How limiting is an IQ of 80

The truth about success and IQ that nobody wants to hear

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"The key for us, our top priority, has always been to hire very bright people," Bill Gates once said in an interview. "There is no way of circumventing the IQ, because you have to be very elitist when choosing the people who deserve to write software."

Gates spoke specifically of Microsoft, the tech giant he co-founded and led for years. But this “elitist” strategy - prioritizing raw intelligence in the hiring process - is common in many ways. Years of research point to the same uncomfortable conclusion: Smart people make better workers.

IQ versus other factors

According to "Psychology Today", the IQ is a construct that encompasses the ability to solve problems, spatial perception and language use. On an IQ test, a score of 100 means an average result. Someone who scores 125 or more is in the top 5 percent. The most common IQ tests are the Stanford-Binet test and the Hamburg-Wechsler intelligence test.

Variants of these tests are currently used by the military, some schools and the National Football League - but also by some employers.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review shows three factors that characterize employees with high potential: productivity, social skills and drive.

“Performance” can mean cognitive abilities or IQ. The authors write: “In order to predict an individual's potential to excel in a larger and more complex job in the future, the question shifts to whether that person is capable of learning new skills and the necessary knowledge and skills can handle. The best indicator for this is cognitive skills or IQ. "

Too much attention to social skills

This conclusion is mainly based on a scientific report that the authors - Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Seymour Adler, and Robert B. Kaiser - published in 2013 in the Journal Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

The study revealed a discrepancy between what companies look for in applicants and what science considers important for professional performance. Usually employers are more interested in social skills than in cognitive performance.

However, the authors make it clear that their research also points to the importance of social skills and drive. They call this three-factor model “fundamentally compensatory”, which means that even if the cognitive performance is only average, but the social skills and drive are outstanding, there is still a chance to excel at work.

Michigan State University psychologist D. Zachary Hambrick also says, "If you are not incredibly intelligent, acquire as much knowledge and skills as you can." Hambrick spent much of his time breaking the myth that intelligence is overrated.

Nevertheless, he told me: “Cognitive performance is far from being a perfect prerequisite for any result. Regardless of whether it is about professional or academic performance. Even if you don't have an IQ of 170, that doesn't mean you're lost. "

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Research on the role of IQ

The problem is that most HR staff already honor the ability to be respectful and the will to work hard while neglecting the intelligence factor.

At a time when more and more organizations are integrating personality tests into their hiring process and the term “emotional intelligence” is modern in the workplace, it makes sense to take a step back to get a fuller picture of what is important in the context professional performance.

One of the most cited research papers in the field is a 2004 article by Frank L. Schmidt and John Hunter, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The researchers looked at dozens of studies and found that smart people generally perform better in the workplace, perhaps because smart people can acquire new skills more quickly.

The really surprising part is that while intelligence becomes increasingly important as the complexity of the job increases - for example with a lawyer or accountant - it is already important in relatively straightforward activities.

Overestimation of emotional intelligence

In 2014, Wharton psychologist Adam Grant published a post on LinkedIn claiming that emotional intelligence - a term used by Daniel Goleman to describe the ability to recognize and manage one's own and other people's emotions - is less important is as cognitive skills in relation to professional performance. Based on the studies he conducted on hundreds of salespeople and applicants for sales positions, Grant concluded:

“Cognitive skills were five times more important than emotional intelligence. The average high cognitive employee had annual revenue of more than $ 195,000, compared to $ 159,000 annual revenue for moderate cognitive employees and $ 109,000 for low cognitive employees. Nothing could be added by emotional intelligence after measuring cognitive performance. "

Interestingly, Grant wrote that the head of the company where the study was conducted found it difficult to believe that the results were correct.

I asked Schmidt, a professor emeritus from the University of Iowa, why he thinks so many people have a hard time accepting that intelligence is a big part of work. Here is one of the reasons he cited:

"The concept that there is a personality trait - namely intelligence, which has a strong genetic basis and is difficult to change - that determines where people end up in education or in job-related structures seems unfair and undemocratic."

Measuring IQ in the workplace

Schmidt said that even if companies do not explicitly measure cognitive performance - e.g. through a written IQ test - they can record it indirectly. In particular, he named Microsoft and Google, who often let applicants solve problems orally during the job interview. The performance of the candidates on these problems reflects their cognitive performance, claims Schmidt. Schmidt also said that a standard job interview reveals a little of the cognitive performance.

Some organizations also measure general cognitive performance directly. The NFL, for example, lets newbies take the Wonderlic test. 50 questions have to be answered in twelve minutes. The Wonderlic test is also the most widely used test for measuring cognitive performance in the workplace. According to the company, approximately 6,000 customers purchased one of their assessment tools in the past 12 months.

Alternatives to IQ measurement

Not all researchers support the theory that IQ is the most powerful predictor of professional performance. Scott Barry Kaufman, psychologist and author of the 2013 book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, says that emphasizing IQ and determining potential as a result can be limiting.

In a 2013 interview with Sarah Green Carmichael at Harvard Business School, he gave employers advice on how to deal with employees: “To make the person feel that what I say is their type of intelligence, something that adds to the workplace, is very much appreciated. If you are smart about team building and always keep the big picture in mind, looking at all the different pieces of the puzzle, all these different minds, then you can gauge the area in which this person has the most value for the big picture. "

One solution, albeit an imperfect one, is to send applicants through a more comprehensive screening process. In this way, the employer gets an insight into the cognitive performance as well as the personality traits.

In a 2014 New York Times column, psychologist John Mayer suggested adding tests that measure other cognitive abilities to standardized tests such as the SAT. Examples would be spatial thinking or “personal intelligence” - the ability to draw conclusions about someone else's motives, patterns, or activities. Mayer wrote about the world of education, but the same logic could apply to the workplace.

Beyond the IQ test

I asked Hambrick if it was important for people to know their own IQ. Researching this topic made me want to know my IQ. Not to meticulously map the rest of my career, but to get an idea of ​​what I could realistically achieve.

"Only if you want to know," said Hambrick. "I don't think you should get the result if you don't want to know." Hambrick doesn't know his IQ - he said, "I'm not the least bit interested in knowing him."