Musings from the CU Suite

May 24, 2012

Is Brainpower Overrated?

Written by Anthony Demangone

By now, I'm sure many of you know the story of Billy Beane, Moneyball and the Oakland A's. 

In short, the cash-strapped Oakland A's needed to find a different way to compete against the big guns of New York, Boston, Anaheim, and Chicago.  Beane turned to Sabremetrics, which studies baseball using cold-hard facts.  

Bill James, perhaps the Godfather of Sabremetrics had a theory - most baseball teams overvalued some statistics (batting average, defense, speed) and greatly undervalued others (on-base-percentage, and slugging percentage). 

Beane leaned heavily on James and Sabremetrics to take advantage of market imbalances.  He refused to pay for speed.  All he wanted were players who could get on base.  And many of them came cheaply.

Enter Hollywood, stage left. 

This got me thinking, though.  Do we, as organizations, value prospective employees accurately?  Don't answer that question yet.  Read this article first: Intelligence is Overrated: What You Really Need to Succeed. (

The author, Keld Jensen, highlights some interesting data.  Here's what got my attention.


IQ tests are used as an indicator of logical reasoning ability and technical intelligence. A high IQ is often a prerequisite for rising to the top ranks of business today. It is necessary, but it is not adequate to predict executive competence and corporate success. By itself, a high IQ does not guarantee that you will stand out and rise above everyone else.

Research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering,” your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate, and lead. Shockingly, only 15 percent is due to technical knowledge. Additionally, Nobel Prize winning Israeli-American psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, found that people would rather do business with a person they like and trust rather than someone they don’t, even if the likeable person is offering a lower quality product or service at a higher price.


The article goes on to provide a brief summary of those important "human engineering" skills.  It is a great read.  

So, back to my question.  Do we accurately measure the worth of prospective employees?  Do we focus on degrees, schools, technical skills, or do we have ways to measure those "human engineering" skills?  I think we've all worked with someone who was technically proficient, but who was also terrible with people.  People skills, go a long, long way.  

Eighty-five percent of the way, or so it seems. 


Here are a few other interesting reads from this week.

Have a great, long weekend, everyone. But don't forget the reason!  Thanks and prayers to all those servicemen who gave their lives for the Flag. 

My goal is to sit in the bleachers  and enjoy friends and family.  Kate and Briggs hope you do much of the same!

Find out why tomorrow's credit union leaders attend MDI today.