Opinion: Why Corporations must invest in Spiritual Intelligence


By Dr. Andrew L. Thorn

The French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin once said, “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” This quote inspires me. It gives me great hope and purpose. It generates meaning in a world where meaning is sometimes difficult to make.

Unfortunately, the topic of spirituality is often considered taboo in our society. It is especially taboo inside the corporate world. Much care is taken to avoid it. We are afraid to open the topic because of its close relation with religion.

I want to break the taboo and speak openly about spirituality. It is a guiding force in my life. Because it can be a very intangible topic it is difficult to define what it really is. Spirituality is an enlightened focus on who we really are. It helps us understand the purpose of our existence and to see things as they really are.

Because most levels of our society openly measure our individual usefulness by what we do, we are often blinded by an extreme focus on producing results. Our obsession with doing is so powerful that it nearly consumes us, leaving little energy left to ponder the true nature of our being. Yet the true power behind what we do, is in knowing who we are.

Corporate training courses consistently focus on teaching the knowledge, skills and abilities people need in order to successfully do the work required. Great value is also placed upon one’s ability to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of self and others.

It is very important for the corporate world to continue to provide training for the development of cognitive and emotional intelligence. Cognitive intelligence is about thinking. Emotional intelligence is about feeling. Spiritual intelligence is about being. Cutting edge corporations are now starting to focus some of their training resources on helping their people become their best.

If you Google the term “emotional intelligence” you will find over 3.2 million hits. The term “cognitive intelligence” yields 1.8 million. Spiritual Intelligence yields only 230,000, suggesting that the field is now in an emerging state and yet to be fully defined. Much work is needed to integrate this type of development into the corporate university’s curriculum. To truly understand the whole meaning of spiritual intelligence, we must examine its parts.

The word intelligent is derived from the Latin word intellegere, which means to perceive or understand; further back, it comes from inter– andlegere, which means to choose, select, or gather.

When we develop spiritual intelligence we enjoy an increased ability to pick out the actions, experiences, beliefs, and values that create greater meaning and purpose in our lives. This power of discernment expands our ability to understand our eternal natures. As we come to know who we really are, the great questions of life come into focus and we find ourselves aligned with divine purpose and legacy.

The shiny prizes of the world including its pleasures, power, praise, money, and preeminence—have always been and always will be attractive. They are not enough. Those that reach the top, often find a dull world devoid of meaning. The sacrifice to gain what the world has to offer proves time and time again to be too steep a price to pay. Too many have discovered too late in life that the pursuit of doing at the expense of being yields only loneliness and despair.

The question of what is this human life experience really all about is answered by and through the development of spiritual intelligence. Its focus on personal meaning making insures that individuals know what they want, and that they know who they are. This enables the spiritually intelligent individual to clearly express what they want to the organization. An organization that focuses some of its resources on the development of spiritual intelligence sends a clear message to its employee base that it cares about each person as individuals. One of our clients recently told us that after he reached a certain point on the corporate latter, the organization stopped caring about him as an individual and became solely focused on the results he was expected to deliver. Many others have expressed the same. Of course the organization would deny this, but that does not change that it is the message many organizations are sending.

A person who possesses high levels of spiritual intelligence easily identifies with his or her Higher Self or Spirit rather than with the ego. They have less need to seek after their own interests. This fosters the capacity to serve and develop others. What would the impact on an organization be if its employees became so fully developed that they were able to put aside the question “what’s in it for me?” and started asking “what can I do to help develop others?”

Another benefit of spiritual development is a new standard of personal accountability. Spiritual Intelligence encourages a person to take 100% responsibility for life, current situations, and self. This means no blaming!

Nearly every organization I work with is concerned about developing higher levels of accountability. A spiritually intelligent person is empowered with a greater capacity for problem solving. It is natural for them to cope better with stressful situations because they know that what they are doing is only what they do and not who they are. As a result they are freer to act and be, which results in greater productivity and engagement.

Each of us is blessed with a mind, a body, and a spirit—all interconnected and when developed demonstrate that the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts. In the same way we can look at our intelligences.

The corporate world continues to focuses the majority of its training resources on the development of cognitive intelligence. A larger investment has been made in recent years to develop emotional intelligence, but investments in the development of spiritual intelligence continue to lag far behind.

To attract the best people and truly excel in today’s competitive marketplace companies must understand that integration of intellect with emotional and spiritual growth produces the complete and whole person.

“Health,” “wholeness,” and “healing” all come from the same root. All of these come about because of who we are and not because of what we do. We encourage you to look for ways during this New Year to develop and use all of your talents. To be spiritually intelligent is to be fully engaged in becoming the best you – because it facilitates your ability to know exactly who the best you is.

The American poet Haniel Long wrote, “each of us is a being in himself and a being in society, each of us needs to understand himself and understand others, take care of others and be taken care of himself.” Spiritual Intelligence allows us to do that and so much more.


Dr. Andrew Thorn is the founder of Telios Corporation and creator of The Telios Experience™.  He holds a PhD in Consulting Psychology, a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching, and a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University.