IQ, EQ and AQ – the shifting focus for success in the workplace…and schools

As experienced for decades, IQ (Intelligence Quotient) was considered the metric of success and key predictor of future success in schooling, university and in many careers. The traditional education system had long equated success in schooling on examination capabilities which, for the most part, relied heavily on factual memorisation and recall, leading to superficial enquiry. Exacerbating this issue has been the sheer volume and breadth of curriculum concepts required by teachers to teach-and-test in rapid-fire approaches to learning, leaving behind anyone needing more processing time or different approaches to learn. This approach of swiftness and vastness undermined any intent to develop IQ because teachers were compelled to teach-test all facets, whether or not learned by students to any meaningful depth or with any real complexity.

It is true that some rather basic and not-so-basic calculation, analysis or evaluation has been part of the approach to incorporate an extension component for those more intellectually capable under these inflexible conditions. Skill development and application of real-world learning experiences have traditionally not been as valued to the same degree in school-based education as knowledge per se, although this too is changing, as the need to prepare students beyond the test and equip them for real-world learning and careers is gaining momentum, albeit slowly. Before unsettling anyone, there is no suggestion we should abandon or erode the establishment of core foundational knowledge; rather to consider beyond this glass ceiling that has existed for so long and where I believe there is a strong appetite, even determination, by teachers to achieve just this.

EQ, also referred to as EI (Emotional Intelligence), has for some time now been a welcome addition in broadening the purpose within school-based education. This conception has gained greater acceptance in the importance of the development of young people, not just as adolescents-teenagers, but all the way down to young children as they start their schooling career in Kindergarten. As schooling is designed to do, such acceptance has also been a positive step forward in better preparing students for a future career, where EQ is highly valued in most workplaces in order to build teams, improve client-customer relations and enhance buy-in from employees.

There is also the moral imperative to support students to deal with an increasingly complex and digital world, navigating social media and the internet, while a student is still in school. Evolving the ability to self-regulate, be self-aware, have empathy for others, be socially adept and manage relationships effectively are all absolutely complementary to IQ in contributing to overall success and effectiveness, whether at school, in the workplace or in life. We have learnt such skills are not just important for adults. Being well rounded as an individual is gaining momentum in the parent world, where it seems the aspiration for one’s child incorporates EQ and may even be outstripping the aspiration for IQ. An extension of these important attributes reaches into being collaborative, communicative, creative and solving complex problems which segue into the qualities of a third dimension, AQ.

Whilst the two-type metrics of intelligence quotients above have dominated the underpinning of success and predictors of success, AQ (Adaptability Quotient) has been emerging as a third and an equally important dimension in the workplace and therefore also in education systems. This more recently identified quotient extends beyond EQ or EI. Defined loosely, it relates to the ability of a person to adapt to their changing environment, the ability to pivot when there is a need to adopt a different approach when something is not working optimally or change is imposed, an ability to ‘unlearn to relearn’ a new way and test assumptions, and to find the means to flourish in any globally fast-paced and rapidly changing environment. Unlearning and relearning are key tenets of a growth mindset illustrated well by The Backwards Brain Bicycle challenge by an engineer (Dustin Sandlin) who demonstrated the alternative neural pathway challenges in this experiment. If you haven’t seen it, it is worth an internet search. It turns out ‘you can teach an old dog new tricks’, although not always easily, but it can be done. We can adapt!

More so now than ever, IQ is considered a minimum requirement to acquire a job, and no longer the sole metric of success at university or school. EQ enables an individual in any team to be more effective and AQ is considered as a greater enabler of success sustained over a longer period of time. Most of us have some aversion to change, inherently or ingrained over time, and this isn’t all that conducive to thrive in a modern world. It stands to reason that higher levels of anxiety can be associated with a difficulty in adaptation. It is not just about sustaining a career; underdeveloped AQ cannot be underestimated in the role of one’s holistic health.

The parenting style of our generation (and I am guilty here!) exhibits a strong tendency to fiercely protect our children before anything can possibly go wrong, by removing all hazards ahead (aka ‘bulldozer parenting styles’), where we strip these away early, as well as their natural exposure to experiencing problems, failures and challenges, thereby not allowing children from an early age to develop skills to overcome such challenges. Adaptability, resilience, accurate reflection, optimism, positive self-narrative and embracing failures as rich learning experiences are so very valuable. The most effective learners have these characteristics, and we see more and more students with high IQ but with low AQ, whose learning diminishes over time as they protect their ego-identity as the ‘smart kid’, not wanting to burst the bubble. Those without this hindrance are free to explore and experiment in their learning and develop a multitude of AQ characteristics.

There is solid evidence universities are changing their entrance criteria to better incorporate EQ and AQ features and moving away from a sole reliance on IQ. They too realise that IQ alone is not an effective predictor of future academic success, as the challenges escalate at tertiary level and where students merge into employment. Universities regularly boast ‘career preparedness’, hence the importance to the sector. Employees and workplaces are demanding graduates of both schools and universities to recruit well-rounded and adaptable people to be more effective in the workplace. Once in the workplace, the ability for the ‘talent’ to rise in levels of responsibility and leadership absolutely will command accomplishment in EQ and AQ, and arguably more than IQ. Between 2019 and 2022, 120 million people working in the world’s twelve largest economies were anticipated to be reskilled because of automation alone which, as one example, are not insignificant implications. (Murray, 2019, BBC retrieved at

So, what has all this got to do with Snowy Mountains Grammar School? Quite a lot, actually. Firstly, SMGS has had ‘…develop well-rounded young people…’ in its mission statement since its inception, such was the wisdom of the founders of the School back in 1995-96 when it wasn’t a common purpose-promise statement by schools. In fact, the determination of our school governance, leadership and whole staff is very much to service this need for all students, which incorporates a strong sense of values to underpin everything that is referenced above in this piece. Of second importance is that the newly developed SMGS Teaching and Learning Framework very much caters to this in its learning philosophy, where it goes well beyond mastery of foundational knowledge and skills to extending learning, as well as incorporating nurturing relationships and application of learning in real-world contexts. We have moved well beyond approaches of factual recall of knowledge.

Of third importance is the development of our facilities, specifically the learning spaces. In the new Learning Hub, for instance, due for completion by mid-2023, the physical design incorporates spaces for more flexible multi-class-subject learning to tackle solutions to real-world problems in collaborative ways, as well as more traditional learning spaces when immersed in earlier stage mastery of foundational knowledge and skills. These will allow for IQ-EQ-AQ knowledge and skill development. We are preparing our students for future-oriented careers that don’t yet exist, as well as accommodating traditional careers of the past that still exist but will inevitably adapt and evolve their method and practice. This is occurring right now through carefully designed programs, facilities and support of our students, equipping them for an ever-changing world by professional, dedicated and inspirational staff at Snowy Mountains Grammar School who know and value each child in their care.