Archives for 21 Apr,2019

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Defining the “I” in IQ

How did we arrive at this (possible) quirk of statistical certainty?

The brain – the most complex organ in the human body, contains over one hundred billion nerve cells, produces our every thought, deed, memory and feeling.  It interprets the chaotic world around us and gives us our sense of “self”.  It’s a remarkable biological achievement.

So isn’t it a little strange that we take the most complex biological structure known to human kind, and believe we can determine its functioning capacity down to a single, numerical IQ score?

IQ testing has been around for well over a century.  In 1904 English psychologist Charles Spearman noticed that children who did well in one subject at school, were also likely to do well in other subjects too.  From this simple observation, Spearman went on to thoroughly research and propose his theory of “general intelligence” (or g factor) which sounds far more exciting than it is.  G factor is the statistical measure of the variance of testing performance between individuals… (told you!)

This g factor represented the birth of intelligence testing as we know it today, and whilst testing for IQ has certainly evolved over time, it’s worth challenging what we really know about IQ and the idea that we can measure it.

Of relevance to the HR profession, particularly in a global context, is the observation that the definition of intelligence is culturally specific, not universal.  In the West where most tests have been developed, speed of thought has long been seen as an indicator of intelligence, which is why many tests often come with a time limit.

But in the East , taking your time to consider and reflect upon a question before committing to an answer is seen as more important.  Should wisdom be rushed?  The old Chinese proverb “the wise are never in a hurry” suggests not.

Charles Spearman famously acknowledged that “Every man, woman, and child is a genius at something. It remains (for us) to discover at what”.  We wholeheartedly support this view, that understanding an individual and their potential is a critical component of our work in the HR profession.

From this understanding we can begin to offer intelligent advice about career paths, management decisions, hiring choices and promotions.  So maybe the idea of g factor and testing it should stay back in 1904 whilst we work hard to understand an individual’s area of strengths, and help them maximise their potential.

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People at their Best

bestWhat do we really mean by People at their Best?

“When are you at your best?” It’s a question that often comes up in coaching.  So often it’s suspicious!

We find that the question helps to understand the behaviours and the feelings that individuals are experiencing and where the gaps might be in their current situation.

The goal of many of our development interventions is often stated as simply wanting to get the best from people.  But what does that mean?

Could a shared understanding of being at your best in work lead to faster identification of issues to resolve and more focused development interventions, whatever they may be?

As business psychologists, we like to keep up to date with the latest research and understand what can benefit our clients.   One of the areas that we have seen have great impact is the notion of working to strengths – first understanding them and then working out how to make the most of them.*

Jelly Bean Diversity

Certainly for Totem, understanding what each of us does well and gets a kick out of doing has really helped us allocate work more effectively and be more productive.  Yet there are still days when we’re not necessarily at our individual best – we all have those days, when we are distracted or just ‘not in the zone’.

Unpicking what we mean by being at our best will help us to quickly remedy distractions or other limitations.  This will be useful on an individual basis, in coaching or in designing development interventions for clients.

Our research* started with two questions – one that we ask our coaching clients quite regularly and one that is asked of us quite regularly:

When are you at your best?

How do I get the best from my people?

The consistency of the language and descriptions people use in describing best made us question if there is something underlying that – a shared meaning of what being at your best when at work encompasses.

If we can clarity and understand what we mean by being at your best – it becomes an accessible tool for management conversations and prioritising organisation’s development investments.

Keep checking back on our research, because we really feel this concept has got legs and we’re curious to see where it leads.


(*Addicott 2015)

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