Measuring Ability: Yes We Can!

“Yes We Can” is a great slogan. It was used in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign back in 2008. Indeed it was a powerful and inspiring message that swept him into the office. But what exactly makes the “Yes We Can” message so powerful? The answer is twofold. First, it is much easier to campaign for a yes-we-can than a no-we-can’t, but this is not precisely the answer I advocate. Second, it is a message that conveys at its core an inherent strength and ability.

What exactly makes the “Yes We Can” message so powerful? The answer is twofold. First, it is much easier to campaign for a yes-we-can than a no-we-can’t, but this is not precisely the answer I advocate. Second, it is a message that conveys at its core an inherent strength and ability.

This article is about ability, the fundamental requirement for any talented job candidate. We hire people who are capable of successfully delivering what they are assigned to do. No wonder, ability has been chosen to form the base of the PEAK talent discovery model. Ability in this model is ability in the psychometric context. It basically refers to general ability, which typically includes analytical, problem solving, critical thinking, and reasoning skills, not to mention other skills required to convey messages and pass information in business context, such as writing reports or delivering presentations.

We hire people who are capable of successfully delivering what they are assigned to do. No wonder, ability has been chosen to form the base of the PEAK talent discovery model.

It is no surprise that ability is commonly tested as part of the admission process at reputable educational institutions and employers recruiting for high stake jobs such as investment banking or management consulting, and increasingly for other job families.

Advocates for ability testing believe that on-the-job performance is correlated with general intelligence, on the one hand, but the critics on the other hand question the basic definition of intelligence, which is the center of a decades long debate, since intelligence has no single robust definition or boundaries. Stanley S. Stevens argues brilliantly, in his 1946 paper, that intelligence is what intelligence tests measure, which remains till today the basis for the former view supporting intelligence testing, despite an apparent circular reference. Indeed, emotional and mechanical intelligence are critical forms of intelligence that we do not essentially see in a standard IQ test.

Stevens argues brilliantly, in his 1946 paper, that intelligence is what intelligence tests measure, which remains till today the basis for the former view supporting intelligence testing, despite an apparent circular reference.

Today, it has been established that ability is correlated with performance and ability testing is becoming increasingly a standard recruitment procedure. This helps organizations raise the bar in their selection process and reinforce the employer brand as they appear more selective. In the talent discovery model, ability is classified into three distinctive areas. These are essentially ability to engage, execute and excel.

In his book on “Outliers”,  Malcolm Gladwell leads an interesting discussion about the relationship between intelligence and success in life. He argues that ability or talent has to be combined with hard work and opportunity to achieve an outstanding success.

Image By Flickr Sargue

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