Throughout my career as a recruiter, I’ve worked with organisations whose recruitment processes are designed to understand how potential employees think. Whether it’s a series of intensive interviews, a battery of psychometric tests or the typical case study process within the management consulting industry, every candidate is assessed to determine their suitability.

In most cases, the focus is on determining the level of IQ (cognitive intelligence) and EQ (self-awareness) of the individuals to ascertain whether they can manage their technical requirements or stakeholder engagements of the job. And these remain critical, with EQ perhaps taking a leap forward as the secret ingredient for success, as per the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Skills for 2020.

Many of our clients are starting to appreciate the difference that higher EQ makes in self-leadership and the ability of employees to work largely unsupervised. Thankfully EQ can be developed, and individuals are recommended to consider how they can leverage their own EQ to grow their current – and future – opportunities.

Change is the only constant

Whilst meeting with a client the other day, we got to talking about the needs of 21st century businesses who are more often than not, grappling with change. It appears that the most constant thing in business is the fact that things are changing.

And whilst this can be a necessary disruptor in order for organisations to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace, change is not necessarily mans’ (or woman’s) best friend. Many of us are entrenched in our comfort zones, and prefer to stick with what we know than venture into the unknown. But for some, the ability to bounce back from disappointment and emerge from discomfort, makes them well-suited to highly volatile industries and environments.

Kevin Chin, founder and CEO of Arowana & Co, a specialist investor and operator in the Australian emerging company sector, has coined the term AQ (Adversity Quotient). AQ stands for adversity quotient, or simply put, resilience.

Asked to elaborate, Chin said, “when talking with fellow entrepreneurs we are unanimous in agreement that collective enterprise resilience ―AQ―is the key determinant of success and winning in the business realm. This is not to say that EQ and IQ are unimportant; I consider them as necessary but insufficient requirements. Without AQ, the success of your team will be finite.”

Measuring AQ

This can be tough, as it is often difficult to simulate, in the interviewing process, the stress and pressures experienced in volatile industries. However, Chin argues that you can screen out those “fair-weather employees” who have got going when the going got tough, or who have consistently switched jobs when things didn’t go perfectly. Rather, he suggests that organisations take another look at those individuals who’ve seem to have had it hard and who have overcome adversity – whether in their personal or professional lives.  The ability to keep pushing, even when it seems impossible, and to get up and dust yourself off after a fall, is essential for those who are expected to operate in an environment where fear of failure is simply not acceptable.

Re-defining Success

Chin concludes by stating that, “ultimately, winners are not those who never fail, but those who never quit. It’s crucial to understand that a winning team will collectively exhibit high AQ, above all else.”

Traditional recognition and reward structures need to be re-visited, acknowledging the effort of those taking on seemingly impossible tasks, and where immediate return on investment may not be evident. Incentives should take into account the scope, difficulty and long-term impact of projects, not only their immediate gains.

In fact, it seems that those who exhibit the highest AQ and who may in fact have experienced several failures – all while getting up and starting again – should  be seen as frontrunners for leadership roles within 21st century organisations. Those with high AQ are often the employees who can focus on the task at hand, blocking out any distraction, and who are willing to innovate, adopting a try fast – fail fast attitude, driving change and success.

When considering the Volatile – Uncertain – Complex – Ambiguous (VUCA) marketplace we operate in, isn’t it time your organisation looked further than measuring only IQ and EQ?