Human Engineering and Emotional Intelligence for Startups

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. (Wikipedia)

human engineering VC Cafe Photo credit: By imaginedhorizons (Flickr)

On “Intelligence Is Overrated: What You Really Need To Succeed“, a research by Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that “85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Shockingly, only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge.

Question: What is Human Engineering? Answer: it goes hand in hand with Emotional Intelligence. 

In his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ“, Daniel Goleman covers in-depth  this relatively new area of research. Goleman added a new facet to how humans measure intelligence, which was previously generally viewed as a person’s IQ – a narrow metric revolving around linguistic and math skills. High IQ means that the person is likely to succeed in the classroom (or as a professor), but doesn’t imply how successful the person can be in a social setting.

Adopting the models of Emotional Intelligence to startups

Most consumer products online or on mobile, require users to either learn something new (for example, edit photos using filters at Instagram) or acquire a new habit (for example RunKeeper logging). The payoff for the user’s ‘work’ is the functionality, or the USP of the product. For example, learn how to edit photos, and you’ll be able to get votes and comments from your friends. Or take your phone on every run and you’ll be able to measure your progress. It’s a bit different in online games (like Angry Birds), where the price is ‘time’ and the payoff is ‘entertainment’, but the same principle applies. So, to build a successful product, startups need to really understand their users – what motivates them, how do they ‘work’,  what do they respond to.

Based upon Goleman’s 5 Emotional Intelligence Dimensions, I’ve outlined the five ways EQ can help you build a successful business

1) Self awareness – recognize your assets and strengths as well as your weaknesses and liabilities.  What are you good at? What’s the core of your talent and what’s the core of your business? Are you offering a product that is better/cheaper/more unique than the competition? make a copy of this Google doc template of the Business Model Canvas to re-jig who your users, collaborators, channels and business model(s). Listen to Dave McClure on how to create an unfair advantage to win the war on talent and user attention.

2) Manage your skills – building on self-awareness, focus on doing what you’re good at, but invest in developing the rest. Whether it’s speaking to mentors, or taking online courses to learn about coding mobile apps or how to pitch to investors, don’t simply outsource everything to 3rd parties. Even if you won’t end up doing it yourself, learning more will help you manage and motivate your team better, which is the next point.

3) Motivate yourself and your team – no one is going to lay out your strategy and plan for you. Set BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) based upon your strengths and your business plan. A good BHAG should be a 10 to 30 year horizon goal that is visionary,  emotionally compelling, and sets a strategic direction for the company. A few examples:

Amazon: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.

Google: Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Microsoft: A computer on every desk and in every home.

4) Understand your user – this one is all about Empathy. Think about the way that your product and service is perceived and used from the eye of the user. For example, try to register to your product. How does the process work from the eyes of the user? Make sure that you talk to users, record sessions either in a scrappy way or in a usability lab and collect plenty of feedback. This also applies to partners – whether it means co-founders or other businesses and partners you come in contact with. A few tools for collecting user-feedback from Quora:

  • Uservoice – customer support helpdesk and vote-based feedback forums
  • GetSatisfaction – all around feedback, features, bugs, praise feedback
  • Kampyle – feedback collection form and management,  widget on the corner of the web pages,
  • Tenderapp – does public facing feedback, but more of a replacement for your support email address
  • Vijul – captures support emails and publishes them for SEO juice and community building
  • SnapBug – allows you to easily chat with users while they are using your site. you can capture screen shots, save chat transcripts and get information about the browser-agent being used by the client.
  • WebEngage– allows you to collect feedback (along w/ automated screen-grab) and conduct short, targeted surveys from your site visitors.
  • Inventarium – if you are looking for an in-app mobile customer feedback solution for all major platforms.

5) Handle relationships – this is about managing your relationships up, down and sideways. Relationships with users, partners, investor and your team. Relationships is all about communication and social media. Think about how your company will handle a difficult situation and set a culture of customer service. In his book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose; A Round Table Comic, Zappos founder Tony Hse shares a ton of useful resources to make your users happy in every interaction. Try to also use a CRM system for small businesses – there’s a whole range to shop for, from SalesForce and the established SugarCRM to the newer players such as PipeDrive, HighRise.

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Emotional Intelligence also includes persistence, zeal and social deftness. Startups that can take this tools from a personal level to a company/product level are likely to excel. After all, technical knowledge will only count for 15%!

Eze Vidra
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Eze Vidra

Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote
Eze is the Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote, a startup helping patients search and match to clinical trial, to accelerate medical breakthroughs. Previously, Ezewas a General Partner at Google Ventures Europe. Before GV, Eze founded and led Campus London, Google's first physical hub for startups, and was the Head Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe. He's an experienced product manager and startup mentor. In 2012 Eze founded Techbikers, a non-for profit supporting children education in developing countries.
Eze Vidra
Follow me

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Eze Vidra

Eze is the Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote, a startup helping patients search and match to clinical trial, to accelerate medical breakthroughs. Previously, Eze was a General Partner at Google Ventures Europe. Before GV, Eze founded and led Campus London, Google’s first physical hub for startups, and was the Head Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe. He’s an experienced product manager and startup mentor. In 2012 Eze founded Techbikers, a non-for profit supporting children education in developing countries.

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