The Third Decade of Emotional Intelligence


In 1990, the science of emotional intelligence was launched with an intriguing paper by Peter Salovey and John Mayer.  Where conventional thinking says emotions are in the way of thinking, they suggested that, perhaps, emotions could assist thinking if used effectively.  Fueled in large part by Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book on the subject, we saw a wide and deep interest in the first decade to discover the meaning of this powerful concept (here is an article on the origins of emotional intelligence, interviewing Dan Goleman & Peter Salovey). 

In the 2000s, the concept was widely known, but yet unproven.  This second decade was a period of validation, where we learned that emotional intelligence is correlated with a wide variety of valuable outcomes in business, in education, and in life.  Dozens and dozens of research studies in this decade showed EQ predicts leadership effectiveness, sales, customer service, financial wellbeing, career progression, academic achievement, health, relationships, and positive behaviors.  While research is ongoing, by 2010 the case was well established.

What will the third decade bring?  In the past, initiatives on emotional intelligence were significant, but limited in scope.  They tended to focus on a pilot group — leaders were testing the concept.  In the last few years, we’ve seen more and more organizations integrating emotional intelligence into the fabric of their operation as a key to competitive advantage.  Just one example: we recently published the Amadori Case, a 3-year study showing the effects of making emotional intelligence a central part of organizational strategy.

The first NexusEQ Conference was held in 2000.  At that conference, the concept was new to many participants — and a major question was:  How do we define emotional intelligence?  By the 2005 NexusEQ Conference in Holland, the theme had shifted, and many presentations focused on how to measure the value of EI.  It’s powerful, today, to see the agenda of the 7th NexusEQ Conference — to be held at the Harvard Medical School Conference Center on June 24-26, 2013.  There are over 50 cases.  This is not a situation of “early exploration.”  We’re seeing a wide and deep application of this breakthrough concept.

As Daniel Goleman wrote yesterday, emotional intelligence has come of age.

This third decade of emotional intelligence is about application.  

Using the science and practice to create positive change — and on the agenda we can see this happening in remarkable ways.  From worldwide implementation at FedEx, to in-depth integration into elementary schools and universities, to transforming addiction, to saving the environment:  Emotional intelligence is the difference that makes the difference.  

These are foundational skills for human interaction, so in this third decade we’ll see emotional intelligence woven more deeply and powerfully into the fabric of our institutions and lives. It’s time not just to know, or to value, but to practice.


Thank you to Tanabe Yasuhiro, the Managing Director of Six Seconds Japan. Preparing for a presentation together, Tanabe-san raised this important point about the evolution of our work.

About the author - Joshua Freedman

Joshua is one of the world’s preeminent experts on developing emotional intelligence to create positive change. With warmth and authenticity, he translates leading-edge science into practical, applicable terms that improve the quality of relationships to unlock enduring success. Joshua leads the world’s largest network of emotional intelligence practitioners and researchers.

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Comments for this article (10)

  • K OQ says:


  • HI Joshua, I was recently forwarded a link to a webinar you produced for/with Richard Boyatzis… it is wonderful content and a serendipitous way for me to have “reconnected” with your work and the visionary mission of 6 Seconds the organization.

    Following the Boyatzis webinar, I was called to learn more about the upcoming NexusEQ event. From there I found my way to this post – the internet is a wonderful thing! It is exhilarating to read your commentary and that of Daniel Goleman re: the EQ “movement” now entering a stage of application. Scaling reach and understanding will lead to increased application and hopefully a tipping point in adoption within education/learning systems and organizations.

    The reflective and forward thinking perspectives of your post reminded me of an interview I hosted with our mutual friend and thought leader in Social & Emotional Learning (SEL), Dr. Maurice Elias. Perhaps you and readers will appreciate the history, trends, and references presented in this video…


    Keep up the great work and best wishes for a spectacular and enlightening NexusEQ at Harvard in June!
    Christopher De MIchele

    • Joshua Freedman says:

      Thanks so much Christopher, I appreciate the post and “meeting” another fellow EQ ally. I like Mo’s work a lot, and I’m looking forward to the video.

  • Jindy Hayre says:

    Looking forward to hearing and seeing more organisations apply emotional intelligence at every level and area of business, education and health to promote happy, generous and fulfilled human beings!
    Joining to spread the word :-)
    All the best.

    • Joshua Freedman says:

      Thank for the commitment Jindy – my sense is that more and more organizational leaders are FEELING the benefits… and as a result, are committing to make emotional intelligence more integrated into their own leadership… and their organizational culture. Maybe I’m unrealistically optimistic, but over the last 15 yrs in this work, I see a changing tide.

  • bbanublog says:

    hope Emotional Intelligence will sooner and widely be accepted as a subject curriculum in school studies so that at younger age itself, we will find kids developing a positive attitude in their personality qwhicxh shall bring about a peaceful and healthy society and cultural reform

    • I’m optimistic that many committed, passionate educators around the world are seeing the results of decades of research on EQ and SEL in schools and beginning to demand it, implement it, and continue to evaluate it. Also, we’re learning that, as with all else, it starts within–educators, before they do any EQ with kids, need to increase their own competencies. Come find out more at the Six Seconds EQ Educator Certification, June 27-28, post-Nexus conference in Boston.

  • foundryguy2012 says:

    Great summary of where this started and where it is going. We struggle with many people that consider this junk science. We have practised and tested people’s emotional intelligence for years and I can tell you that it makes a dramatic impact on businesses when applied properly.

  • maggie williams says:

    The 6seconds vision is truly visionary and when such a vision comes from such a heart based intention, It cannot fail to manifest. It will be interesting so see when the ‘tipping point’ is reached, and then witness all the truly wonderful global shifts in behaviours that we will all clearly feel on many levels.

    Very exciting!

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