Is ‘AQ’ more important than intelligence?

Once, if you wanted to assess how well someone might do climbing the career ladder, you might have considered asking them to take an IQ test. For years, it was thought that the intelligence quotient (IQ) test – which measures memory, analytical thinking and mathematical ability – was one of the best ways to predict our future job prospects.


More recently, there has been increased attention on emotional intelligence (EQ), broadly characterised as a set of interpersonal, self-regulation and communication skills. EQ is now widely seen as a tool kit that plays an important role in helping us succeed in multiple aspects of life.



Both IQ and EQ are considered important to our career success. But today, as technology redefines how we work, the skills we need to thrive in the job market are evolving too. Enter adaptability quotient, or AQ, a subjective set of qualities loosely defined as the ability to pivot and flourish in an environment of fast and frequent change.

智商和情商都被认为是我们事业成功的重要因素。但今天,随着科技重新定义了我们的工作方式,在就业市场上获取成功所需要的技能也在不断变化。需加入适应性商数(emotional intelligence, AQ),AQ是一组主观的素质,大致定义为在快速、频繁变化的环境中灵活应变和蓬勃发展的能力。

“IQ is the minimum you need to get a job, but AQ is how you will be successful over time,” says Natalie Fratto, a New York-based vice-president at Goldman Sachs who became interested in AQ when she was investing in tech start-ups. She has subsequently presented a popular TED talk on the subject.

高盛(Goldman Sachs)驻纽约副总裁弗拉托(Natalie Fratto)表示:“要获得一份工作,智商是最低要求,但随着时间的推移,适应性商数就是你获得成功的途径。”在投资科技初创企业时,弗拉托对AQ产生了兴趣。随后,她在TED(Technology, Entertainment, Design 的缩写,即技术、娱乐、设计)大会上就这个话题做了一个很受欢迎的演讲。

Fratto says AQ is not just the capacity to absorb new information,but the ability to work out what is relevant, to unlearn obsolete knowledge, overcome challenges, and to make a conscious effort to change. AQ involves flexibility, curiosity, courage, resilience and problem-solving skills too.


As society changes, could AQ be more crucial to career success than IQ? If so, how do you identify it – and is there a way to hone AQ to future-proof your career?


Adapt – or become obsolete


Amy Edmondson, a professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School, says it is the breakneck speed of workplace change that will make AQ more valuable than IQ.

哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)领导与管理学教授埃德蒙森(Amy Edmondson)表示,正是工作场所变化的惊人速度,让AQ比IQ更有价值。

Technology has vastly changed how many jobs are done, and the disruption will continue – over the next three years, 120 million people in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be reskilled because of automation, according to a 2019 IBM study.


Any roles that involve spotting patterns in data –lawyers reviewing legal documents or doctors making a patient diagnosis, for example – are easy to automate, says Dave Coplin, CEO of The Envisioners, a UK-based technology consultancy. This is because an algorithm can do these tasks faster and more accurately than a human, he says.

英国技术咨询公司Envisioners的首席执行官科普林(Dave Coplin)表示,任何涉及在数据中发现模式的工作,都很容易实现自动化。例如,律师审阅法律文件或医生诊断病人。他说,这是因为算法能比人类更快、更准确地完成任务。

To avoid obsolescence, workers doing these jobs need to develop new skills like creativity to solve new problems,empathy to communicate betterand accountability, using human intuition to supplement insight from machines.“If an algo can do 30% of the tasks that I used to do, what can I do with that spare capacity? The winners are those who choose to do things that algos can’t.”


Edmondson says every profession will require adaptability and flexibility, from banking to the arts. Say you are an accountant.Your IQ gets you through the examinations to become qualified, then your EQ helps you connect with an interviewer, land a job and develop relationships with clients and colleagues. Then, when systems change or aspects of work are automated, you need AQ to accommodate this innovation and adapt to new ways of performing your role.


All three quotients are somewhat complementary, since they all help you to solve problems and therefore adapt, Edmondson says. An ideal candidate possesses all three,but not everyone does. “There are rigid geniuses,” she says.Having IQ, but no AQ would leave you struggling to embrace new ways of working using your existing skills – and low AQ makes it harder to acquire new ones.


Asking ‘what if’


AQ is now increasingly being sought at the hiring level. According to the IBM study, 5,670 executives globally rated behavioural skills as most critical for the workforce today, and chief among them was the “willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change”.


Will Gosling, Deloitte’s UK human capital consulting leader, says there’s no definitive method of measuring adaptability like an IQ test, but companies have woken up to AQ’s value and are changing their recruitment processes to help identify people who may be high in it.

德勤(Deloitte)英国人力资本咨询公司负责人高斯林(Will Gosling)表示,目前还没有像智商测试那样准确衡量适应性的方法,但企业已意识到AQ的价值,并正在改变招聘流程,以识别可能在it领域有能力处于较高职位的人。

Deloitte has started using immersive online simulations where job candidates are assessed on how well they adapt to potential workplace challenges; one assessment involves choosing how you would encourage reluctant colleagues to join a company triathlon team. Deloitte also looks to hire people who have shown they can perform in different functions, industries or geographies. “This proves they are agile and a fast learner,” Gosling says.


Fratto of Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, suggests three ways AQ might manifest in potential candidates:if they can picture possible versions of the future by asking “what if” questions,if they can unlearn information to challenge presumptionsand if they enjoy exploration or seeking out new experiences.


She says this is not a definitive recipe for AQ, but recruiters should pose these kinds of questions to tease out evidence of AQ in candidates.In fact, she puts them to founders of start-ups seeking her investment.“Start-ups go through evolutions,” she explains. “It’s not like the founder has a written job description; they need some of a fluctuating list of 30 or 50 skills to be successful.”


‘Mission critical’


One good thing about AQ is that – even if you can’t measure it – experts say you can work to develop it. Penny Locaso, the Australian founder ofBKindred, an education companythat helps people to become more adaptable, says some people have more curious or courageous personalities, which may explain why they are naturally better at adapting than others. “However, if one does not continue to surf the edge of their discomfort, the adaptability you are born with could decrease over time.”

AQ有一个好处是,即使你无法测量它,但你可以努力开发它。帮助人们提高适应能力的教育公司BKindred的澳大利亚创始人拉卡索(Penny Locaso)说,有些人性格上更具好奇心或勇气,他们天生就比其他人更善于适应。“然而,如果一个人不坚持在他们不适应的领域锻炼,与生俱来的适应能力可能会随着时间的推移而减弱。”

She suggests three ways to boost your adaptability: first, limit distractions and learn to focus so you can determine what adaptations to make.Second, ask uncomfortable questions, like for a pay rise, to develop courage and normalise fear. Third, be curious about things that fascinate you by having more conversations rather than Googling the answer, something “which wires our brains to be lazy” and diminishes our ability to solve difficult challenges.


Otto Scharmer, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management who has written books on learning from the emerging future, suggests other methods. In a TED talk, he recommends remaining open to new possibilities, trying to see a situation through someone else’s eyes and reducing your ego so that you can feel comfortable with the unknown.

麻省理工学院斯隆管理学院(MIT Sloan School of Management)高级讲师沙尔默(Otto Scharmer)还提出了其它的方法。在一次TED演讲中,他建议对新的可能性保持开放的态度,试着从别人的角度看问题,降低自我意识,这样才能对未知事物感到舒适。

One thing we do know is that the workplaces of the future will operate differently. We may not all be comfortable with the pace of change – but we can prepare. As Edmondson says: “Learning to learn is mission critical. The ability to learn, change, grow, experiment will become far more important than subject expertise.”