Performance Assessment Series - Volume II - Issue XI

Posted on
November 19, 2020
David Simpson

Brains Rule

Countless studies support that there is a strong correlation between raw intelligence and business success.  Further, an equal body of research confirms that there is little relationship between post-secondary academics and that same success. If it wasn’t an issue before, having the intellectual horsepower these days is more important than ever to success.  Of course, this leads to the query of what exactly is “raw” intelligence?  Call it clarity of thought; clear thinking; critical reasoning; you can pick your own phrase.  Top performers make good decisions from a certain natural, unforced and ever-evolving collection of mental reasoning skills.  Intuitively or otherwise, very capable executives rely much more on their intellect than their interpersonal capabilities.  They realize that interpersonal talent has its place.  But they are much more focused on the intellectual side of their skillset - figuring out what the right questions are – not necessarily the right answers.  And those questions come from a broad array of sources.  They recognize and accurately think through unintended consequences; evaluate down-side risk; sort through the underlying agendas of other team members; decipher the effects of their own actions and are more than aware of their own personal biases.  They are constantly adjusting when to push hard; when to back off; what’s working; what’s broken; what’s worth fixing and what’s not; when to slow down and when to speed up.  And bolted on to all of the enquiries is a healthy pursuit of feedback from key individuals that might uncover an error in judgment.  As you have figured out by now, none of the above is taught in business school.  Yet if “brains” are so important to success and academics provide a minimal yardstick, how does a CEO or other C-suite executive ensure they are appointing those with sufficient intellect for highly demanding roles?  Whether the individual you are deciding upon is inside the business or external, the key is asking the right questions.  What you never do is to ask anything that starts with “Tell me about a time….”  Queries that reference past history are useless in determining intelligence – or anything else for that matter.  What works is raising questions and putting forth scenarios the individual has never dealt with before and watch carefully how she/he analytically chunks through the problem you have presented.

Posted on
November 19, 2020
in the
Performance Assessment Series
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