Intellect vs. Achievement: Are they even correlated?


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My daughter registered for “Newspapers in Education (NIE)”, a Times of India student edition about a year back. It’s an intriguing read. Not sure whether she reads it daily or not but I do; Daily without fail.

It is in this newspaper that I read about Mensa International, largest and oldest high IQ (intelligence quotient) society in the world.

And for people who don’t know, an average person’s IQ usually range anywhere b/w 90-110. Then you have Einsteins of the world whose IQ was circa 160-165 but still not someone with highest IQ level. There have been others in this world with IQ score of anything b/w 190 – 195. Mensa international conducts intelligence tests every year and inducts geniuses in its fold; obviously under various categories.

In general, people believe the higher is IQ score, the more education you’ll get, the more money you’re likely to make, and maybe the longer you’ll live. But are intellect scores & achievements actually, perfectly correlated? In other words, how confident are we that IQ scores perfectly predict achievements?

In my view Intelligence does not necessarily cause achievement; it is simply loosely correlated with it.   Maybe people with high IQs typically perform well in school or college, but I am privy to many examples where motivation, quality of instruction, family resources, parental support, and peer group expectations played a far important role than IQ in a person’s success. How otherwise can anyone explain a dear friend’s success that was not able to clear his graduation, in high end analytical job with top notch company in the field of Business Analysis?  I think, IQ tests cannot performances on real-world tasks or on unusual, multifaceted problems.

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The particular skill that allows you to talk your way out of a rough situation, or convince your business adversaries to agree to your point of view, is not plain vanilla analytical ability measured by IQ. It is something else. Well! Maybe it is “practical intelligence.

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For me, practical intelligence includes things like “knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.” It is routine: it is about knowing how to do something without necessarily knowing why you know it or being able to explain it. It’s practical in nature: that is, it’s not knowledge for its own sake. Its knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want. & it is this “Practical Intelligence” that is perfectly correlated to achievement and not IQ.

What’s your view?

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