Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

Tenacity vs. high IQ – what begets success?

Hello, friends – this last blog in the April 2016 Effectiveness lab series, explores a subject that fascinates many in Africa, specifically East Africa. The obsession with high levels of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and the accompanying A+ ‘accreditation’ at school.

Keep working hard!
Keep working hard!

Who doesn’t want their child to be accredited the A+ type at school?  If the A+ type pedigree were a product sold on the open market, many of you would be lining to buy some for your offspring. There is something about us parents and the fascination with our children being super clever at school. Parents have created a fake market for IQ ‘facipulation’ – i.e. via special coaching for their children.  Should we try changing IQ levels?  After-all, I may be of average IQ, but my sheer tenacity could get me scores at the workplace and in other spheres of life, over and above that of the peer with high IQ

The above discourse relates the efficiency and effectiveness of humans, to the outcomes derived when:

  • we are both effective and efficient
  • we are only effective but not efficient
  • we are efficient but not effective.

Comparative analysis of factors like the above may sound trivial and philosophical. Some of you may ask how relevant this is to your life – well, this affects us all, starting with our offspring. For example, if you have two children and one of them has a higher IQ than the other, is it a given that the child with the higher IQ will be more successful in life than their sibling? Of course, it is possible that the child with the lesser IQ may ultimately work out better than their extremely intelligent sibling.

Okay, why the fascination with high IQ? Why do many want to have Albert Einstein as their offspring, if we know there are things other than high IQ that determine success?  Scary for the Africans like us, since passing school and college exams with an A+ has always been the panacea for enduring poverty

Well, let us invest the some time to understand the difference between effectiveness and efficiency and their ‘peer’ efficacy

Effectiveness: is the ‘capability to produce the desired result.’
Efficiency: ‘minimalism in regards to resources spent on achieving effectiveness.’
Efficacy: ‘extent to which the effect you want (result) is reached.’

The Effectiveness lab presents in this blog, three prongs to this tenacity vs. high IQ discourse:

  1. Constant effort, at times mechanical, can surpass high IQ in bringing about SMART outcomes – when is sheer effort (hard work) better than intelligence (high IQ) in causing SMART outcomes? Are there instances where the low IQ types, have come out ahead of their high IQ peers, simply as a result of the effort they have put into work? How many of you went to school with peers that were extremely intelligent (very high IQ and the A+ type), that later in life have not been able to make progress beyond middle-level cadre-ship at work or are failed business people? In today’s 24/7 world, can intelligence alone be a liability? Other than high IQ, are there other ingredients needed on the road to success?
  2. You can be very effective but not efficient – my International charity background leads me to an example from the international development sector. This is an industry that employs some of the best social development brains – if you are looking for the ‘brainy’ thinking types, go looking for them in International development. The International development industry sector is accused of achieving desired results, but at a cost that is not sustainable. In other words, international development practitioners are effective but not efficient at what they do. Simply put: if INGO’s were a for-profit business, they would have gone under a long time ago. We won’t even get into discussing the efficacy of the International NGO – for purposes of this blog, efficacy is a secondary matter.
  3. You can be efficient but not effectiveness – Yes indeed! The daily trials and tribulations of natives in remote African villages brings poignancy to this third prong. Many times, I have witnessed efforts at resource rationing amongst family and the wider community in Africa. The latter is driven by the knowledge  that supply of resources is not guaranteed in the medium term

There are multiple examples of African short-term efficiency, attained at the cost of long-term effectiveness:

  • Rationing medicine to make sure that a dose meant for one family member is used by two or simply not affording a full dose and opting to go for half the recommended dosage: the immediate result is curing the disease (the desired result achieved), but drug resistance is the created in the long term
  • Self-medication since many in Africa can’t afford doctor’s fees. The immediate result is curing the disease (the desired result achieved), but long-term damage may be caused to the body from taking wrong medication in both type and dosage
  • Pressed for money and encouraged by cultural biases, parents opt to invest in the education of their sons, marrying off girls early to finance their brother’s education (short-term again); however, uneducated girls perpetuate a cycle of poverty and desperation, that cost Africa millions of dollars every year (long-term effectiveness sacrificed)
  • You Africans out there must have more examples of the above

The ‘psychology’ of the average-brain super-performer:

The kings and queens of the classroom/lecture hall at high school and college, may not be ‘sovereign’ at the workplace. Classroom and lecture hall supremacy do not guarantee success in the modern workplace. Sheer hard work, a fighting mindset, minimalist resourcing, of course, accompanied by average intelligence as opposed to very high intelligence, will bring you success.

To put it another way, if you place two people of average and high IQ in the same industry sector, the high IQ type will provide comparative advantage towards success, but only up to a certain point. High IQ types tend to get to a point of satiety in deriving SMART outcomes; once that happens, the ‘psychology of sheer hard-work’ kicks in and influences SMART outcomes.

At the Effectiveness lab we believe that the factors below add a further spur to the average brains that beat their high IQ peers in delivering SMART outcomes:

  • Dream – We have to dream – having mental images, thoughts, or even emotions that end up in life changing situations. Friends, it is indeed good to dream
  • Belief – Once you have your dream, please have the conviction that one day, it will become true. Do not lose faith. Sustain mental and physical energies towards their achievement
  • Effort – Dreaming and believing should be accompanied by hard work. In many instances, this will be strenuous.  That is the nature of hard work, be it physical, mental, or both
  • Efficiency – we want to at times look at efficiency as the law of the ‘minimums’ when it comes to resourcing our dreams, belief, and effort.
  • Mental toughness – Simply keep at it – keep dreaming, believing, working hard, and working with the law of ‘minimums’ when it comes to resourcing

Friends, a smart brain, effectiveness, and a finessed approach do not always deliver SMART outcomes. Many times, hard work and sticking to the basics, minimalist resourcing, and not complicating matters too much will do it for you

Perhaps the above explains why there are many Mark Zuckerberg’s in classes and lecture halls, but very few facebooks.


5 responses to “Tenacity vs. high IQ – what begets success?”

  1. […] Tenacity vs. High IQ – what begets success? […]


  2. […] There is no need to panic – simply work out your current bearing, determine how to move to the next bearing, and with what resources, ensuring you remain as objective as possible. Nothing is impossible in life and you will never cheat effort and hard work  […]


  3. Interesting discourse there Apollo! It has raised two questions for me as follows:

    1. Rather than juxtapost high IQ and tenacity, shouldn’t the objective be an exploration of how the two come together to achieve SMART results? I ask because going through the three permutations of efficacy, effectiveness, and efficiency, I tend to get the impression that both brains and brawn come to play. It is not an ‘either or’ situation; and

    2. It is easy to see how tenacity works. The persistence. But the discourse does not elaborate on how IQ works in the equation. Persistence without direction – without a dream, vision, goal, objective – is unlikely to yield any results as there will be nothing to measure the outcome of the effort. And this is where I feel the IQ comes in. To give form to the dream. The ‘SMARTness’ of the dream that guides and drives the persistence.

    These two questions are very much off-the-cuff from my first reading! Interesting discourse though, I must repeat! It would be interesting to see a conclusion that vindicates our (East African, guilty as charged!) preoccupation with A+ because I believe it has a place in the achievement of efficacy and ultimate success!


    1. Dear Aswani – thanks for reading the blog

      Yes, it’s a deliberate, call it linear juxtaposition of TENACITY vs. HIGH IQ.

      There are indeed cases where tenacity & high IQ combine for the good; the example at the very end, of Mark Zuckerberg is the best reflection that i.e. he combined his brain power & tenacity to good effect

      The truth, we find to be: a tendency to down play and stereotype the not so smart, as average achievers – but in their ‘averageness’ & tenacity, is hidden potential. That is the point the blog is putting out to the world. After all the majority in the world are not the A+ type. Let them all have hope in the power of ‘sheer hard work’ of course, with acceptable IQ

      Coincidentally, I was reading this LinkedIn article from my feed this morning, how timely it is:


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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