"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

The Too Many Aptitudes Problem

Most jobs and tasks are best performed by folks with certain high and low aptitude combinations (plus other things like training, of course). High aptitudes beyond job needs cause problems. The optimum combination for any given job or task resembles a recipe–a lot of some things, some of this, a bit of this, and none of that.

Just one wrong high aptitude can make a job intolerable for a person–like onions in a chocolate cake. A person with a strong knack for working with others might hate solitary work and quit, but be tremendously productive and satisfied as part of a team. Whether a high or low aptitude is good or bad depends on the context. Anything can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the situation. Talent is no exception.

Most people have about four or five strong talents out of the roughly two dozen independent aptitudes known to exist. Most jobs require about four or five. As many as 10% of the population has double that number of aptitudes–and that is a problem for them and their employers. The Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, the oldest aptitude-testing organization in the country, has statistical evidence that people with too many aptitudes (TMAs) are less likely to obtain advanced education and/or succeed in a career than those with an average number of talents.

Being a TMA is a very mixed blessing. Strong talents are extremely powerful internal forces. One of the most important implications of my aptitude research is the strong possibility that emotional intensity is directly correlated with the intensity of a talent. Someone operating at a high-intensity level of talent (including reasoning) will also be operating at a high-intensity level of emotion. Every thought, memory or perception is directly connected to emotion–a wholistic phenomenon.

It is quite possible that TMAs are continually operating in a hypersensitive manner. People hypersensitive to external and internal data in many forms and operating at a high emotional intensity level might very well become overstimulated. Ongoing overstimulation could explain the paralysis felt by some TMAs. They are so overwhelmed by perceptions, memories, thoughts and feelings that they can’t commit themselves to anything. Many of them need a lot of time alone to regenerate. Yet, this same turbulence can also lead to great insight and creativity.

The existence of a powerful force implies difficulty in learning to harness that force. Having a lot of strong talents is a bit like dealing with high voltage. You can do a lot of things with high voltage. However, it can also fry you. It takes a lot more knowledge and more safety precautions to work with high voltage rather than low. A lot of that voltage for TMAs is emotional. Few people know how to handle normal emotion, let alone powerful, ongoing emotion. Link

3 responses to “The Too Many Aptitudes Problem

  1. Giovanni Dannato June 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    No country for Renaissance men.

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