well hello, this is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest strong and powerful. Soren Kaplan, Sauron. Are you ready to do this?

Soren Kaplan 0:08
George, good to see you.

george grombacher 0:10
Good to see you. Let’s go. Soren is an award winning author is a former corporate executive. He’s the co founder of praxis. He’s a columnist for Inc, Psychology Today. He’s an affiliate at the Center for effective organizations at USC. His newest book is experiential intelligence, harness the power of experience for personal and business breakthroughs. So I’m excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work, and what motivated you to put pen to paper for the new book.

Soren Kaplan 0:39
Well, personal life, I’ve worked with 1000s of leaders around the world and doing leadership development and innovation strategy work. I observed something a few years ago, which was that a lot of lot of leaders really rely on their intellect, how smart they are. And then some of some leaders recognize emotional intelligence, being in touch with your own emotions, so you don’t get reactive. And then, you know, touching, you know, connecting to the emotions of others to build teams, is important. I recognize, though, that the world’s changed faster than ever before we have technology, disruption, artificial intelligence is coming out. And we don’t really have a way to look at our personal experiences, life experiences, and professional experiences, as a real form of intelligence that kind of gives us our unique fingerprint, and allows for us to, to leverage things that maybe are flying under the radar so that we can achieve our goals. And so that’s really what experiential intelligence is all about. And I looked at my own life at the same time, and tried to tap into that and recognize how I had developed experiential intelligence through my own journey, and created a framework and kind of leverage some research that was out there to write this book.

george grombacher 1:59
Nice. I appreciate that. So as you’re describing that, part of it makes all the sense in the world, why wouldn’t I want to tap into the things I’ve actually done and live through? And then I feel like when people talk about and share stories, people say, well, that’s just anecdotal evidence that’s not really evidence based. And so is it are those some of the reasons or is that a reason why people resist?

Soren Kaplan 2:27
We’ve had terms to talk about our experiences and what they give us like, like street smarts, or the 10,000 hour rule. I mean, those are kind of terms that we throw around out there. When you look at where experiential intelligence as a concept came from, it came from the president of the American Psychological Association. So you know, just coming out of academia research, I’ve blown that out a little bit and dimensionalized it through looking at neuroscience, sociology, ie, leadership, development, and connecting a lot of things together, so that we can understand how, you know, when we have experiences just quick anecdotal example, you know, we all know how to ride a bike generally, how do you learn how to ride a bike, you read a book? No, you try it, you get on your bike, it’s experiential learning is what it’s called. And you wobble you fall over, you might have training wheels, you might take off one wheel, eventually, you’ll learn how to ride a bike, and you never forget it. And so you know, when you look at what riding a bike does, you have base skills, you know how to turn the handlebars and brake, then you have abilities, higher order things like anticipating potholes, or riding defensively in traffic, then you have mindsets about it. Okay, well, what is bike riding? Is it transportation? Or is it socializing with friends, or adventure or thrill seeking? I’m a mountain bike rider. So you can you have mindsets about it abilities, and know how now the mindsets, that’s the tricky one, if I fall over a bunch and crash in front of my friends, I might be embarrassed, or I like the fearful that it’s dangerous, which can get in my way later on. Maybe I’m scared of bike riding. And I don’t do it. So mindsets can get in your way, or they can enable you and that’s just a simple example of you know, how experiences can shape us sometimes without us even knowing it. And so the question is, how do we become more aware of what’s impacted us and live, you know, overcome the negatives and leverage in and lean into the assets that we’ve gained? And so that’s really what experiential intelligence is about. I love it.

george grombacher 4:42
How did you and you probably already told me this what what was it that maybe brought this onto your radar? You say, Oh, this is really interesting. I feel like it hasn’t been addressed.

Soren Kaplan 4:52
But like a lot of things that give us passion in life and and, you know, I spent a few years researching writing this book I had a rough childhood. When I was three, my mother developed the mental illness, my father was rarely around his focus on some spiritual pursuits and working multiple jobs. And by the time I was 15 years old, we had moved 16 times. So I had a relatively traumatic childhood. And as I grew older, I recognized, you know, I needed to look at kind of what happened and, and kind of overcome some of the challenges. But I also recognize, I got some assets from it, I can live with a lot of uncertainty, I can make decisions with very little data, I can read the room when I’m working in organization or with the team body language, facial expressions. So the same things that sort of traumatize me gave me unique gifts that I’ve used to do startups to work with organizational cultures to lead, you know, leadership development programs. And so the the, the opportunity that I recognized for myself, was all that stuff that now is really packaged up as experiential intelligence that, that I’m seeing as the third leg of the intelligence stool that we have all been sitting on, we just don’t recognize it.

george grombacher 6:14
That makes a ton of sense. So knowing yourself, if you’re able to know yourself and parse through, this is bad stuff that is keeping me stuck. This is good stuff that’s a superpower your ability to read a room and deal with ambiguity. That’s what how, how much of it is that?

Soren Kaplan 6:42
I think a lot of it’s that, it another another example. From my book, I had a my father took me to buy a car when I was a teenager 17 or so. And 15 minute interaction with a salesperson this this dealership was notorious for kind of bait and switch tactics, very uncomfortable situation. In those 15 minutes, small little example, I internalize two things. The first thing is I internalize salespeople can’t be trusted, which has gotten in my way moving forward. Like in any sales, interaction, even little ones, I’m probably not very pleasant. And then also, it’s gotten in my way with in terms of like partnership conversations and business. And I’ve had to kind of recognize this weird little visceral reaction I have when I’m in those situations. But the second thing it gave me was the desire to, you know, understand the motivations of other people, which has led me to do customer empathy, research and innovation, insights work to for new products and services. So being in touch with both the self limiting beliefs and self expanding beliefs is very, very important for overcoming. And sometimes healing, what you need to heal and the flip side of healing is growth so that you can leverage the positives that you want to leverage to achieve your goals. So it’s sort of two sides of the same coin.

george grombacher 8:07
Yeah. And I appreciate I appreciate the examples because I think we can all go yeah, I’ve had I’ve had terrible experiences like that, or experiences that I perceived to be terrible, whatever. And I wonder how that is informing my current behavior? Because it probably is.

Soren Kaplan 8:26
Absolutely. And you know, there’s, there’s hidden strengths and all of us. And at an individual level, we’re talking right now about how we look kind of at our own experiences, what are the what are the most impactful experiences that we’ve had? And how have they given us strengths or limited us in some way, but this applies to, you know, if you’re running a team or leading an organization at Craxi software company that I run, a woman came to me, she was 22, no work experience, and hadn’t gone to college. And she’s like, I want to I want an internship, I want an opportunity. I’m like, Well, what have you done? She turns out, she moved from from the US to Israel, and she was in middle school, she had to adapt to the culture or the language. She then joined the military for a year but then decided to do another year because they offered her leadership position, kind of leading a battalion. And I asked her how does she learn how to lead in the military? And she said she had to figure it out. And then she had just gotten back from six months traveling in India alone. So that told me this, this young woman had incredible an adaptive at a she was able to be really adaptable and whatever she was doing, she, you know, was able to understand different cultures. And we brought her on as an intern. Now she’s running a product group with a global team and Africa and Europe in the US and just in killing it and So being able to decipher and hire out of the box and see people skills outside of their traditional resumes, which is so important today, because so many young people are finding different alternative routes, there’s just a lot of opportunity to look at experiential intelligence in team building, in hiring, in personal and leadership development, and the list goes on.

george grombacher 10:26
That makes a ton of sense. You know, the amazing that that any human being could do with that person did, but that a young person was able to do what she did. And now it’s translated into success in the role that she’s with your company doesn’t make it makes all sense in the world. And that really, is that that’s absolute gold, that if you hadn’t asked those questions, then you would have never recognized it and identified it. So how do I figure out? Is, is? Is it fruitful? To figure out how I how I identify these in, in myself?

Soren Kaplan 11:06
Yeah, the, the best way, I think, to start out is really to ask yourself a few questions. And there’s a really simple way to approach it, then there’s a little bit more advanced way. But the simple way is, ask yourself, what are the most impactful, poignant, powerful experiences that I’ve had in my life, and they can be big, but they can also be little things, I call them visceral experiences, things that draw up some type of a positive emotion or maybe negative emotion, and look at the ways they impacted you. And I oftentimes just encourage people look, how did they give you strengths? What did you get out of these things? Even if they’re maybe challenging or negative, like, so what are my experiences? What did I get out of them? What are the strengths, and take a little inventory? The next step there, though, is if you want to go deeper, you can say, how did they impact how I think my mindsets? And then how did they shape what I’ve done in life, my abilities and my skills. And so you can kind of do a little bit of inventory there. And I always encourage people to share what they’re thinking with someone else they trust. So you know, if it’s a coach, or if it’s a mentor, or if it’s a therapist, or if it’s just a, you know, your your life partner, whatever, whoever it is, having somebody reflect back to you how you perceive yourself is an incredible opportunity to build a deeper relationship and see yourself in a new light so that you can draw out the things maybe that you want to work on, and the strengths you want to leverage.

george grombacher 12:50
Yeah, I think that, that that’s a wonderful process. So thank you for sharing that. And each step, I think that when you actually do that, you’ll have a wonderful experience, and understand why each one of those steps in that chain are really, really important. We live in a time where, you know, I think that there’s a perception that that we’re celebrating victimhood, and, you know, the worst thing that ever happened to you is the worst thing that ever happened to you. I tend to look at that, as I’m sorry that that happened. But then what, what did you learn from that? And how is that serving you? Or? Or is it at all? How does that play in?

Soren Kaplan 13:31
I think it plays in very well. You know, whatever. The victim hood, mindset one has, if you have it is a belief about yourself, other people or the world. And that’s what a mindset is, it’s your attitudes and beliefs. And so, you know, you if you look at the experiences that you’ve had, and in a great example, I cite this in my book, Oprah wrote a book, what happened to you, and she wrote it with a guy who’s a neuroscientist. And it’s, it’s about recognizing things happen in life. It’s not that I’m a bad person. It’s not that there are, you know, there are deficits with me. It’s that something happened. I responded to it. I coped with whatever it was, and maybe my coping mechanisms, the street smarts I developed early on aren’t serving me. Now. Can I look at that, and recognize what’s maybe getting in my way of being able to move forward with a more positive growth mindset, rather than a fixed limited mindset. And there’s a lot of research behind, you know, from a neuroscience standpoint and a mindset research standpoint, coming out of Stanford that talks about how do you really leverage a new way of thinking about yourself out other people about the world so that you can have more agency you can have it I recognize that you are more in control of your future. And so that’s, you know that there’s a that victimhood concept that you mentioned. Yeah, that it is out there. But it’s also can, competing with growth mindsets and positive psychology, there’s just there’s so much out there that we have an opportunity to tap into to, to really take a positive view of possibility.

george grombacher 15:28
Yeah, I think that that’s really well said. And I think that personal agency is one of the most important things that we have, and one of the most valuable things that we have. So the more we can foster that, probably the better. And, obviously, you talked about how important it is to share this with somebody else and have them reflected back. Because we are inside our own jars, we can’t read the label, we all have blind spots, and especially when it comes to these seminal experiences in our lives, probably even more so.

Soren Kaplan 16:00
Absolutely. Sometimes the seminal experiences, if they’re difficult ones, can leave us with self limiting mindset that we’re not fully aware of you talked about being in our own jar, yeah. And talking to other people and connecting with other people allows us to step outside the jar with them and look in and take a little bit more of an objective view of what you know how others see us. I’m all for taking a strengths based positive psychology view of this to say, what are the strengths we bring another just quick example, I was working with a fortune 1000 company, we we I was working with an organization and a team that had never come together before in person, they’d hired a bunch of people during COVID. And we brought people together, and basically had a simple homework assignment assignment to say, walk in the room with a list of the top three things that have shaped you in your life, and the strengths they gave to you. And we had people sharing it, some people didn’t know each other. So they were just meeting for the first time, we had it focused on strengths. But even even though it was focused on things, people are getting emotional, they’re sharing challenging experiences, that gave them strengths. And then this group was able to share and build such rapport very quickly. Because they’re being vulnerable. They’re sharing their stories, they’re sharing, you know, challenges. And then they also were able to extrapolate, here’s what we’re good at. Okay, let’s create this list of assets, this list of competencies and capabilities that we can now leverage for innovation, for leadership development, for, you know, achieving, you know, driving our projects forward, whatever it was. And so, we all have an opportunity to, to help other people draw it out in themselves, and draw it out in our selves. At the same time, there’s, it’s a very kind of mutually beneficial activity if you decide to be vulnerable, and share. So we all have those strengths in us, the opportunity is to help, you know, look at ourselves differently, and perhaps help other people look at themselves differently and it deepens relationships, creates greater rapport and community. And, you know, helps everyone I think, advance their mindsets to elevate what they’re trying to achieve.

george grombacher 18:30
What a huge opportunity, and what a huge team building opportunity. I was just listening to somebody talk about how fitness is a really great team building opportunity. And it 100% is, but this would be such a powerful thing. And especially if the leader of the organization is it’s probably the linchpin of all of it, if they’re willing to say, Hey, this is these are the things that I’ve gone through and what I’ve learned and how I’ve struggled and made it a hate the term safe space. So I’m but made it a safe space for everybody else to do that, what kind of connections you could make,

Soren Kaplan 19:08
you know, leaders do set the tone. And that’s where role playing if you’re a leader role modeling, a little bit of openness, vulnerability, creating what’s known as psychological safety for people to share. And so leaders really have an opportunity to do that. And that’s a leader in business, but it’s a leader in the community. It’s a leader in your family how this this concept of experiential intelligence applies to life, really. And so whether it’s education, and whether it’s it’s psychology, whether whether it’s in your family, in business, we all are having experiences all the time. They’re shaping us and we are also creating experiences for other people all the time through how we show up and our behavior. Sometimes it’s formalized if you’re a leader in a team. Other times it’s informal, if you’re just in your family or you’re just, you know, kind of operating in a community organization, but people are taking cues from you, and you are impacting other people all the time. And so it’s this constant cycle and interaction. And, you know, we have an opportunity to show up, demonstrate, you know, kind of that vulnerability and help others, you know, respond to us in a way that that brings out their strengths as well.

george grombacher 20:29
I love it. Well, Sauron. Thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with you? And most importantly, where can they get their copy of experiential intelligence harness the power of experience for personal and business breakthroughs?

Soren Kaplan 20:43
My websites, Soren And you can download the first chapter of the book right there. And it also comes with a full toolkit. I’ve made the book and experience also a QR code at the top of every chapter where there’s a video intro where I provided the backstory of the chapter. That’s a whole toolkit to do a lot of what I’ve we’ve been just talking about in terms of all the tools and templates to, to tap into your exert spiritual intelligence.

george grombacher 21:16
Awesome. Well, if you enjoy this, as much as I did show saw on your appreciation and shared today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to Soren So r e n k p l, a And pick up your copy of the book. But the very least if you’re, if you’re curious about it, download that free first chapter and check it out, and then take advantage of that toolkit. I think it’s such a cool time right now that we’re living through how people are being innovative with how we consume books and materials. So I think it’s great that you’ve got that QR code that does the video introduction to each chapter. Awesome. Thanks, good, sir. Thank you, George. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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