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What is Physiological Intelligence (Pi)?
How does it fit with Emotional and Intellectual Intelligence? How is is measured? Who has it? Can it be enhanced?

‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’. The understanding that sustained human performance is built upon well managed physiology is not new. The Olympic Games were competed more than 2000 years ago, well before the Romans institutionalised physical conditioning within their legions. The philosophy underpinned the establishment of great civilisations


In today’s society great focus is, rightly, placed upon psychological and emotional intelligence. The rigorous integration of these dimensions with physiological factors has yet to become systematic across the leadership and management within corporations and institutions.

If Physiological Intelligence is defined as ‘the capacity of an individual to interpret and manage their physiology to sustain optimal multi-dimensional performance‘, we at PQ, who have been profiling executives for nearly a year now, can say that the evidence strongly suggests that most individuals demonstrate moderate to poor Physiological Intelligence.

This is unsurprising as accurate self-reporting is a learned skill which is prioritised in elite sport but not in the executive world. As a consequence, motivated, intelligent executives are shown to be consistently misreading their physiological condition day-to-day. We have a simple process, whereby an HRV monitor collects research-grade data 24 hours a day for 7 days, whilst at the same time the individual self-reports daily. Subjective and empirical evidence is collected and presented.

This senior manager at a multinational runs a division with more than 2,000 people. Look at the inaccurate assessment of Recovery. This is not, yet, an executive with a high Physiological Intelligence.


As an adjunct, the pink shaded area represents the average score from peer executives in that organisation. They self-reported similarly but were noticeably more accurate.

By contrast, consider the data from a former senior military officer, whose initial self-reported overall PQ scores were very out of line with his HRV scores. Then, as the week progressed, mental muscle memory kicked in and the self-reporting became much more accurate. Physiological Intelligence grew more focused (and therefore more valuable) within a week.


How does this link with Emotional Intelligence, for instance? The executive shown below was well trained in PQ self-reporting and was, apart for one significant inaccuracy, showed more Physiological Intelligence than most peers. When the self-reported EQ measure is plotted, however, we see that Emotional Intelligence is not in synch with the physiological pattern. Did this impact performance? Were relationships optimally managed? The opportunity for more thoughtful preparation and engagement is clear.


Where does this leave Physiological Intelligence in the executive workplace? Now that we have the means of measuring the Physiological Quotient, it is evident that the pathway to enlightened self-management is accessible. The opportunity for productivity and wellbeing to benefit together has never been more clearly framed.

So, if we consider the definition again - 'the capacity of an individual to interpret and manage their physiology to sustain optimal multi-dimensional performance‘, the evidence suggests that this can be measured, we all have differing levels of expertise but the skill can be learned and, perhaps most significantly, the potential for enhanced integrated EQ and IQ aptitude offers real prospects for lifting professional performance ceilings.

The Elephant in the Room