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Monday, October 12, 2015

The Advantages of Hiring Executives with Fluid Intelligence

"Putamen" by Woutergroen


Executives need intellectual skills beyond their education to navigate a complex business environment. It doesn't matter what school they attended or their personal social connections if they can't solve company problems. Organizations would do better selecting individuals with high fluid intelligence  to ensure they don't get stumped the first time a complex problem hits their desk. 

Fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence are two different ways in which we use knowledge to solve problems. Fluid intelligence is based on our ability to think logically and resolve issues independent of previous knowledge. Crystallized intelligence taps knowledge in long-term memory gained from going to college or formal training.

Fluid intelligence is more like a sketch pad in which we write down and manipulate information in our short-term memory while crystallized intelligence is more akin to a book we reference to tap previous sources of information. Having a sketch pad and a dictionary is the best way to handle most problems.

Fluid intelligence is important because it allows employees to use logic when solving novel problems while keeping an open mind to new associations. It can detect patterns and utilize abstract reasoning that aids in the discovery of solutions that results in new product designs, the filling of scientific gaps, or greater innovation.

Education defines the depth and breadth of previous knowledge. The more years an employee learns, reads, studies, and attend school, the more knowledge they gain. They can use facts, figures, math, history, and examples to formulate an understanding of a problem. Previous knowledge solidifies our thinking based upon context of the information.

In the workplace there are scores of tasks that must be completed on a daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. According to a study on college student success on activities, fluid intelligence increased performance by 21.88% on tasks that required attention and were time sensitive (Penta, et. al., 2015). Furthermore, stimulating fluid intelligences also reduced outcome errors by a whopping 20%.

Selecting employees with strong fluid intelligences impacts the success of key management positions. Executives should have the ability to manage a larger more complex system and will rely on their fluid intelligence to think through the options to solve difficult problems. Executives who don't have this skill will continue to rely on old methods that often result in lost revenue.

Selection questions for interview candidates should include some unique questions that don't have a previous answer. Something they wouldn't be able to answer solely from previous knowledge. Understanding the process candidates use to tackle problems and determine if that process leads to a solution improves successful hire rates. The company should not look at the specific solution but the application of knowledge in new and unique ways that indicate the presence of fluid intelligence.

Penta, S. et. al. (2015). Enhancing tasks solving efficiency by the stimulation of crystallized and/or fluid intelligence using environmental factors. Romanian Journal of Medical Practice, 10 (1).

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