Last week I got drawn into a lengthy Twitter debate on the value and validity of IQ tests. Personally, I think the whole concept of intelligence testing is dumb. It can also be self-fulfilling or self-defeating depending on the person. I know that sounds paradoxical but trust me – I’ve given this a lot of thought.
Even if IQ testing did unerringly identify intelligence, which I seriously doubt it does, there are far too many random and environmental factors for intelligence alone to determine the outcome for any individual. There’s upbringing, chance, emotions, health, humility, decisions made by us and others – all sorts of factors.
The notion that people continue to waste their time endlessly debating an artificial construct they know is completely irrelevant in their lives and can do nothing about says far more about their potential for meaningful achievement than any test score.
— Steve Tobak (@SteveTobak) December 28, 2018
The same is true of EQ by the way. Probably more so.
The most impactful of the whole laundry list of factors that influence our lives is clearly the choices we make. Granted, ability to reason may help you make better choices, but nobody’s going to tell me that geniuses are immune to making bad choices. That is so not true. Just ask Elon Musk, Elizabeth Holmes or the Enron guys.
It’s all-too-easy to mistake people who do moronic things for morons. The converse is also true. There are plenty of rich, successful people who did some smart things, but that doesn’t necessarily make them smart.
I have sat in countless executive staff meetings and boardrooms and watched otherwise brilliant people “reason” their way into making incredibly dumb decisions that destroyed companies over and over in my 30+ years in high-tech. In the real world, IQ doesn’t mean squat.
— Steve Tobak (@SteveTobak) December 29, 2018
The point is, you can screw up a perfectly good mind by making dumb choices. On the flipside, you can compensate for low intelligence by making good decisions. Decision making is certainly not all about smarts. Experience, mentoring, temperament, tenacity, instincts, curiosity, pragmatism, mental state – all sorts of factors play into decision making.
And you know, I have to say, of all the Twitter twits making arguments for the importance of IQ, not a single one came across as, well, intelligent. So there is that.
Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying intelligence isn’t important in determining outcomes. Of course it is. But it’s pretty much out of your control so why dwell on it? You’re better off focusing on making good choices. That’s all there is to it.
Image credit Alex Proimos via Flickr