In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he described the story of Lewis Terman – an American psychologist who tracked children with high IQ scores. He found that although many of them went on to great successes in their careers, there were some who underachieved relative to their perceived potential.
Gladwell argues that after a certain threshold of IQ, it makes very little difference in how applicable their genius really is. For instance, the US winners of the Nobel Prize tend to come from a variety of different universities, not just the Ivy League schools reserved for the upper echelons of genius students. Albert Einstein had a high IQ of 150, but there are people out there with IQs of around 200 that dropped out of university and now work in menial jobs.
Of course, as Daniel Goleman would attest to in his book Emotional Intelligence, emotional intelligence is just as important as IQ in determining career success. An extremely ‘smart’ individual would find it difficult to navigate the world if he had little social awareness or issues with emotions like anger or extreme sadness.
This leads to the question whether companies should follow “affirmative action” guidelines to hire a more diverse set of individuals for their firms, at the expense of hiring the “best-qualified” candidates. While it would be foolish to hire a lawyer with an IQ of 70 because they fit a racial quota, most people who apply to be a lawyer would have an IQ above around 120 anyway. After this threshold, the more important factors are those such as communication skills, strength of character and creative ideas. A member of another social class, religion, race, sexuality and gender are more likely to add to the pool of collective knowledge and ideas too. The concept of diverse thinking is further demonstrated in Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed.