Nowadays we see many kids talent hunt shows like Spelling Bee where young kids spell out complex long words within a minute. All of us think that these kids are very intelligent and it’s likely to believe that these kids will lead successful lives like Steve jobs. No doubt intelligence is an important factor but only intelligence makes you successful?

Intelligence is a vastly researched, yet most controversial topic among researchers. Despite decades of research still there is disagreement among researchers when it comes to defining intelligence and what it constitutes. The concept of intelligence is derived from the Latin verb intellegere, meaning the acquisition, processing, and storage of information. Intelligence is a person’s intellectual capacity to acquire knowledge (i.e. learn and understand), apply knowledge (solve problems), and engage in abstract reasoning. Most of us know the revolutionary work of Alfred Binet & Theodore Simon, who has given the first psychometric assessment called the Binet-Simon Scale but very few people know that Sir Francis Galton, in late 1800 was the first person to study human differences and inherited intelligence. Still today Binet and Simon’s work is influential in the development of Intelligence assessments such as the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, etc. The measurement of intelligence expressed in numbers called intelligence quotient IQ, the term was coined by the psychologist William Stern.

Today IQ tests are widely used to understand a person’s intellectual capacity and this not only aids psychologists but also educationists and parents to provide better learning facilities according to the needs. It’s very common to believe a higher IQ means higher success but this is partially true. IQ scores have long been criticized as weak indicators of overall intelligence as well as for their lack of inability to predict how a person will succeed in a particular profession. I know this is difficult to believe. Let me ask you a question: how much do you think our intelligence plays a role in financial success? Some of you may say 25% or high. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman’s research, intelligence is found to play only a minor role in a child’s future success.

Baffled right? Let’s try to understand what contributes to our success other than intelligence.

We all have strong memories of school life and the categorization of students not by subjects of art, science, or commerce but with the proud labels of backbenchers & toppers. Everyone has different but nostalgic memories of golden school days like toppers getting praised for their excellence and backbenchers getting set for their mischievous acts in this we all grew up but anyone wonders what our classmates might be doing after graduating from schools. It’s obvious to believe that toppers must be doing great in their career and backbenchers must be sticking to some mediocre jobs for a living. Let me break your belief and I am sure many of us were surprised in their reunion too by looking at their classmates’ accomplishments.

I like to share a similar story of Kailash Katka, a school dropout after 10th coming from a typical Maharashtrian family becoming Founder of the Rs. 200-crore+ Quick Heal Technologies. Kailash was never interested in studies and was academically weak but was determined and good at machine learning and handling tools.

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Concluding thoughts

As our job markets and technology evolve, companies shifted their focus from cognitive abilities to other important abilities such as thinking out of the box, adaptability, self-regulation, resilience, passion, empathy, etc.

A study conducted by Accenture, 2006 concluded that intelligence is important for career success but it’s a matter of how smart you are. Interpersonal competence, self-awareness, and social awareness — all elements of emotional intelligence — are better predictors of success. Emotional intelligence skills are key to managing workplace complexity.

IQ is the minimum you need to get a job, but AQ is how you will be successful over time – Natalie Fratto

Adaptability Quotient is an individual’s capacity to deal with change. It helps to absorb new information, quickly re-orient with the change, and helps to overcome challenges. AQ involves flexibility, curiosity, courage, resilience, and problem-solving skills too.

Indeed IQ tests are powerful and interesting aids, but it’s important to understand that our diverse innate ability and talents play a big role in how we do in all walks of life, be it school, college or job. IQ measurement does focus on certain areas of our cognitive abilities and point out how academically smart we are but there are individual specific areas of abilities that only you can be smart at. Focusing on the talents, habits, and behaviors that a person is gifted can control and maximize the potential fortune.

Khushbu Gajbhiye


NEA Life, Pune