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What’s Better Than Being Smart? Hanging Tough

Genius will get you somewhere,  but for the climb to the top you need grit.  Recent research indicates that old-fashioned virtues such as conscientiousness and perseverance are a better determinant of success than intelligence, according to an Aug. 2 Boston Globe article, “The Truth About Grit.” While IQ tests are widely administered, the science of grit is in its early days.  One of its pioneers is Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, who has tested cadets at West Point, the elite military academy, and finalists of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  In her study of the class of 2008 at West Point, where about 5% of cadets drop out after the grueling first summer, she found that her questionnaire was a good predictor of which students had the stuff to survive.

Duckworth first became interested in grit after tracking the careers of her classmates from Harvard.  She noticed that the most successful were the ones who had identified a goal early on and stuck with it, rather than equally smart folks who flitted from one thing to another.  “High levels of achievement require a certain single-mindedness,” she says.  What’s the takeaway for employers?  The straitlaced job applicant who has pursued a hobby for years may be a better hire than the renaissance fellow who has dabbled in martial arts, the cello, and paragliding. (The Boston Globe)

This article was edited by Harry Maurer & Cristina Lindblad and was featured in the Executive Summary of the Business Week,  August 17, 2009 edition.

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