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How Quickly Can You Adapt?!

Hello hello! Welcome back to my mini-series on several different forms of intelligence in the workplace. Today we’re diving into AQ, the newest buzz-word in the world of all things business. AQ, the adaptability coefficient, is defined as “the ability to adapt and thrive in a fast-changing environment.” Some articles even go as far as saying that “AQ is taking its place alongside established quotients like IQ and EQ when it comes to determining an employee's value.” That was fast… The rise of AQ isn’t exactly surprising given the 180 we recently had to make to be able to continue some type of normalcy, aka continue working. Working from home is now IT. Zoom is life, and zoom fatigue is unfortunately also present. Some people are thriving whilst working from home, others are burning out. And according to AQ, some are doing better than ever, and others are failing miserably.


If we go back to the original definition of intelligence, as proposed by Darwin, we might finally have a “Q” that matches quite decently. Intelligence is about survival, and adaptability is a key component of this. So the AQ simply states how well you’d be able to survive, and pass on your genes. Thanks Darwin. Now I’m not too sure being able to work from home well is going to enhance your chances of procreation (it might?), but that’s also not really the point of this article. What AQ is going to help you with is keeping your shit together, when the rest of the world is falling apart. If you ask me, AQ is simply a buzzword for some type of resilience. When it comes to the 5 dimensions often measured in personality tests (Big Five), I hope you’re not neurotic…


When it comes to seeing AQ in the workforce, it’s quite different from EQ. With EQ, also thanks to it having been established quite a while ago, there’s much more research and guidelines indicating what you can do with it. As the buzz on AQ reaches a peak, I’m sure it’ll have some work done on it as well, and I have found some clickbait articles already “4 ways of increasing your value through your AQ” but haven’t found “3 things employers don’t want you to know about AQ!” yet. So resources are a bit more limited. AQ is also not a tool per se that can be easily measured. It’s not difficult to figure out if someone has high IQ or EQ. The tests exist and it’s quite easy to derive from someone’s work output and interactions within the workplace (more difficult via Zoom though). But AQ, as a resilience measure, can only be measured when shit hits the fan (it has) and how people cope with that. But as I said in my article on EQ, coping can take many forms, and I’m not sure all of them are healthy. Again, check out the podcast episode we recorded with Ali Fenwick, it’s a bloody goldmine. So your AQ is probably quite high if you didn’t suffer much having your workplace moved to your own home. If you’re still killing it when on Zoom, and you have no issue not seeing your co-workers, god for you. But that’s just not most of us.


AQ can go beyond one workplace as well. What happens if you get laid off? How quickly can you find a new job? What happens if you want to switch sectors as a result of it? How quickly can you find a job in a different sector that still works for your current skillset? Talking about skillset, how up to date is that skillset of yours anyway? Do you have time to learn an entirely new skill or skillset to stay in your current job or move up the ladder? If you do, your AQ is probably quite high. If you can find new jobs in no time, your AQ is probably a lot higher than that of most. And when we’re looking at this definition of AQ, I’m starting to see quite an unhealthy inequality gap. If you’re financially stable or well-off, I’d expect you to have a higher AQ. More resilience to any type of the aforementioned shocks. More time to train skills, given that you would be able to take time out to do so, compared to someone who’s holding down two jobs already and can barely meet their financial demands at the end of the month. Although I respect resilience in a person, and I admire creativity to get things done in difficult times, this buzzword seems less about these features and leaves a “healthy” gap for the individual’s financial situation to rest its heavy head. When focusing solely on the psychological or personality aspect of this type of flexibility and adjustability what you’re describing is the “neuroticism” measure within the Big Five personality model. That has been around for quite a while now, and there’s a lot of research underlying both the model, and the many impacts high or low neuroticism can have. All in all, I’m not sold on AQ yet.



Behavioural Science

Personal Finance



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