Multiple intelligences in the workspace

multiple intelligences

At the rate that job descriptions and industry needs can change today, employees and bosses alike are always looking for ways to improve—to ‘work smarter.’ The difference between success and failure in the workplace, however, has to do with much more than smarts: according to leading research by psychologist Howard Gardner, there are several different kinds of intelligence that we all possess in various degrees.

He classifies them into eight categories: musical, linguistic, visual/spatial, logical/mathematical, interpersonal (between people), intrapersonal (looking inside oneself), bodily/kinesthetic, and naturalist. Recent years have also added existential (thinking about the meaning of life) and ethical/moral intelligences to the list. In business, all can be used to great effect, but some are best matched to specific areas. Where do you fit? Read on to see which combination of cleverness generally goes with your expertise, and whether you agree.


Musical + Linguistic + Visual/Spatial
Employees who are involved in advertising and sales campaigns often have strong skills of expression, which are needed to attract customers and keep them interested. They might use words, images, or even music to appeal to the target audience, and those with a good aesthetic sense do particularly well in this field. Vocal communication, in this case, is just as important as written copy.


Interpersonal + Logical/Mathematical

Dealing with the public all day long, this department is filled with people who love to interact with others, and interpersonal skills help them relate to customers quickly, making valued clients feel comfortable and important. Additionally, these workers can really think on their feet, solving problems methodically in person as well as over the phone.

multiple intelligences 2


Intrapersonal + Interpersonal

Managers are also proficient in human interaction, and the best ones innately know which employees should work together and which tasks each is suited to do. Great managers, however, are also self-aware. They are able to look inwardly and predict their own reactions – an ability that helps them empathize when interdepartmental situations arise. This makes for an office that runs smoothly at every way.




Moral/Ethical + Logical/Mathematical

HR deals with the legal aspects of the business, and members of this division tend to be practical, rational, and good with numbers. They are also responsible for handling the grey areas of both employee and company behavior, and can see both sides of the story to protect everyone’s feelings and rights.


Logical/Mathematical + Visual/Spatial

multiple intelligences brainPerhaps the most technical individuals in the workplace, those who specialize in IT are born analysts, testing the technology that allows the business to function as efficiently as possible. Yet their job is more than theory, and the practical issues presented by computers and other digital systems require them to visualize where each element needs to go and what might be out of place.

There’s no exact formula for the perfect worker – we’re all intelligent in different ways, and that’s precisely what lets industry go as far as it does when a company is composed of people from all points in the spectrum. Do you agree with the formula listed above? Keep reading for target language to help you discuss your opinions.


Target Language

Employee and Self-Evaluation

I’m glad this workshop features PowerPoint. I’m more of a visual learner.

We’re looking for someone with great interpersonal skills – a real ‘people person.’

My past experience in IT has really refined my technical and logical abilities.

Past colleagues have said my musical intelligence is my greatest asset. I can think up advertising jingles on the spot.

Bodily intelligence is important for athletes, but it’s also important for navigating these busy streets to get to client meetings on time.

A sympathetic ear and a sense of realism are important assets for people in HR.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as an employee?

What qualities will help you succeed at this organization?

Several factors contribute to my success.

Ethical intelligence is an intrinsic part of this position.


Top 5

Top 5 Famous People per ‘Intelligence Type’

  1. Linguistic – William Shakespeare (invented over 1700 words)
  2. Logical/Mathematical – Alexander Graham Bell (invented the telephone)
  3. Interpersonal – Mahatma Ghandi (trail-blazed nonviolent protest)
  4. Visual/Spatial – Pablo Picasso (pushed the art world in new directions)
  5. Existential – Socrates (famously pondered all of life’s biggest questions)