Category Archives: IQ

Hire friendly, not smart?

If you want your business to succeed, you hire really super-smart people, right?

MIT suggests not necessarily so. A recent study of “collective intelligence” explored what it takes to build teams most likely to succeed at solving problems. MIT found that individual IQ, that thing we all like to believe we have so much of, mattered far less than the ability of the group to perform functions such as clarifying the challenge, brainstorming, making “collective moral judgments,” and structuring limited resources. Group camaraderie, and not individuals’ IQs, was the greatest input required for success.

MIT called this the “C factor” for collective intelligence and noted that women tend to have more of it. Women, by nature, have less testosterone, which in high levels can lead to emotional, impulsive or illogical decisions (“I’m right!” “We must do this!”) and depresses sensitivity to others, often required to really digest all the data inputs to solve thorny problems. The study suggests that so-called “social sensitivity” would be a better prerequisite for hiring staff and managers than super-smart IQ, and that more women in groups — still, often missing in some business settings — leads to higher collective intelligence.

MIT found several things any group can do better to increase collective IQ:

– Avoid having a single smart person dominate the discussion.
– Get everyone in the room to participate.
– Watch nonverbal communication as well; individuals may signal they are confident or impatient or frustrated, and those are all elements that can be drawn out to improve the group’s decision — what does the confident person know, or why does the frustrated person believe the team is on the wrong track?

It’s an intriguing concept, that what makes one individual burn bright (aggression and brains) could increase the odds that a team will fail, while friendliness drives success. Obviously strong leaders are needed and can thrive; Apple and Steve Jobs may be the best case study. Yet powerful leaders and bright people might crank up their empathy a bit and assess whether the dynamic of their supporting groups is friendly enough to allow the best chance for success.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Paco CT

If the world is getting smarter …

… why is it so hard to keep up? New Zealand professor James Flynn believes human IQs are rising every generation, meaning you’re smarter than your parents and your kids will out-think you, and he has data proving that the average IQ around 1900 would equal a 70 on the chart today. Paradoxically, this means the average smarts of three generations ago would equal someone with borderline mental retardation by current standards. How did those idiots build civilization if they were so stupid?

The answer must be that these IQ gains are a new phenomena. We can’t possibly follow the trend line back, or Shakespeare would have been drawing on cave walls and Rome never would have been built. (Geez, and those guys in togas created Rome while drinking lead in their wine.) So something recent must be spurring people to score higher on standardized IQ tests.

We think it’s the Tufte effect — the visual display of quantitative information. Books, film, radio, TV, and now the internet are a very recent development, and today’s children grow up in a world awash with far more sights and sounds translating data than their ancestors a few generations removed. As we are barraged with information as babes, we learn to draw connections more quickly. Somehow all this hyperstimuli must be shocking our neurons into new activity.

Flynn says other things may be at work — better diets, smaller families, or perhaps we’re only just as smart as our great-grandparents but have become better at thinking abstractly. Ask a kid today how a dog and rabbit are similar, and she’ll blurt out “they’re both mammals” for a point on the IQ test. Ask a farm boy of 100 years ago, and he might puzzle, thinking realistically dogs are for hunting and rabbits are for eatin’.

Maybe we’re not so smart. Tell someone in the U.S. today to tie a knot, bait a trap, skin a deer, dig a well, or navigate by the stars, and the majority would look lost. If the outdoorsmen and -women of the 1700s gave us intelligence tests tied to their standards, we’d fail. If pandemic flu shuts down the world next winter, we’ll wish we knew more. Quick — any of you know how to build a fire?

Those with IQ envy should check out Seed’s crib sheets for the new century. You can carry around pocket facts on global warming, hybrid cars, and nuclear physics. (And thanks to More Intelligent Life for a fascinating profile on Flynn.)