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Is it intelligence or personality that matters?

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It probably goes without saying that most organizations strive to attract the most talented people, whether it’s through direct employment, or more recently via open innovation challenges.  It doesn’t always work out however.  I’ve written before about studies that explore this topic, and in particular the belief that having lots of talented people will inspire and cajole the best out of each of them.  The study found that having talented people in a team did little to raise the performance of less talented people in that team.

Studies throughout the past few decades have generally correlated intelligence with good performance at work.  Most of these studies were conducted in an environment where the duties expected of an employee were relatively tightly controlled, and certainly didn’t account for things such as collaboration or anything outside of the job description.

A more recent study highlights how in the more modern work environment, intelligence is a much less accurate proxy for performance.  The study, conducted via a meta analysis, honed studies down to a final short list of 35 that explored things like collaboration and citizenship within the workplace.

Whilst the meta analysis did reveal a small link between general intelligence and citizenship behaviours, this link was significantly smaller than between intelligence and task performance.  The researchers instead found that personality was at least as influential to collaborative behaviours as was intelligence.

Intelligence and bad behaviour

Interestingly however, the research did uncover a tighter link between intelligence and counter productive behaviour.  There was a strong link between traits such as agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience, and unhelpful behaviours at work.  When third party analysis was involved, such as in a performance review, the research showed that there was a distinct link between ones intelligence and their willingness to engage in unhelpful behaviours at work.  It showed that the smarter someone was, the less likely it was that their boss would report them as having engaged in unhelpful behaviours at work.

It underlines that when looking for more social behaviours in the workplace, that intelligence should not be the sole criteria used to assess someones suitability, with personality being as important.

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