You’ve seen them floating on the interweb, IQ self-tests that ask how many squares you can see in an image or which number logically follows a series of given numbers. Frankly, IQ tests like these are only used as marketing tactics devised to boost a user’s ego with the aim of getting them to share it with friends. They lack validity and are vastly unreliable.
But what about genuine IQ tests – what do they measure and how do they indicate a person’s ability in the business world? Or do they at all?
What is an intelligent quotient anyway?
Simply put, IQ scores merely indicate just how fast you can come to the right conclusion with a limited set of information. Along with processing speed, good IQ tests should take into account visual-spatial and auditory processing, as well as short-term memory. They measure your ability to solve problems, recognise patterns, and find verbal connections.
For accuracy, tests should measure in such a way that minimises the advantage of prior knowledge of the content or subject. Ultimately, processing speed should not necessarily be a measure of intelligence – but is intelligence a good predictor of success in business or career?
What IQ tests do not measure
While your ability to solve simple and theoretical problems may be important in many job functions, your IQ score doesn’t provide any information about the other important abilities needed for the job.
There are many variables in play that can influence a score, such as environment (poverty, lifestyle, etc.), but while IQ scores are often treated as the ultimate measure of intelligence, they offer an extremely limited view of your abilities, and should be seen as just part of a much bigger picture.
What beats intelligence for business success?
If intelligence, as measured in IQ tests, are just part of who you are, then what are the more important indicators we should be looking more intently at?
Here, we aren’t referring to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences of which he developed nine types of competencies. These abilities, (such as musical, linguistic, and existential intelligence) relate to a person’s unique aptitude set of capabilities. Rather, we refer to the human traits that are found in many successful business owners, entrepreneurs, and highly-motivated people.
- Hard work
In “The 10,000-Hour Rule”, Malcolm Gladwell writes that achieving greatness requires an enormous amount of time. He claims that the key to success in any field, is to practice a specific task over and over again – 10,000 hours to be precise. This he says can be accomplished with twenty hours of work a week over a period of ten years.
Hard work, however, doesn’t just happen. It needs to be fueled by the majority of the traits below, along with the hunger to succeed, the perseverance to continue, and the determination to stay focused.
According to psychologist, Angela Duckworth, what makes high achievers so successful were not their IQ scores, high grades, or four-year degrees. What made them outstanding was a combination of passion and perseverance – what she calls “grit” – and says that holding steadfast to a goal through time is a high predictor of success.
What makes passion so different from intelligence in business is that they each have different drivers. The latter is perhaps motivated largely by monetary outcome and the former by an emotional and personal drive towards self-fulfilment. It is this desire that makes them push harder, for longer.
Creativity plays a role to some degree or another in almost every job function. In ‘The Handbook of Creativity’ by Robert J. Sternberg, studies show that while extremely creative people are highly intelligent, the opposite is not always true. So creativity then, can be construed as a higher form of intelligence. Einstein himself said that imagination is more important than knowledge.
Particularly for entrepreneurs, creative thinking is crucial. The entrepreneurial process itself is rooted in exploring and conceptualising new ideas, and highly creative entrepreneurs will have a competitive advantage over their less creative peers.
- Emotional intelligence
While you need to be able to deal with, manage, and get along with people, EQ also helps with better decision-making. According to this Yale study, being in touch with our feelings helps us take a more level-headed response to emotions such as anger and hurt, thus avoiding potentially bad decisions. Some experts even suggest that emotional intelligence might even be more important than IQ.
- Practical intelligence
Also known as ‘” street smarts” coined by psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, practical intelligence is the ability to think in real business situations. This is the raw intelligence that you apply in the real world versus the theoretical intelligence applied in an IQ test. In business, but especially for entrepreneurs and start-ups, practical intelligence is far more important than IQ because it gives you the ability to think on your feet and make fast and accurate decisions.
There are many other character traits that gear a business up for success, such as curiosity, attitude, and optimism. It’s not uncommon for people with high IQs to achieve very little because they lack some or all of the above. Experts agree that a high IQ is not a good predictor of success, just as a lower IQ is not a good predictor of failure.
How many of these traits do you see in yourself and in the people you work with?
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