What do leaders require to navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

4IR remains a theme that I devote much time to. I remain driven by a sense of urgency to find ways of helping leaders to reinvent themselves to meaningfully address the challenges brought about by new business models, the disruption of incumbents and the reshaping of production, consumption, communication, transportation and delivery systems taking place across all industries created by the exponential progress of technologies which continue to build on and amplify each other in the physical, digital and biological realms.

As a result of this continuous engagement with the realities unfolding before us, and cognisant of the fact that predictions about the future development of technology are as self-assured as they are diverse, I nevertheless contest that the future offers many potentialities, and support Klaus Schwabs view that we are not captives to a dualistic choice between “accept technology and live with it” or “reject technology and live without it.” Instead of a reactive approach, we should be proactive in seeking ways to harness the advancements in technology and shaping 4IR in ways that will benefit all.

Against that backdrop I am making it my business to determine what it is that leaders and management practitioners require to navigate a future of unprecedented change. At this particular point we find ourselves, through a process of critical interpretive analysis, I have conceptualised a 10-type intelligence proposition I refer to as “Fourth Industrial Revolution Intelligence” (4IRI), which, I argue, is the requisite ‘intelligence’ a leader requires to navigate 4IR. The ‘intelligence’ reference is spawned from Gottfredson’s (1997) explanation of the meaning of intelligence  i.e. “Intelligence is a very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings – “catching on,” “making sense” of things, or “figuring out” what to do.”

My 10-type intelligence proposition being:

  1. Contextual intelligence (the mind) – how we understand and apply our knowledge (Schwab, 2016).
  2. Emotional intelligence (the heart) – how we process and integrate our thoughts and feelings and relate to ourselves and to one another (Schwab, 2016).
  3. Inspired intelligence (the soul) – how we use a sense of individual and shared purpose, trust, and other virtues to effect change and act towards the common good (Schwab, 2016).
  4. Physical intelligence (the body) – how we cultivate and maintain our personal health and well-being and that of those around us to be able to apply the energy required for both individual and systems transformation (Schwab, 2016).
  5. Entrepreneurial intelligence (the disposition) – how we recognise opportunity through synthesis of the whole and creatively combine resources (Oosthuizen, 2016).
  6. Strategic intelligence (the orientation) – how we adapt to changing environments (Wells, 2012); gather, examine and disseminate intelligence of strategic value (Djekic, 2014).
  7. Transdisciplinary intelligence (the perspective) – how we understand a system in relation to its larger environment, relationships and connections, bringing the information from separate disciplines together so that it can be useful knowledge that allows us to act wisely (Montuori, 2013).
  8. Ecosystem intelligence (the coalescence) – how we grow and develop within the setting of the system of relationships that form our environment, the impact the environmental factors have on us, and how we impact one another and our environment (Bloom & Dees, 2008).
  9. Socratic intelligence (the philosophy) – how we analyse ideas in terms of their opposites with the objective of creating a more enlightened synthesis (Chaffee, 2013).
  10. Ethical intelligence (the morals) – how we differentiate between what is right and what is wrong, reach decisions and make choices based on this differentiation (Rich, 2013).

The schematic representation of my proposition is presented below:

At the individual level, the 4IRI-Model could assist leaders to assess themselves in relation to the 10-type intelligence proposition so as to determine readiness, identify shortcomings and initiate developmental agendas. At the organisational level leaders could initiate developmental initiatives in relation to the 10-type intelligence so as to empower employees and followers, as well as give 4IR prominence in the organisations’ strategic dialogue.


Bloom, P.N. & Dees, G. 2008. Cultivate your Ecosystem. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 47-53.

Chaffee, J. 2013. The Philosopher’s Way: Thinking Critically About Profound Ideas (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ : Pearson.

Djekic, M. 2014. A brief overview of strategic intelligence. Australian Science. [Web:] http://www.australianscience.com.au/research-2/brief-overview-strategic-intelligence/ [Date of access: 15 Aug 2016].

Gottfredson, L.S. 1997. Mainstream Science on Intelligence: An Editorial With 52 Signatories, History, and Bibliography. Intelligence, 24(1):13-23.

Montuori, A. 2013. The Complexity of Transdisciplinary Literature Reviews. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 10(1/2):45-55.

Oosthuizen, J.H. (2016, 4 – 7 September) ‘Entrepreneurial Intelligence: Expanding Schwab’s four-type intelligence proposition to meaningfully address the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ in proceedings of 28th Annual SAIMS Conference, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Rich, K.L. 2013. Introduction to ethics (Chapter 1). In J.B. Butts & K.L. Rich. Nursing ethics across the curriculum and into practice (3rd ed.). Boston: Jones & Bartlett.

Schwab, K.M. 2016. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland.

Wells, J.R. 2012. Strategic IQ. Creating smarter corporations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Cobus Oosthuizen, PhD

Cobus is the Dean of Milpark Business School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the founder of 4IR Forum.

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