Category Archives: Intelligence

The Adaptive Skills and Behaviours Required to Succeed in Future Work Environments

There is a lot being said about the future of work, and what this means for the type of skills, attitudes, and behaviours we will require to succeed.  With this future already upon us, it is important that we pick up our pace  of change, and look to build capability that helps us to adapt, thrive and succeed within an ever changing world.  Best selling author, Jacob Morgan, describes in his latest book ‘The Future of Work’ five trends shaping the future of work;

  1. New behaviours
  2. Technology
  3. Millennials
  4. Mobility
  5. Globalisation

These trends are bringing a dramatic shift in attitudes and ways of working; new behaviours, approaches, and workplace expectations.  Whilst many of us are sensing these rapid changes, we aren’t necessarily sure why these changes are happening, what they mean, or how they will impact us.

As Jacob Morgan says:

“The disruption of every industry is also causing a bit of unrest as people struggle to define where they fit or if they will be obsolete.  It’s forcing us to adapt and change to stay relevant while giving rise to new business models, new products, new companies, new behaviours, and new ways of simply existing in today’s world”.

So, the burning questions are:  what exactly do these changes look like for employees, managers, and organisations?  And, what skills, attitudes, and behaviours do we require to succeed?

What we do know is that modern employees are more self-directed, collaborative in their approach, and want to shape and define their own career paths instead of having them predefined for them.  They are continually seeking out learning opportunities that fit with their personal purpose and professional aspirations, and are looking for development opportunities that benefit them holistically as a ‘whole person’.  They seek the skills, confidence and healthy mind-set to challenge the status quo, to think on their feet, and to continually adapt within highly fluid and ever changing organisational environments.  They are looking to learn and develop emotional and social intelligence;  to work within increasingly networked communities;  to lead, collaborate, innovate and share.

Consistent with the above is five crucial behaviours, identified by Morgan, as being required by employees in the modern workplace;

  1. Self-Direction and Autonomy – to continually learn, and stay on top of important tasks within manager-less organisations
  2. Filter and Focus – to be able to manage the cognitive load associated with increasing amounts of pervasive information
  3. Embracing Change – to continually adapt to new working practices whilst demonstrating resilience and healthy mind-sets
  4. Comprehensive Communication Skills – to support collaborative work practices, and to communicate ideas and provide feedback succinctly
  5. Learning to Learn – to be willing to adopt a pro-learning mind-set; to step outside comfort zones, reflect, and make meaning of experiences.

Organisations also need to adapt to the future of work to support these trends and demands, and ensure they are attracting, developing, and retaining top talent.  A good place to start is by fostering and embracing the principles of organisational learning.  Peter Senge suggested in his book ‘The Fifth Discipline: The Art of the Learning Organisation’ that in order for an organisation to remain competitive within the complex and volatile business environments that we find ourselves operating they must build their capacity for continually transforming.  This involves developing cultures that;

  • Encourage and support employees in their pursuit of personal mastery (the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, and seeing reality objectively)
  • Encourage employees to challenge ingrained assumptions and mental models
  • Foster genuine commitment and enrolment through shared visions.

Here at OPRA we are developing a carefully selected set of best-of-breed, soft skill learning and development programmes to help individuals and organisations embrace these current and future trends. Our programmes are designed to equip professionals with the emotional intelligence, healthy thinking, learning agility, collaborative team behaviours, and motivation required to demonstrate exceptional performance within the modern workplace environment.  We have grounded our programmes on the principles of positive psychology, and an understanding that REAL learning and engagement only occurs when self-awareness, participation, and a tangible sense of progress are present. Therefore, and in light of this, all our programmes are designed to;

  • Develop self-insight and raise awareness of individual and collective strengths
  • Utilise proven research based content, delivered by expert and accredited practitioners
  • Provide access to on-going professional coaching opportunities to further deepen learning
  • Incorporate social learning methodologies to encourage and enable collaboration and sharing
  • Provide applied on-the-job challenges and reflection to embed and sustain behavioural changes.

Watch this space for further announcements about OPRA Develop over the coming months. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss how OPRA can support your learning and development with proven, researched based soft-skill development programmes, then please contact your local OPRA office:

Wellington: 04 499 2884 or

Auckland: 09 358 3233 or

Christchurch: 03 379 7377 or

Australia: +61 2 4044 0450 or

Singapore: +65 3152 5720 or

How Does Emotional Intelligence Relate to Teams?

How does emotional intelligence relate to teams?

Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to recognise, understand and manage the emotions of oneself, of others and of groups. The concept of EI and its contribution to the effectiveness of organisations is now well researched and supported. However, as Druskat and Wolff (2001) point out this has generally been discussed in terms of the impact at the individual level and the reality is that most of the work we do and the decisions we make is in teams. Because overall performance relies so much on team cohesiveness and awareness, enhancing emotional intelligence across the team is crucial but what does this look like and how does it differ from strategies aimed at enhancing individual emotional intelligence?

The key differences between the concepts of individual and group emotional intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman suggest that someone with high emotional intelligence is aware of emotions and able to regulate them both inwardly and outwardly. However, just because a team is made up of emotionally intelligent people does not make for an emotionally intelligent group. A team must not only consider the emotions of the individuals within that group, but they must also be mindful of the emotions of the group as a whole, as well as the emotions of other groups in a broader context. According to Druskat and Wolff, establishing emotionally intelligent group norms where specific attitudes and behaviours become habits that enable trust, group identity and group efficacy is the answer for creating emotionally intelligent groups and ensuring functional team performance.

There are a range of potential strategies for enabling emotionally intelligent behaviour in teams at these three levels. Interpersonal understanding and perspective taking were two strategies that Druskat and Wolff discussed as ways that people can become more aware of their team members’ perspectives and feelings at the individual level. Interpersonal understanding refers to a team’s ability to pick up certain behaviours of its members and recognise the cause of them.  Perspective taking refers to the way teams stop and take the time to consider the perspectives of everyone as opposed to simply going with the majority. An emotionally intelligent team would query if there were any perspectives they had not yet heard or thought through fully. Therefore, a group norm of interpersonal understanding and sensitivity is established and helps to nurture trust and a sense of group identity among its members.

While establishing these norms at the individual level is important, many teams can struggle to recognise emotions at the group level. In a study of effective teams, the authors found that having a group awareness of the team’s strengths and weaknesses and means of interaction were critical in facilitating group efficacy.  Group emotional intelligence is about bringing emotions to the surface and understanding how they impact the performance of the team, then facing them in an open and honest forum. The last type of emotional intelligence that any high performing team should have is the ability to understand emotions outside of their team. Sometimes a team can become so caught up in their objectives and ways of working they can struggle to understand why other groups in the organisation don’t share their viewpoint or enthusiasm. Successful teams are not only aware of others’ perspectives but are capable of influencing outsiders simply by how they frame their own needs and perspectives.

While emotional intelligence at the individual level has been well supported, emotional intelligence at the team level is critical to ensuring the success of a team. Through establishing norms for emotional awareness and understanding at all levels teams can create a culture of trust, group identity and efficacy resulting in high performance. Training courses can be hugely beneficial in increasing emotional awareness and helping people to regulate emotions. Many companies are now choosing to invest in leadership development courses and team building workshops which can inform teams of the importance of establishing emotionally intelligent norms and provide strategies in doing so. What norms exist within your team and what does your team do to encourage a supportive and trusting environment?

Druskat, V., Wolff, S. (2001). Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups. Harvard Business Review, 81-90.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail

In a recent book Nate Silver[1] illustrates the limitations of people to think in probabilistic terms and build models that incorporate uncertainty. This is not a trivial matter, and is a major contributing factor to the financial crash that started in late 2007, the effects of which are still resonating around the world. Mr Silver notes that while financial advisers have widely proclaimed the GFC as an unpredictable ‘black swan’ event that no one saw coming, he notes that there were plenty of observers, including the newspapers of the day, that were warning of problems brewing. However, those that were close to the action missed the signs as they were primed to avoid seeing disaster and arrogantly had full confidence in their powers of prediction, due to their position.

For I/O psychologists. the level of over-confidence people have in their predictions is a well-known fact.  We have long known, for example, that the predictive power of cognitive ability tests exceeds that of interviews while the latter are still more commonly used as the stalwart of the selection process.  It is ironic that those tasked with the specific purpose of prediction (selection professionals) are often not skilled in prediction and choose imprecise methodologies. This phenomena of ‘I must be right as I’m the professional’ is common with so many professionals from doctors to lawyers, accountants to bankers. However, when their errors are pointed out to them they take umbrage and get defensive.

Another issue identified by Mr Silver is the idea that data alone can solve problems. This is the “psychometrician fallacy” that somehow the numbers alone will both identify and solve problems. On the contrary, numbers alone without good logic are akin to having the materials of a house and no plan to build it.

 Prediction, for I/O psychologists is a craft. We use tools such as the data provided by psychometric tools, to carefully construct causal models that we then tried to find evidence to refute or support our theory. We must avoid any form of over-confidence, however attractive the commercial benefits are, and always recognise the inherent difficulties in the prediction of human outcomes.  We provide benefit to our clients not by being over-confident and assured, but by being honest and providing sound, well supported advice.

[1] The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don’t. By Nate Silver. Penguin Press

New Zealand: The Home Of Culturally Appropriate Testing

New Zealand is a fantastic country. This statement will come as no surprise to many but it is often taken for granted by us Kiwis as to what a great place to both live and work New Zealand is.

One of the many things that make New Zealand great is the Treaty of Waitangi and the relationship between Maori and non-Maori which is integral to New Zealand legislation. In this regard we are the envy of the world and a shining light of proactively working towards a unified country that truly gives political and economic power to the indigenous people of the land.

I contrast this for example with other countries such as Australia that have a poor record with Aborigines. Moreover, New Zealand’s attitude of integrating ethnicities while maintaining their identity is somewhat unique in the world. For example, in France it is forbidden by law to collect statistics referring to ‘racial or ethnic origin’.

As an I/O psychologist ethnicity and understanding differences across ethnicity is a vital part of our role. I personally have been involved in looking at adverse impact of ethnicity on cognitive ability and personality assessments and see this as a crucial part of being an ethical psychologist. In New Zealand this is demanded by all organisations that are committed to maintaining testing standards. If we contrast this to Europe, and the French example, we can once again see just how far ahead a country like New Zealand really is when it comes to the discipline of I/O psychology.

Cognitive Science Can Be Career Damaging

I have argued that the identification of a casual and biological link between personality and behaviour has ramifications for society. I have also noted how difficult it is for people to deal with any degree of determinism in the psychological sciences.

As most I/O Psychologists know cognitive ability is one of the most researched and valid predictors of job performance. The average correlation coefficient for cognitive ability and job performance is in the area of 0.5-0.6 (e.g. Schmidt and Hunter, 1998). This is supported in a more recent British journal, the abstract of which is quoted below:

Bertua, C., Anderson, N., and Salgado, J.F. (2005 – September) The predictive validity of cognitive ability tests: A UK meta-analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 78(3), 387-410.


A meta-analysis on the validity of tests of general mental ability (GMA) and specific cognitive abilities for predicting job performance and training success in the UK was conducted. An extensive literature search resulted in a database of 283 independent samples with job performance as the criterion (N = 13,262), and 223 with training success as the criterion (N = 75,311). Primary studies were also coded by occupational group, resulting in seven main groups (clerical, engineer, professional, driver, operator, manager, and sales), and by type of specific ability test (verbal, numerical, perceptual, and spatial). Results indicate that GMA and specific ability tests are valid predictors of both job performance and training success, with operational validities in the magnitude of 0 .5-0.6. Minor differences between these UK findings and previous US meta-analyses are reported. As expected, operational validities were moderated by occupational group, with occupational families possessing greater job complexity demonstrating higher operational validities between cognitive tests and job performance and training success. Implications for the practical use of tests of GMA and specific cognitive abilities in the context of UK selection practices are discussed in the conclusion.

How much of this ability is genetic, I would not know. This question interests me less than the question of how you help people to obtain a performance level to the best of their ability. The brain is very malleable and despite limitations set by genetics, the variation for performance inside those limitations is huge.

The fact remains that discussing pre-determined cognitive ability as a societal limitation is very dangerous area to tread. Many famous careers have been ruined, or at least maligned, by getting into this debate. Many psychologists have had their ethics questioned for even asking the question. Perhaps none quite as public in recent times as the outcry against Nobel-prize winner James Watson. Here is an article from the Independent as a reminder to those who may forget that cognitive determinism, even the mention of which is an area that is socially very charged and illustrative of the problems of any degree of determinism for Psychology should it exist.

Anger at scientist’s ‘whites more intelligent than blacks’ comment, Thursday October 18, 2007, By Cahal Milmo

“One of the world’s most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that “equal powers of reason” were shared across racial groups was a delusion. James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America’s leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made before his arrival in Britain for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London”. – The Independent

The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when “testing” suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.

The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was studying Dr Watson’s remarks “in full”. Dr Watson told the Sunday Times that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours whereas all the testing says not really”. He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

His views are also reflected in a book published next week, in which he writes: “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.”

Dr Watson arrives in Britain this week for a speaking tour to publicise his latest book, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science. Among his first engagements is a speech to an audience at the Science Museum organised by the Dana Centre, which held a discussion last night on the history of scientific racism. Critics of Dr Watson said there should be a robust response to his views across the spheres of politics and science.

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “It is sad to see a scientist of such achievement making such baseless, unscientific and extremely offensive comments. I am sure the scientific community will roundly reject what appear to be Dr Watson’s personal prejudices. These comments serve as a reminder of the attitudes which can still exist at the highest professional levels.”

The American scientist earned a place in the history of great scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century when he worked at the University of Cambridge in the 1950s and 1960s and formed part of the team which discovered the structure of DNA. He shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine with his British colleague Francis Crick and New Zealand-born Maurice Wilkins. Anti-racism campaigners called for Dr Watson’s remarks to be looked at in the context of racial hatred laws. A spokesman for the 1990 Trust, a black human rights group, said: “It is astonishing that a man of such distinction should make comments that seem to perpetuate racism in this way.”


Efforts to prove the superiority or inferiority of different races have a long and undistinguished history, from the justifications of slavery to the eugenic policies of Nazi Germany. Modern studies on race and intelligence have continued to create controversy.  In 1994, a dispute erupted over the best-selling book The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray and Richard Hermstein, which argued that there were IQ differences between races that were at least partly genetic and that welfare and other polices were diluting the intelligence of the population by inadvertently encouraging the “wrong” women (with low IQs) to have babies.

In 2002, Richard Lynn, a professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, stoked the fire with the publication of his book IQ and the Wealth of Nations, written with Tatu Vanhanen, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Tampere, Finland.  Arthur Jensen, a former professor of educational psychology at the University of Berkeley, California, published The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability in 1998 suggesting that a “genetic component” lay behind the difference between whites and blacks in intelligence.  He was accused of “scientific racism”, couching racial differences in IQ in a theory drawn from evolutionary biology, and of practising “social, value-laden science”.

In Britain, the dispute erupted at Edinburgh University in 1996 when the psychologist Christopher Brand declared he was a “race realist”. “The way in which I would try to explain higher levels of crime and out-of-wedlock births would not be by referring to blackness or race but to IQ,” he said. –The Independent