What is your curiosity quotient (CQ)?

28 October 2022

We all know about the value of high IQ and EQ in today’s competitive business world but what about your curiosity quotient (CQ)?

As individuals, companies and nations struggle to adapt socially and economically to a post-Covid world, changing trends in the world of work have also accelerated, meaning that finding ways to stay competitive in business and the job market are more important than ever.

Much has been said about the need to embrace new skills and learning new ways of working for employees of the future, but what is the key trait which underlies this ability? I suggest it relates to your CQ.

The idea is hardly new - many years ago, Einstein is quoted as self-deprecatingly saying:

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

But the idea is as relevant today as it was then. The acronym CQ was first coined by researchers in the early 2000s to mean cultural intelligence (or cultural quotient), or the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures. More recently it was used by Pulitzer prize-winning American commentator and journalist Thomas Friedman to refer to curiosity quotient, which together with IQ and EQ is recognised to enhance one’s capability to thrive, and to lead, in an increasingly complex world.

In 2013, Friedman wrote of the necessity for CQ:

"The skill required for every decent job is rising, as is the necessity of lifelong learning…those with more PQ (passion quotient) and CQ (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools not just to find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and not just to learn but to relearn for a lifetime…" will find themselves at a real advantage in the future.

This fed into a hypothesis about future leadership by Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic which was published in Harvard Business Review in 2014. Dr Chamorro-Premuzic is a leading authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing. The hypothesis has continued to gain attention in recent years and puts forward the merits of possessing a curious mind.

When it comes to managing complex situations and problems, Dr Chamorro-Premuzic argued that in the past, leaders stood out through their intelligence quotient (IQ), as their mental abilities enabled them to learn and solve novel problems faster. We (their employees, colleagues, stakeholders) required them to develop their emotional quotient (EQ), as their ability to perceive and express emotions, or develop strong interpersonal skills, made them better equipped to navigate organisational politics and take others with them through change or uncertainty.

Dr Chamorro-Premuzic suggested that, in the future, these abilities will still be important but the differentiating quality for the leader will be how well they have also developed their CQ. He argued that CQ is just as important as IQ and EQ in two major ways, giving an individual: 

  • Increased tolerance for ambiguity
  • A higher investment in knowledge and expertise acquisition which leads to a nuanced, sophisticated way of thinking over time.

The key question is whether, and how, can you develop this quality? The good news is that you can.

As Dr Chamarro-Premuzic observed, while IQ is difficult to coach, EQ and CQ can be developed. Those of you who are familiar with the work of Carol Dweck on Growth Mindset will recognise this as a concept, so how do you go about developing this?

The key is to challenge yourself to go beyond the obvious strategic and operational challenges of the future, and to identify and experiment with new ideas, business challenges and even ourselves to discover different perspectives, new approaches and ways of working.

For newer graduates, high CQ may simply look like strong commercial awareness but for more established professionals high CQ involves demonstrating curiosity and proactively developing new habits; actively investing in knowledge acquisition; scanning the horizon for new ideas and technologies and becoming early adopters of new technologies. In the workplace, we need to seek out opportunities to try out new approaches and work on different assignments – and not just rely on the skills and expertise that have got us to where we are today.

What can you do to increase your CQ?

  1. Become a cross-disciplinary expert: look beyond the obvious channels for information about your sector. Use a broad range of sources from educational, to science and technology journals, to cultural appreciation, to quirkier aspects of social media This will increase the extent of your ‘horizon-scanning’ to find out what’s happening in other fields and how they could impact yours.
  2. Spend time in a different physical space with different people - you’ll be amazed what you’ll learn, just as many leaders still ‘walk the floor’ of their businesses to find out what’s really happening.
  3. Take a different look at your city and your competitors - cycle, walk, observe.
  4. Resolve to network more, even virtually during Covid-19, and especially outside your immediate circle: the information gathering aspect is as important as the contacts.
  5. Ask questions and listen more. Einstein famously remarked: “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
  6. Keep in touch with every generation – be it ‘X’, ‘Y’, ‘Millenials’ or ‘’Gen Z’… and make sure you know the differences in their attitudes and behaviour.

Business magnate Bill Gates is known for his curious nature and he shared in an interview with The New York Times that he reads up to 50 books each year. He said: "It's one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid."

There is little doubt that in an increasingly complex and volatile world, a high curiosity quotient (CQ) is a real asset to global managers and leaders and is likely to increase your value to your business now and your personal value in the job market of the future.

If you are a WBS alumni and would like some guidance, please don’t hesitate to email the careers team at alumnicareers@wbs.ac.uk.