The exact quote by Thomas Jefferson[i] is dated but its sentiment remains: Passion is the driving force of youth, and wisdom is the driving force of age. During the age of Enlightenment, youthful radicalism was a hallmark of the spirit of revolution and freedom that swept North America and Europe, and Jefferson manifested a great trust in our ability to self-govern when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. But a couple decades later, Jefferson adopted a more nuanced perspective in brokering the Louisiana Purchase, which was viewed to some as an overreach of federal authority. Of course, the elder Jefferson could justify the action with exceptionally sound reasoning. ...And that’s the point. At that stage of his career and life, his analytical reasoning proved to be a more dependent variable in making such a sweeping decision than was his passion for independence. I'm not suggesting Jefferson no longer believed or upheld the ideals of freedom and individual human spirit. Rather, he brought a more refined competency of abstraction and reasoning to his decision-making, and that new competency played a more important role in his ability to perform his duties.
This dynamic is of great interest to Corvirtus’ R&D department and one that has implications for the ways companies organize and manage people. Currently, Corvirtus’ own Dr. Bobby Baker has teamed with Dr. Bruce Tracy and Dr. Mike Sturman of Cornell University to investigate whether the predictive ability of certain hiring criteria change over time. For example, firms often select candidates based on the results of a battery of assessments that could include cognitive ability, personality, behavioral and other measures. But our research team hypothesizes that the mix of what matters changes as people progress within a company.
In a modern workplace, there is a range of competencies required to perform at different levels, even within a particular job family. Leaders often cite the importance of experience to job performance, particularly in highly complex and strategic positions. But why is that so? Is it enough to chalk it up to experience, or is there a measurable dynamic at play? Does it make sense that we ascribe good performance to one set of attributes for a person at the beginning of his/her career and a different set of attributes later? If so, what are the implications for performance management, professional development and succession planning?
This ongoing longitudinal study of predictive job performance characteristics supports tools that Corvirtus has already developed and constructs that are currently being applied in the high-stakes aviation industry. There, Corvirtus has teamed with Dr. Tony Kern of Convergent Performance to develop a multi-construct measure of professionalism that is used to identify gaps between the profession’s high expectations and the high but unfulfilled potential of the many young pilots in the ranks. The tool helps pilots recognize their strengths and identify specific steps to close the gaps between reality and aspiration.
Stay tuned to learn more about the science of human motivation and performance in a variety of studies that Corvirtus has engaged in.
[i] The precise quote is from January 1799: “In a conversation between Dr. Ewen and the President, the former said one of his sons was an aristocrat, the other a democrat. The President asked if it was not the youngest who was the democrat. ‘Yes,’ said Ewen. ‘Well,’ said the president, ‘a boy of fifteen who is not a democrat is good for nothing, and he is no better who is a democrat at twenty.’” The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1, by Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1903.