Sunday, February 20, 2011

If Intelligence is not a good predictor of career success, then what is?

Explaining career success has been favourite topic for researchers. However, very few studies have been done to correlate intelligence with career success, because career success is measured with many measures. Although Income is one of the favourite measure of career success, other equally important measures are job satisfaction, healthy relationships and satisfied personal life.

For instance, no one has any doubt about Einstein's intelligence. That enabled him to achieve extraordinary results in his work, or job. But did that enable him to succeed in his career? Einstein had a tragic personal life. He lived apart from his family for many years,before he got divorced. Success in work may not have any corrrelation with personal life !

But studies show that even intelligence is not correlated strongly with job success, leave other measures. For instance, a meta analysis - a statistical summary of existing research - of 85 data sets from variety of countries shows that correlation between intelligence and income ( a measure of job success) is 0.2.

You may be thinking that business study grades could be correlated with income,if technical grades are not. A study of business school graduates found no correlation between grades and the eventual rise in jobs. In general, academic performance is a weak predictor of job-success, as measured by income. So the first link of intelligence to job success is itself weak. Why is this so?

Behavioural researchers believe this happens due to four reasons. One, high intelligence often causes intelligent people to believe that they know everything, causing them to be arrogant and rude. Two, it makes them difficult to understand why others behave differently and makes it difficult for them to carry others with them. They become loners. And in today's interdependent world, anything big can rarely be achieved with lone hand. Three, intelligence can be intimidating, which does not foster loyalty. Four, intelligence makes intelligent people insensitive and overconfident causing their own downfall. Enron's downfall is explained by this overconfidence, for instance.

This lack of correlation between intelligence and income ( which is one of the career success measure) has led to the idea of multiple intelligences that may be useful in accounting for other success measures. Idea of social intelligence, emotional intelligence therefore have sprung up to account career success. However instead of helping individuals to succeed in their career, this has only confused them, as this meant that they have to become Jack of all intelligences, instead of focussing on their strengths.

Every individual has a different strength. A cricketer is different than a chess player who is different than a software engineer. Each one faces therefore a different challenge in life. One has to have the specific intelligence to find and address specific challenge one faces. We call this intelligence as Career making Intelligence - CMI. CMI is an intelligence that will help you first identify the specific challenges of your career and then negotiate these challenges. As we go ahead, we believe that CMI will be able to predict career success better than any other intelligence.

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