Mind Your Qs: Understanding IQ, EQ, SQ, CQ, AQ

In 2019, eight students tied for the top spot at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, an unprecedented phenomenon. These 12- to 14-year olds seemed like they could keep going indefinitely beyond the stipulated three-hour mark, spelling words such as ‘callejón’ and ‘omphalopsychite.’ All contestants had survived several hours under warm camera lights, Twitterati comments, analyst ratings of their style. One of the contestants stumbled back, drained, after spelling the last word correctly. Others had tears in their eyes. Spelling bee champions are often cited for their high academic achievement and IQ. But this grueling final round went much beyond academics, challenging contestants on multiple dimensions.


Howard Gardener put forth the Multiple Intelligences theory in his 1983 book, Frames of Mind. Gardner argued that multiple intelligence dimensions lend a unique cognitive profile for each individual, positing eight frames of mind: verbal, mathematical, spatial, kinesthetic, musical, intrapersonal, and naturalist.


More recently, a new vocabulary has emerged for individual competencies with a range of “quotients”—along with IQ, we now also have EQ, CQ, AQ, and SQ.


Here’s a quick primer on these terms so you can put your best foot forward and help others harness their strengths.


Intelligence Quotient or IQ signifies mental potential and academic ability. Intelligence measurement methods exist since the late 19th century, and in 1912, German psychologist William Stern came up with the formula “ratio of mental age to chronological age times 100” to measure IQ. Over time, having a high IQ came to be considered a mark of brilliance—the most cited examples being Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, both with an IQ score of 160. Mensa, which means ‘table’ in Latin, is a society that recognizes individuals whose IQ belongs to the top 2% of the population, and over time, Mensa entry has become the highest bar for proving your intelligence.


IQ was deeply ingrained within our academic assessment and hiring/ promotion systems for a long time. But it is now being tested as not being the only valid assessment measure.


Thinkers like Angela Duckworth posit that the greatest predictor of academic success is not intelligence, but rather self-discipline. The ability to manage yourself has become the new measure of assessing competence in the 21st century, giving rise to a focus on EQ, CQ, AQ, and SQ.


Emotional Quotient or EQ made waves in the 1990s with its founding fathers John D Mayer and Peter Salovey who created a framework for emotional intelligence (1990). Daniel Goleman championed the concept in his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence. EQ is the ability to understand your own and others’ emotions, and to use emotional information to guide thinking, behavior, and interpersonal relationships.


Unlike IQ which is deemed to be something you are born with, EQ can be acquired.


Want to know how to nurture your EQ? Travis Bradberry’s Emotional Intelligence 2.0 can offer you some pointers.


Diverse companies such as Nike, Ford, Boeing, Wipro, and Dabur have embraced the Spiritual Quotient (SQ) as part of their managerial vocabulary. Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall’s pioneering 2001 book on the subject created awareness around what is considered our most fundamental intelligence. Building a foundation of trust and happiness is now considered important for organizational as well as individual success. Above all, educational institutions and corporates believe that individuals with a high SQ are able to put the interests of others ahead of personal interests and have come to value SQ in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment.


In a 2015 PwC survey of more than a 1000 CEOs, a number of them cited curiosity and open-mindedness as leadership traits that are becoming increasingly critical in our present turbulent times. This is partly because curious leaders lay a strong inquisitive foundation for the company, encouraging a culture of innovation. Indeed, a 2014 Harvard Business Review article introduced the concept of a Curiosity Quotient (CQ).


Individuals with higher CQ are more desirable in education systems and workplaces because they are inquisitive and open to new experiences, more tolerant of ambiguity, and therefore capable of producing simple yet nuanced solutions to complex problems.


The latest buzzword in education and business is Adaptability Quotient (AQ). Adaptability will become increasingly important to our future with AI and ML changing the nature of work. PwC’s Adapt to Survive studies over diverse geographies measured talent adaptability scores and found the Netherlands to be the top scorer, while India had the lowest score. The business case is clear: adaptability can unlock up to USD 130 billion in additional productivity, according to PwC.


“Continuous learning lies at the heart of thriving,” says the 2017 World Economic Forum report. In this spirit, we should focus our energies on developing a wide range of ‘quotients.’


Perhaps our multiple intelligences can help us navigate a path through the artificial intelligence workscape, where machines and humans will cohabit and collaborate. What do you consider to be your strongest “quotient” and how can you leverage it in your education and career?


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