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Adaptability Quotient. The new measure for intelligence?

Alongside IQ and EQ there is a new means of measuring intelligence that is rapidly growing in popularity: Adaptability Quotient (AQ).

It’s focus isn’t on insight or emotion, but on one’s ability to adapt. During these turbulent times, this capability is more relevant than ever. However, is it smart to immediately interpret a high AQ as the modern measure of intelligence?

Each method for measuring personality traits is tied to the point in time in which it was developed. The term Intelligence Quotient – better known as IQ – stems from 1912. In scientific circles it was originally used as a way to guess a person’s age. However, when the first world war broke out, the American army began using it as a testing method. Efficiency was highly regarded, even then, and IQ testing helped link recruits to the appropriate functions.

The Emotional Quotient (EQ), measuring emotional intelligence, was first introduced on the science scene in 1964. However, it didn’t gain any real traction as a testing method until the 90’s. The concept that emotion and mental health have a direct correlation with intelligence was characteristic of that time. It was also during this period, when we saw an increase in the importance of interpersonal skills in management theories. After all, emotion was the key to success! The hype surrounding the “people manager” which arose in the late 1990s is a key example of this.

EQ or IQ are no longer a topic of conversation in today’s workplace. As it turns out, neither have anything to say about how effective a person is. However, is the Adaptability Quotient (a term derived from an article by Stuart Park in 2010) the answer? The AQ seems, in any case, to tie in with the current era: adaptability is indeed the most prevalent in times when constant change is a constant circumstance.

To adapt

Some people tend to be much more resilient than others. Today’s daily life, for example, seems to clearly distinguish those who do and, more obviously, don’t possess a high AQ. On the one side, you have those who embrace the “new normal”. They accept the circumstances and focus on what is still possible in a quarantine situation. All the self-taught home bakers, and socially distanced bootcamps are an obvious example of this. In direct contrast to this are the melancholics who have had a little more trouble finding their feet. For example, those who are used to experiencing lots of physical contact from others. Or, the most extreme category, those who are so deeply emerged in their filter-bubble of conspiracy theories and denial, that they believe they have to travel to anti-corona demonstrations with guns and flags. The need for adaptability is also clearly present in our current day today working life. Sporadic working from home and video calling, collaborations via Zoom, Teams or Hangouts is now the defacto standard. In some sectors (education for example), these steps were taken purely due to necessity. However in other, more digitized sectors, video calling or working from home has been the norm for years. The only thing that’s new is that it’s happening more regularly.

Agility: the new ‘people manager’

Due to the corona crisis the importance of adaptability is more prominent than ever. However, even prior to the crisis, there was a growing need for organisations to find faster, better and more effective ways to innovate. Whether it be due to the pandemic, disruptive competition, or an ineptitude for digital transformation; the pressure on organisations to increase their adaptability is on the rise. It’s high time that organisations critically reflect, and ask themselves: are we on the same level as Flitsmeister, (a Dutch traffic cam app) who, during the corona crisis, have rapidly transformed their app into a two-way marketplace for delivery drivers? Or, are we more comparable to TomTom, who’ve mainly sought support in their rear-view mirror; and after a decline in sales decided to “put things into perspective” by focusing on how well they had done at the start of the year

AQ vs IQ vs EQ

Although it sometimes feels like it, the AQ, just like its counterparts IQ and EQ, is not a conclusive measure for intelligence rendering all other tools useless. Where IQ gauges pure brainpower and EQ represents more empathy, AQ is more exemplary of the ability to translate theoretical knowledge into practical solutions. The AQ shows how well someone can switch between thinking and acting when adaptability and creativity are essential.

” The AQ is therefore, not a replacement for IQ and EQ but a welcome addition to the team, and an important one at that. “

The ability to adapt to changing circumstances has become increasingly important for employees and employers alike. Of course a high IQ and EQ remain important, however, the way in which these forms of intellect are transformed into actions is finite.

Curious to know the status of your own AQ? Consider the three following factors:

1. Cognitive flexibility. The ability to switch between two strategic mentalities, or mental frameworks, in order to respond more quickly to changing circumstances. Furthermore, it enables you to better function within an organisation in which a multitude of ways of thinking and working are practiced.

2. Emotional flexibility. Equally important is the ability to empathize with others and adapt your approach or interactions accordingly. As a leader, it’s especially crucial to act correctly in difficult and unpredictable situations (a pandemic, for example). By not being afraid of the emotions and suffering that accompany them, and responding openly and empathetically.

3. Optimistic flexibility. Last but by no means least is the ability to be optimistic, whilst at the same time remaining realistic. Not to act out of blind optimism or pessimism, but from an optimistic stance which is rooted in reality. By recognising difficult situations and communicating openly about them, it’s possible to work on a positive future without the blinkers.

In short

In addition to constant change, one thing is certain: the Adaptability Quotient is a very important measuring tool. Especially for modern technology-oriented and data-informed organisations. Because they are moving in a market where change is the rule, not the exception. Although adaptability is not the only factor to consider, it is the missing link which translates good ideas on paper into innovative solutions. So, make sure you have a good balance between cognitive, empathy, and adaptability if you want to guarantee success!

This article was previously published on, written by:

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