WTF is learning quotient – and why it matters now
In January, at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps, there was much chat about ChatGPT, OpenAI’s large-scale language model that has been fed 300 billion words to help it generate plausible, passable answers to most questions. An Elon Musk tweet summed up the sentiment for many. “It’s a new world. Goodbye homework!”
With generative AI advanced enough to produce eerily-human text responses, and other related foundational models now able to create music, art, and code, is it time to turn the page on traditional education? Further, is rote learning and cramming for exams, only to forget the key facts instantly afterwards, finished? Granted, it has its place for times tables and languages, but what else, really?
While some may want to defer answering these uncomfortable puzzlers, speakers on oversubscribed AI-related panels at Davos 2023 heralded LQ as the new IQ.
So what exactly is LQ?
It stands for “learning quotient” – as opposed to intelligence quotient. Essentially, it’s a measure of adaptability and one’s desire and ability to update our skills throughout life. Leaders certainly need LQ to gain a foothold on the modern business landscape, warped by digital technologies and reshaped by other factors – some more predictable than others.
Chicago-based Kristen Motzer, learning director of ethics and compliance solution company LRN, said: “Change in business is a constant, so naturally doing the right thing requires constant learning and development at every level of the organization. Innovation and excellence demand it.”
LQ gauges the extent employees see the need to continue learning, no matter how long they have been in position, added Motzer. “It’s like measuring someone’s growth mindset, which says: ‘I don’t know how to do this yet, but I can learn.’”
Indeed, one of the other words bandied about in Switzerland was “polycrisis.” The World Economy Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023, published on the eve of Davos, explained how “present and future risks can also interact with each other to form a ‘polycrisis’ – a cluster of related global risks with compounding effects, such that the overall impact exceeds the sum of each part.”
But is LQ really the new IQ?
Motzer argues LQ supersedes and is superior to IQ. “It is so much more important,” she said. “IQ measures what you know, not what you are capable of. If employees believe they can try things and possibly fail but learn something in the process, organizations can innovate and evolve.”
Late futurist Alvin Toffler, who coined the phrase “information overload,” predicted the importance of LQ. He said: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Can LQ be measured?
Not really, according to Kelly Palmer, chief learning and talent officer at learning and skill-building platform Degreed, headquartered in San Francisco. “There is no standard way to measure a person’s learning quotient today,” she said. So, for now, LQ is typically assessed using “a variety of signals such as self-assessment, cognitive ability tests, personality tests, behavioral assessments, and performance evaluations.”
This approach is open to problems, however. “Many of these assessments are not scientifically sound and can be biased, so it’s difficult to measure a person’s LQ accurately today,” added Kelly.
How, then, could – and should – organizations be nurturing LQ?
First, LQ requires a “mindset change” for both employer and employee, suggests Motzer. “There must be a culture of trust that starts with leadership,” she said. As such, managers should be “role models” for learning and curiosity.
This approach, and being OK with failure, is critically important to cultivate a culture of innovation. Allowing people the space and autonomy to learn and experiment will reap the rewards. But it is a departure from decades-old ways of working, concedes Motzer. “Managers need to trust that their employees will adapt and continue growing, but employees need to trust that they won’t be penalized for experimentation that might fail and that ‘right’ isn’t what’s rewarded over trying something new,” she added.
Glen Robinson, Microsoft UK’s national technology officer, agrees that it boils down to having an employer that encourages lifelong learning. “I’m insatiably curious,” he said. “Satya [Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO and executive chair] talks a lot about having a growth mindset, which spoke strongly to me when I applied to join the organization.”
Can curiosity be a skill one can develop?
Robinson certainly believes so. “You need to be curious, but then take that and apply it in some context that’s going to be hopefully of benefit to yourself and others,” he said. Robinson added that in a world of constant change, curiosity and a positive approach to lifelong learning would be rewarded.
How important is LQ for the future of work?
Considering recent AI advances, it’s extremely important. Palmer points out that “the most important skills for the future of work are those that make us most human: empathy, communication, effective listening, emotional intelligence, creativity, and innovation.” These can all be learned and developed.
“AI tools are not a substitute for human creativity, but rather an assistive tool that helps automate repetitive tasks so people can achieve their full creative potential,” she added.