recap1260 change makers.  80 presenters.  50 cases.  32 countries.  3 days overflowing with sparks for positive change: NexusEQ at Harvard!

It’s nearly impossible to distill the meaning and power of this experience – I felt vibrantly awake.  Deeply connected.  Challenged.  Invigorated.  Full of wonder and hope and possibility and stress!  Here are a few highlights.  I can’t begin to capture all the insights, so this is just a first pass… I hope other conference attendees will share more in the comments — and hopefully we’ll have a DVD available soon 🙂 

audiencePerhaps the most significant “take away” from the conference had nothing to do with the “content.”  At the opening, I read the list of 32 countries, and asked the participants to stand as I read their home.  “32” is meaningless on it’s own, but country after country, the applause got louder, and the sense of connection amplified.  We are a network of deeply committed change makers, and we are together.  We belong.


It’s Time to Step Up

In the opening, I issued a challenge.  We’re in a precarious place.  Environmentally.  Economically.  Educationally.  The fabric of our societies are fragile, and we’re not moving quickly enough toward sustainable thriving.  At the same time, we can see positive change ALL over the world.  It’s time to dig deeper.

jf1We’ve set this vision:  1 billion people practicing the skills of emotional intelligence by 2039.  Maybe absolutely impossible, but what if?

And if we’re going to play the match, and do our best to see this come to life, we’re all going to have to reach a little further. 


@missahenkorah: Emotions spark change! @eqjosh

@DavidRCory: “Something is catalyzed when we connect with purpose” @eqjosh

@6SecondsEU: What if…1 billion people were practicing EQ by 2039? What would be different?


Calling All Change Makers

jensen1In the first keynote, Anabel Jensen reiterated the urgency of change, and reminded us that it’s in times of adversity and challenge that leaders step forward, and those leaders can be 5 years old or 95.

Anabel offered six ingredients every change maker needs, and her six commitments to keep practicing; first:  I can only change myself.  Imagine the world if we each were to develop the awareness and skills to take full responsibility for our own choices!

Another key point: If we’re not willing to stretch, even when it’s hard, we will not reach our potential.  She shared data about change, the power of role-modeling, the importance of connection – and the essential lesson of optimism.  Often it’s in the most difficult of situations where we also see the best in human beings.


jensen2As usual, Anabel engaged us to explore and consider and recommit – not someday, but now.  In small groups we identified the next steps that are critical for each of us.



@6SecondsEU: “You get up and make it work…and you do it with love.” @AnabelJensen

@CoachBanu: “I’ll never assume what the other person needs or wants. I will ask.” @AnabelJensen

@jenn_lofgren: Perseverance… Everyone can have a goal despite the most challenging circumstances – never give up! @anabeljensen


Negotiating with Emotions

shapiro1Daniel Shapiro gave a powerful keynote on finding our way through those challenges.  With humanity and humility (sharing some of his “low EQ moments” as a husband and father), his key point:  Emotions are driven by needs.  When “big emotions” come in, rather than ignoring, we have an opportunity to use the emotion as a signal of an important need.  By addressing the need, we go to the heart of the challenge.

One example:  Before they were married, Dan asked his then-girlfriend to watch his apartment.  Mia took the opportunity to redecorate.  On return, Dan started to un-decorate.  Lots of emotions… signaling a need for autonomy, a basic human desire to have SOME measure of control.

The lesson:  ACBD.  Always Consult Before Deciding.

They seem to have solved this challenge, because Dan brought their 7-3/4-year-old son Noah to share his advice on solving conflict:  Pause.  Take a breath.  Say you’re sorry.  Next argument, maybe we should all start there?  Dan’s work in international diplomacy shows us the urgency of this work on a global scale, but in the end, between individuals or nations, the challenges are much the same – and SEEING one another is an essential step.



Related Tweets:

@eqjosh: To appreciate: understand perspective, find merit in it, communicate that. Daniel Shapiro

@jenn_lofgren: How to address autonomy: ACBD Always Consult Before Deciding – Dan Shapiro

@6SecondsEU: In negotiation address one of the five core concerns…appreciation, autonomy. Affiliation, role, status…Dan Shapiro #NexusEQ

@eqjosh: Single deadliest mistake in negotiation is to assume a win-lose situation. Shift energy to me And you. Daniel Shapiro

@staciecgreen: All youth should be explicitly trained in negotiation with Daniel Shapiro. Can I have a teenage redo

@eqjosh: To deal with issues, even with ‘enemies’: build relationship then ask other person’s advice. From Roger Fisher, Daniel Shapiro




Celebrating Emotional Intelligence

At the end of the first day, we had our “EQ Fair,” which was one of my favorite parts of the conference.  24 “stations” with learning activities.  String trio. Hors d’oeuvres. 260 fabulous new friends.  Life is good!


This self-directed adventure of learning, fueled by social engagement, allowed all of us to connect with new ideas, powerful tools, each other, and ourselves.  As we learned later in the conference, this is actually one of the most powerful combinations for our brains!


What I particularly loved about this afternoon was juxtaposition of a rich learning environment and autonomy.  It brings me back to the points Dan Shapiro raised about negotiating effectively — this was an afternoon where people could fulfill their needs for autonomy, belonging, achievement, etc. 




Wired to Connect

Marco Iacoboni kicked off day 2 with a wonderfully in-depth session on the science of empathy, imagination, and change.  He shared a great deal of data, here are three key points:


1.  We are wired to connect.  We literally map one another’s experiences in our own brains – and at a cellular level we are constantly predicting what others intend.  It’s not just mimicry, it’s evaluation.


2.  For some time, we’ve heard about Type 1 and Type 2 brain processes – as Daniel Kahneman wrote in Thinking Fast and Slow.  The Type 1 processes are “quick and dirty,” and mirror neurons are heavily implicated in tuning into the data around us.  Type 2 processes are slower and based on weighing, reflecting, considering.  While there is some “competition” between these two systems, Iacoboni shared research they actually work because we have both.  Wisdom is about the integration of different aspects of mind.


3.  Learning is a process of connecting.  New synapses form.  Neural networks re-arrange.  While “ideas” are fascinating, it’s our social brain that really drives learning – fueled by imagination and empathy.  In fact, if we imagine ourselves as the topic of learning (in this picture, learning about how the internet sends data), his research shows that our brains activate more powerfully.



Related Tweets:

@6SecondsEU: If u want to understand something- imagine being that something- empathy!

@maxghini: Imagination is not a way to loose time but It’s a way to use all your brain’s potential!

@DavidRCory: Very cool, Marco Iacoboni explaining how emotions are contagious through mirror neurons #nexuseq

@eqjosh: Imagination is a kind of offline system of what happens in real life. Essential for empathy and learning! @marcoiacoboni

@eqjosh: The brain is built for interaction. Traditional classrooms are all wrong for the way the brain learns. @marcoiacoboni


wagner1How Does Innovation Develop?

Tony Wagner gave a compelling case for transforming learning – at school and work.  He found innovators around the world, and tracked down their most influential teachers and interviewed them! Bad news: almost all these educators-of-innovators were “outliers” who did not fit into their schools – but they have a number of powerful themes in common. The bottom line:  Traditional education is the opposite of what actually fuels innovation.


One key change that’s needed:  Focus on passion, purpose, and play.  Put less attention on “achieving” and more on fun.  Give kids, and adults, the opportunity to deeply engage in what matters to them – not because “it’s on the test” (which has 0 correlation with real-world performance), but because it’s meaningful and exciting.


Related Tweets:

wagner2@DavidRCory: Every single significant teacher in the lives of successful people were outliers who taught differently, Tony Wagner

@stevegarfield: Problem identification is more important than problem solving. @DrTonyWagner

@jimeagen: Want to create an innovator? Shift your view as a parent and allow for play, passion and purpose. Schedule less, bring in whimsy

@eqjosh: What skills will young people need to get & keep a job & be good citizens? What skills matter most in today’s world? @DrTonyWagner

@stevegarfield: “Adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills.” @DrTonyWagner

@eqjosh: How many of you learned more from your failures than successes? Self-reflection required @DrTonyWagner

@jimeagen: What went wrong with the American Dream? #1: 70 % of our GDP is driven by consumer spending. Debt. This isn’t sustainable.

@eqjosh: Future of our economy needs to be based on innovation, not consumption @DrTonyWagner

@jimeagen: From Tony Wagner: “How much can a computer scored, multiple choice test tell us about anything to do with learning? Nothing.”

@6SecondsEU: Collaboration requires deep appreciation of culture & capacity to empathise. Tony Wagner

@riyaadseecharan: This is one of the most compelling keynotes I have attended.  Play, passion, purpose are keys to life. With @coachbanu in Boston.

@stevegarfield: What gets tested is what gets taught.  @DrTonyWagner

@stevegarfield: Innovators want to make a difference, more than wanting to make a lot of money. @DrTonyWagner 


Change is Opportunity

Myles Munroe shared his inspiring story of coming from poverty, finding spiritual truth, and being driven to make a difference.  He reminded us that just as each of us are here in this world to make a difference, so too are our business and institutions.  Money is a means to track business value, but it’s not what’s truly valuable in itself.


As change leaders, our job is to lead… and to embrace change.  That requires a special kind of courage based on deep conviction.


Related Tweets

munroe2@stevegarfield: The greatest source of disappointment in life is the expectation of things to remain the same.  @MylesMounroe1

@6SecondsEU: What would happen if you think opportunity when u hear the word crisis? @mylesmunroe #NexusEQ

@richthinking1: Initiate change and you can control it. Dr Myles Munroe.

@DavidRCory: “You came to earth to make a difference and you still owe us” Dr Myles Munroe

@6SecondsEU: The greatest protection against change is to expect it. @mylesmunroe1

stevegarfield Steve Garfield The greatest protection against disappointment is the expectation of CHANGE.  @MylesMounroe1

@stevegarfield: An expert is someone who has stopped thinking because they believe they know enough.  @MylesMounroe1

@stevegarfield Steve Garfield Chinese word for “crisis” @MylesMounroe1 #factcheck

@stevegarfield: Great leaders never seeks followers, followers are attracted to them.   @MylesMounroe1


Emotional Intelligence Drives Business

Among the many outstanding breakouts and panels, one of the most exciting was a discussion on emotional intelligence and business.  Outstanding panelists:

  • Shannon Brown, SVP, Chief HR & Diversity, FedEx Express
  • Melkart Rouhana, former Corporate Director of Global Learning, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
  • Elizabeth Priestman, Chief Marketing Officer, Fuse Powered Inc.
  • Caron Harris, CEO, Forward African Transport Services
  • Jean Dyer, Interim Dean, Division Health Sciences, Mass Bay Community College
  • Richard Hazeltine, Tech Leadership Development Manager, Zappos IP, Inc.
  • Hajj Flemings, Founder of Brand Camp University


A few key points:

  • You can’t innovate from a spreadsheet.  Creativity & change come from human connection – and emotion.
  • We have serious challenges and problems to solve: we need to bring all our capabilities to the floor, including the skills to build coalition across boundaries.
  • Influence is made from emotional connections.
  • Today there is a lot of “clutter” in the market and in our daily lives.  To cut through, we need a clear emotional connection to what’s important.
  • Passion is the “secret” ingredient that takes leaders toward meaningful success.
  • Successful business people see the value of building relationships.
  • Self-awareness is a central responsibility of leadership.



Related Tweets

@DavidRCory: This is about being a better human being #nexuseq

@6SecondsEU: EQ predicts 47% of individuals performance…Amadori case 2013. #NexusEQ

@FusePowered: @ZapposStyle @RitzCarlton @FedEx & Fuse: EQ Panel at Harvard University today! Why is EQ Important In Business?

@eqjosh: 7million packages to load & unload in 5 hour window, 290k employees — why FedEx is teaching emotional intelligence to leaders…

@eqjosh: FedEx priorities in order: 1. People.  2. Service. 3. Profit.  Why EQ matters.  Jimmy Daniel

@DavidRCory: Lauris Woolford, care for employees by coaching for development vs coaching for compliance

@HajjFlemings: The EQ in business panel at the #nexuseq Emotional Intelligence Conference! @nlharvard




What Does it Take to Lead Change?

Here are a few insights from six founders of organizations creating positive change around the globe.  An incredibly diverse group, they shared insights on their goals and challenges as change makers.

How do you sustain yourself?  Be self-aware.  Connect with your purpose.  See the change – watch people shift.  Renew yourself emotionally, physically, spiritually.  Build a great team including allies and mentors.


Related Tweets:

@6SecondsEU: Being a change agent… knowing its going to be difficult and being okay with that.

change2@BrentDarnell: Emma Freedman did an awesome job! What a remarkable young woman. Check out

@eqjosh: What helps me stay on track with vision? Really knowing myself. Fran Johnson

@eqjosh: What sustains me as a changemaker? Relationships. Optimism. Mentors. Team.


We Connect to Learn

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang’s presentation was stunning (and ended with a rousing standing ovation).  She’s a neuroscientist doing fMRI imaging about the role of emotion in learning – and her presentation is truly a role model of emotion in learning.  Head + Heart.  Three key points:imordino-1

1.  Our social brains, where we process emotion and connection, are “built on” brain areas that regulate our bodies and other basic survival functions.  When we talk about “gut feel,” guess what?  The part of our brains giving us signals about social connection are also regulating our viscera.  Gives new meaning to “visceral reaction,” right?

2.  As we heard from Iacoboni, the brain areas responsible for reflection on self & others seem are suppressed when we are focusing attention outward.  Emotional awareness & empathy are inhibited to “focus” outward, and visa versa. Immordino-Yang showed us these 2 brain areas, and made a potentially huge observation:  In a society where we’re HIGHLY stimulating this external-focus brain area, the reflective brain area is probably not developing fully.

3. Our brain’s systems for learning are based on social interaction.  Even the most technical information is turned into learning through the very same neurological processes that infants use to engage with their mothers.  It’s not just that social interaction improves learning:  In an absolutely fundamental way, learning occurs because of the importance our brains place on social connection.

 Here’s her free online course on neuroscience for educators.

imordino-2Related Tweets:

@6SecondsEU: Our biology is inherently a social one. Dr. Immordino-Yang

@DavidRCory: Inspiration is admiration for virtue and is embodied in the same neuro systems as our sense of self and changes our physiology

@riyaadseecharan Listening to the neuroscience of learning. #heaven

@eqjosh: Cognition & emotion are actually two simultaneous aspects of the same thought.  Dr. Immordino-Yang

@HajjFlemings: Listening to Dr. Immordino-Yang tell an impactful story at #nexuseq

@eqjosh: Physical & emotional pain play in the same neurological structures that work to keep us alive.  Dr. Immordino-Yang

@DavidRCory: We literally cannot live without social relationships

@eqjosh: What does really effective empathy look like?  A many-faceted mirror taking many perspectives at once.  Dr. Immordino-Yang

@eqjosh: The connections across massively interconnected brain cells are constantly changing = learning. Dr. Immordino-Yang

@jenn_lofgren: We cannot live without social relationships as evidenced by the Bucharest Intervention Project – Dr. Immordino-Yang #NexusEQ

@eqjosh: Empathic relational mechanisms in infant-mom interaction is basis of all learning. Dr. Immordino-Yang

@6SecondsEU: Art & science innovation from our unique ability to have empathic relation to ideas. Dr Immordino-Yang

@eqjosh: We bring passion to learning by forming an empathic connection w ideas. Dr. Immordino-Yang

@6SecondsEU: Our thoughts are inherently an emotional process. Dr Immordino-Yang #NexusEQ

@eqjosh: In empathic reaction, there is a critical pause where we link current situation to our own lives. Dr. Immordino-Yang #nexuseq

@jenn_lofgren: You can’t have emotion without cognition and vice versa. It’s two dimensions of the same thought. #nexuseq  Dr. Immordino-Yang

@CoachBanu: neuroscientist M.H. Immordino-Yang: our emotions are inherently part of our cognition at #nexuseq

@jenn_lofgren: Dr. Immordino-Yang passionate and engaging on neuroscience and emotions… Wow!

@eqjosh: “Gut feeling” we literally process some compassion in brain areas that regulate viscera (guts). Dr. Immordino-Yang

@eqjosh: Our survival as a species is completely integrated with survival of one another. Dr. Immordino-Yang


Thoughts, Emotions, Physiology

bensonDr. Herbert Benson delivered one of the final keynotes.  It was truly an honor to be in the room with this person who’s done so much to shape our understanding of “mind body” medicine.  Benson spoke about the stress response, and it’s counterpart: The relaxation response.  While Benson began this work in the 1970s, the science is now even more compelling.

New research shows that stress actually changes our DNA at a cellular level, and that learning to de-stress is not just “nice to have.”  While life throws us all kinds of challenges, we have choices about how we respond.  When we don’t take those opportunities, the effects on our vitality are significant.

Key points:

Emotions are biological.  Body, mind, heart – one system.

Stress is ‘normal’ but it’s not necessary to stay in distress.

Interrupting the uncertainty, the cycle of ‘what if this happens next’ is key to reducing stress. 



It’s Time

I closed the conference presenting our research on change, and a simple, powerful truth:  While most change fails (still), we now have the insights and skills to change our experience of change.

The challenge now is to leverage this science and make it part of every community, every school, every business.


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