The Evolution from IQ to EQ and Now AQ In Predicting Who Thrives  

For roughly 90 years, our Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was believed to be the best indicator of who would thrive in life and work. As our understanding of human behavior and psychology developed, and widespread use of computers and the internet disrupted longstanding norms that changed. Our Emotional Quotient (EQ) emerged as a more relevant factor than IQ in determining a person’s ability to thrive. Now, with the ever-increasing pace of change in life and work, our Antifragile Quotient or (AQ) is the crucial factor in determining who will thrive. So how did we evolve to this understanding? 


A brief history of IQ 


The concept of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was first introduced by the French psychologist Alfred Binet in 1905. Binet had been commissioned by the French government to develop a test to identify children who were struggling in school and in need of extra support. Binet’s test was called the Binet-Simon test and was designed to measure a child’s mental age, which refers to the level of intellectual functioning typically seen in children of a certain age group. 


Binet’s test was later revised by other psychologists, most notably Lewis Terman, who developed the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale in 1916. This test was widely used in the United States and became the first standardized IQ test. The Stanford-Binet test consisted of a series of tasks designed to measure various cognitive abilities, such as verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning, and memory. IQ tests quickly became popular in measuring intelligence, and have been used in various settings, including schools, the military, and business. 


While possessing raw intelligence is obviously to a person’s benefit, the concept IQ as a predictive measure of who would thrive came under fire in the late 20th century. In addition to having cultural bias, numerous studies have shown IQ is far from being predictive of who thrives and who doesn’t.  


The Evolution from IQ to EQ and now AQ – Antifragile Quotient, Antifragile Quotient | AQ Assessment


The evolution from IQ to EQ 


The study of Emotional Quotient (EQ) dates to the early 20th century when psychologists began to recognize that IQ had limitations in determining a person’s success in life. However, the concept of EQ as we know it today was first introduced in the 1980s by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer. They defined it as “the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). 


Around the same time, in 1995, psychologist Daniel Goleman published “Emotional Intelligence”. Goleman popularized the concept of emotional intelligence and demonstrated its importance in the workplace. He defined emotional intelligence as “the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, while also being aware of and empathetic towards the emotions of others”. Goleman argued that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ when it comes to success in the workplace, citing research to back up his claims. He illustrated how many of the top performers in various industries had high levels of emotional intelligence, and that people with higher emotional intelligence were better at handling stress, managing their own emotions, and communicating effectively with others.  


Since the publication of “Emotional Intelligence”, there has been a growing body of research demonstrating the importance of EQ in various areas of life, including the workplace. One study, for example, found that emotional intelligence was a better predictor of job performance than IQ (Schutte et al., 1998). 


How computers and the internet helped us see the need for more than IQ 


While psychologists began questioning IQ as a predictor of success not long after the concept emerged, our embrace of the often-repeated phrase “EQ is better than IQ at predicting success” took hold in the mid-nineties. To be certain, the groundbreaking research done by Salovey and Mayer was critical. And Goleman’s examination of its importance in “Emotional Intelligence” was inciteful. More importantly, technology and globalization, along with the reality they brought, exposed the inadequacy of IQ in determining who thrives. 


Widespread use of computers and the emergence of the internet in the mid-nineties meant two things: First, more people had access to more of the same information. Second, how quickly and collaboratively you could leverage that information was the key differentiator in success. By the mid-nineties, the speed at which that information flowed had steadily increased while the sheer volume had grown exponentially. Among other things, this meant companies had to bring new products and services to market faster than ever to thrive. One example is Apple. It took five years to bring the McIntosh to market in 1984 while the vastly superior iMac, brought to market in 1998, took less than two years to develop. A study by McKinsey & Company in 1993 found that the rate of change in the global economy had increased by a factor of ten over the previous three decades. 


And just as businesses needed to move faster to thrive, so too did their people. A 1995 study by the Harvard Business Review found that the pace of change in technology, competition, and globalization, had increased to the point where many managers were feeling overwhelmed and unable to keep up. This created a need for individuals to be able to communicate effectively and empathetically, to understand the emotional subtext of messages, and to navigate conflict and difficult conversations. It’s no coincidence that it was in the mid-nineties when we finally came to see IQ was poor at predicting who would thrive. 


How the iPhone and Slack helped us see the need for more than EQ 


The clunky box and Cat 5 internet cable, which had shown us IQ wasn’t nearly enough to thrive, soon showed us EQ had severe limitations too. In 2007 Apple took the clunky box, which slept quietly at night at our office, and the Cat 5 internet leash that kept it securely chained to the office wall and let them loose. The iPhone meant work communication was free to follow us wherever we went. 


The age of social media had already dawned in 2006 when Facebook opened its membership to anyone and by 2013, Slack had taken all the magic of social media and bundled it into a work App. Now, our jobs were the last thing we saw before going to bed, and they were right there on our nightstands waiting to greet us when we woke up. We hit all-new highs in productivity. According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s study, the rate of technological change in business accelerated significantly between 1995 and 2015 resulting in a 40% increase in productivity growth, as well as a 33% increase in labor productivity growth. 


While the premise was that technology would make life easier, the reality was that people were struggling. And focusing on our EQ didn’t alleviate it. A 2019 study by the American Psychological Association found that nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) felt stressed about work, and that work was a common source of stress for adults overall. Leaders were struggling as well. A 2017 study by the Journal of Business and Psychology found the use of mobile technology for work purposes was significantly and positively associated with burnout among managers and that the relationship between mobile technology use and burnout was partially impacted by work-family conflict. 


We shouldn’t have been too surprised to be discovering that EQ was an inadequate determinant of who would thrive. A study published back in 2006 by Côté, S., & Miners, C. T. H. in the Journal of Applied Psychology had already shown that while emotional intelligence was positively associated with job performance, it didn’t predict career success over time. Another 2006 study, published by Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., Shiffman, S., Lerner, N., & Salovey, P. in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that emotional intelligence was not significantly associated with academic achievement or life satisfaction.  


For 90 years IQ had been the widely accepted determinant of who would thrive, with its shortcomings finally being exposed by the computer and internet. Now, after only 20 years of being recognized as the widely accepted determinant of who would thrive, the shortcomings of EQ were being exposed by more research and the relentless drive of technology. 


It’s important to note that just as having raw intelligence is clearly to our benefit, emotional intelligence still matters. A lot! Navigating the world we live and work in would be tough without it. It would be nearly impossible for leaders. It’s just that having EQ alone won’t help you thrive. 


Your Antifragile Quotient (AQ) determines who thrives…and who doesn’t 


Antifragility is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.” Antifragility Quotient (AQ) is the idea that some people, systems, and organizations actually thrive in the face of volatility and uncertainty, rather than simply surviving (resilience) or breaking down (fragility). Taleb argues that many people, systems, and organizations in modern society are fragile. They are vulnerable to disruption and cannot withstand shocks or stressors. For example, our financial system is fragile because it is built on complex models that are often wrong and can fail catastrophically when destabilized by unpredictable events. However, some systems are not only resilient to stressors but actually become stronger when faced with them. These systems are Antifragile. 


Taleb argued, and our experience confirms, that individuals can also grow in their ability to live and lead in Antifragility, meaning they can grow in their ability to thrive in the face of adversity and volatility. To grow in AQ, one must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and embrace uncertainty. This means being willing to take risks, learn from failure, and be open to new experiences and ideas. It also means being able to withstand stress and pressure without becoming overwhelmed or breaking down. 


The concept of AQ is particularly relevant in today’s rapidly changing world, where traditional career paths are becoming less relevant and the ability to adapt and learn quickly is becoming increasingly important. As technology advances and new industries emerge, the individuals and organizations that thrive will be those who can harness their AQ to embrace change and uncertainty to grow stronger from adversity. 


How are IQ, EQ, and AQ related? 


The short answer is that EQ and AQ likely have a slight degree of correlation while IQ and AQ are generally unrelated. I’m guessing we’ve all met someone who we assume had a high IQ and CLEARLY had low EQ. The same goes for IQ and AQ. Some people have a high IQ along with the ability to grow stronger from adversity, and therefore a healthy AQ. Conversely, some people have a high IQ and are quite fragile, and therefore possess low AQ. And if you HAD to choose between the two, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote in his book “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder” “I’d rather be dumb and antifragile than extremely smart and fragile, any time.” 


While there’s currently no data to support the correlation, or lack of it, between EQ and AQ, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting healthy EQ may help in having healthy AQ. People high in EQ are often better at relating to others. This may give them an advantage in harnessing the AQ Elements of Clarity and Connection. Clarity and Connection are two of the three Foundational Elements of AQ, with the third one being Purpose. 


There are other aspects when having high EQ likely has no bearing on AQ. Someone with high EQ might, for example, struggle with the AQ Elements of Purpose, Gratitude, Courage, or Responsibility.  


What can be said with greater certainty is that a person low in EQ will likely be susceptible to the fragility in that their ability to see others’ perspectives, which is critical for experiencing the AQ Element of Clarity, will be diminished. Being low in EQ may also impact a person’s ability to experience the AQ Elements of Connection as they are limited in rapport-building skills. Finally, it’s possible, though not certain, that a person low in EQ may struggle to practice the AQ Element of Forgiveness. 


The Evolution from IQ to EQ and now AQ – Antifragile Quotient, Antifragile Quotient | AQ Assessment


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