Building your “Organisational IQ”

Matt Lyon

Matt Lyon

Head of Consulting and Global Partner

You know that feeling when someone uses a phrase that so perfectly connects so many concepts together for you that, when you’re later asked to define it, you find yourself using the exact same words in the definition?

That phrase for me was “Organisational IQ.

12 years ago, a senior leader who had recently joined a large professional services firm said, “I’m still building my Organisational IQ” …and it instantly made perfect sense to me.

At the time they defined it using two questions:

“Do you know what we do as an organisation?”

“Who do you know that you could reach out to?”

I have later found that other people also use the phrase more holistically to mean the collective knowledge of the organisation, the formal and the informal systems and networks that connect people to the information, knowledge and wisdom contained therein. 

Why does Organisational IQ matter?

As a leader, why should you encourage people to focus on their Organisational IQ?

Individuals: For anyone looking to take the next step in their career, whether you are a high-potential contributor or an existing leader, it is important to broaden your strategic understanding outside of your silo and build your own network and visibility.

Teams: Teams with higher Organisational IQ perform better, have better information transfer between team members and collaborate more seamlessly.

Organisations: If culture is defined as “the way we do things around here,” then Organisational IQ is how we transfer those written and unwritten rules throughout the organisation. If we want to drive change effectively, we need to master the speed and connectedness of that system to our advantage.

What are the elements of Organisational IQ?

Going back to the original two questions from that senior leader, we can articulate the elements of Organisational IQ as follows:

1) What do you know about what the organisation does, outside of your area of expertise?

(e.g., do you know what the other divisions actually do, or that we have an office in Cambodia, or that there is a special product set in Malaysia, that someone recently created a proprietary solution in the London office, or New York has built a new platform that clients love, etc.?)

2) Who do you know that you could reach out to, if needed?

(e.g., do you have a relationship in New York you could call up to discuss the platform, who could connect you with someone in Malaysia, etc.? You don’t need all the details about everyone… you just need the extended intelligence built into your network.)

…or more simply put:

Organisational IQ =  What We Do  +  Who You Know

Over the years we at Arcadia we have worked with clients around their Organisational IQ and, in addition to the above two factors, we have started to include a third element:

3) Who knows you? …and what do they know you for?

For the system to work you also need to contribute to it, not just take from it.  If you think about this from the perspective of other stakeholders, you could ask: How many people would include you in their Organisational IQ? What value do you offer the wider organisation? How have you shared that with others and what would they reach out to you for?

This third element can amplify (or in its absence, negate) the previous two elements.

In other words, the “who knows you” element is a multiplier:

Organisational IQ =  (What We Do  +  Who You Know) Who Knows You

Tips to Build your own Organisational IQ:

  • Be “intellectually curious and intellectually generous” (ht: Scott Clark). Be fascinated by what other people do, don’t hesitate to take an opportunity to understand their world better – but also be generous with your own information and time, find more opportunities to give than to take.
  • Figure out what you offer the collective IQ and make sure you present your strengths back to the system. Be clear “What do you want to be known for?”
  • Work smarter not harder – find the “super-connectors” in your organisation, these are the natural networkers – it’s an impossible task to maintain relationships with everyone so choose wisely.
  • Remember relationships are like bank accounts, at the beginning we can only withdraw what we deposit, so how are you adding to your relationship balance. If you don’t make a deposit in an account for a long time it will eventually be shut down, and once shut they are much harder to open again.

As a final thought, just like IQ can be enhanced through mental practice, so too is there an opportunity to build your Organisational IQ every day.

I feel very strongly that as new people join our team across the globe, bringing their diversity of experience and backgrounds, as we solve new people problems for clients and as we seek to drive change in our own organisation and for others, I am constantly reminded to be like that senior leader I met 12 years ago and say, “I’m still building my Arcadia IQ.”

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