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 leaping 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 EQ to grow their current – and future – opportunities.

Change is the only constant

Whilst meeting with a client the other day, we talked about the needs of 21st-century businesses that are, more often than not, grappling with change. The most constant thing in business is the fact that things are changing.

And whilst this can be a necessary disruptor for organisations to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace, change is not necessarily our best friend. Many of us are entrenched in our comfort zones and prefer sticking with what we know rather than venturing 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 unanimously agree 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 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 had got going when the going got tough or who had consistently switched jobs when things didn’t go perfectly. Instead, he suggests that organisations take another look at those individuals who 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 unacceptable.

Re-defining Success

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

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

Those who exhibit the highest AQ and may 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 distractions, 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, isn’t it time your organisation looked further than measuring only IQ and EQ?

“Winners Are Not Those Who Never Fail, but Those Who Never Quit by Edwin Louis Cole.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Nov. 1995,