Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic has written a fascinating article over at entitled, “Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence.”


Most would agree that today’s world is defined by technological changes, complexity and information overload.


The author wonders “why are some people more able to manage complexity?” Chamorro-Premuzic notes that some great 17th century thinkers were already complaining about information overload, so this is a question that has persisted for hundreds of years. He comes up with three fascinating answers:


  • “IQ,” which is a measure of one’s ability to learn and solve novel problems quickly. IQ testing has been done for decades and although controversial, high IQ scores seem to predict success in managing complexity. The more complex the task is, the more relevant higher IQ scores are. However, evidence of IQ being coachable or learnable is very thin.


  • “EQ” or “emotional quotient” deals with a person’s susceptibility to stress and social factors. Stress is harmful, especially to performing demanding tasks, but EQ acts as a buffer. People with higher EQ have the “soft skills” that large organizations look for in leadership, such as motivating, building a consensus and reducing conflicts. Unlike IQ, EQ appears to be more coachable. Entire industries exist for career and life coaching.


  • “CQ” or “curiosity quotient,” a concept credited to author and journalist Thomas L. Friedman signals an openness to new experiences, along with strength in idea generation. Even without a high IQ score, when CQ is high deeper learning takes root and new and important ideas are formed. According to Chamorro-Premuzic, CQ lends itself to keeping “eyes on the prize” when faced with distraction or system noise brought on by ambiguity.


We would have liked Chamorro-Premuzic to tell us about studies showing whether CQ is coachable like EQ, or static like IQ is thought to be.


The importance of CQ and deeper interest and learning in the sciences and the arts is unmistakable: These fields are often filled with ambiguity and they demand innovation. Competing theories and practices are everywhere, falling in and out of the limelight. CQ also holds great promise: Someone with high CQ will not just accept ambiguity, but embrace it, pursue new learning around it, and come up with new ideas of their own.