The Psychological Qualities That Enhance Our Ability to Manage Complexity

Richard Branson

Do we live in an age of complexity? The general consensus would be yes. The information overload that results from technology has made it so. According to information scientists, we inhabit a world with a staggering 300 exabytes of information (300 billion billion: 300,000,000,000,000,000,000 if you’re interested). This volume of information is unprecedented in our history, and that number is still rising.

Despite this large amount of information, the human mind’s processing capacity is a meagre 120 bits per second. This bandwidth restriction, if you like, is akin to a speed limit for the traffic of information our minds can concentrate on at any one point in time. And constantly driving at the speed limit has an impact on our general feeling of well-being (we feel fatigued and stressed out) and also affects our decision-making.

But the ability to manage complexity is also dependent on a person’s attributes, according to a highly interesting article in the Harvard Business Review by personality profiling expert Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. The article explains how three particular, psychological attributes enable some people to manage complexity better than others.

3 Psychological Attributes Needed to Manage Complexity:


Intellectual quotient refers to mental ability; it is a measure of our brain power. Complex environments, dense with information, create an increased cognitive load that requires more brain power from us. IQ is positively correlated with our working memory, the part of our brain that allows us to handle several pieces of temporary information at the same time. If you have a high IQ, you’ll find it easier to solve complex and novel problems than your peer with a lower IQ.


Emotional quotient relates to our ability to manage and express our emotions. And it is related to complexity in three ways. To start with, people who have high EQ levels are more able to withstand stress and anxiety. This is clearly helpful when navigating complex, demanding environments: high EQ levels act as a buffer. EQ is also a vital component of interpersonal skills (the important ‘soft skills’ employers require), and individuals with high EQ levels are better able to navigate often difficult organizational dynamics than their peers with lower EQ levels. Lastly, people with high EQ levels have been shown to be more entrepreneurial, which makes them more proactive, creative and comfortable with taking risks, all of which help them adapt to complex environments.


If you have a hungry mind, are naturally curious and open to new ideas and experiences, the chances are that you’ll have a high curiosity quotient. According to Chamorro-Premuzic, people with a high CQ are more tolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty. A high CQ also correlates positively with high levels of intellectual investment and knowledge acquisition, according to Chamorro-Premuzic, especially in the spheres of science, art and education. All of this is relevant to complexity because knowledge and expertise, he says, can change complex situations into more familiar ones.

It’s not easy. Every status update we read on Facebook, every request to connect on LinkedIn, every text message we get from our friends, the content in our inboxes, the tweets we must send and respond to – all contribute to the complexity we face. The good news is that both EQ and CQ can be developed through interventions such as coaching (IQ less so), so that even with the attentional processing restrictions of 120 bits per second, we are better able to navigate complexity and create more order in a chaotic world.

See Also: Why EQ Equals Income

Do you think that these three factors play a part in our ability to manage complexity? Or do you think this is all nonsense? Your thoughts and comments below please...

Harvard Business Review
The Organized Mind




Developed & managed by DQ Media

CareerAddict and the CareerAddict Logo are registered trademarks of DeltaQuest Media Holding ApS

Credit card payments collected by DELTAQUEST Media (Ireland) Ltd, Company No IE548227, Registered address: The Black Church, St. Mary’s Place, Dublin 7, Ireland

</script> </script>