The Sheer Power of Grit

The Sheer Power of Grit

With the summer break slowly creeping up on us as the academic semester draws to a close, a significant proportion of us are now scrambling with internship applications for the various established firms and exciting positions available. And so, processes like personality tests, IQ assessments, and other forms of questionnaires have become all too familiar, as it is inevitable for us to go through such screening gates during the application process.

Which leads me to ask – just exactly how useful are these tests, when it has been researched and shown that neither IQ, EQ, nor personality are significant predictors of success? And now you might be wondering, if none of the above can determine your worth or value as a potential employee, what else can? The answer is, accordingly to psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, grit.

Grit is not just hard work, or resilience, or a strong passion and drive. It is not a one-dimensional value. In psychology, grit is a distinct personality trait that is positive and non-cognitive, and is based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate. There is so much to grit, yet so little is known about it. While there have been quotients to gauge intelligence and personality tests to measure traits, there is no standardized test (yet) to measure grit. While there have been courses to improve one’s IQ and EQ, there hasn’t been any to develop or hone one’s level of grit.

Angela Lee Duckworth

Psychologist & TED Speaker, Angela Lee Duckworth

However, there is a certain way of thinking that can influence the level of grit that you have – the Growth Mindset. Created and coined by Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, the Growth Mindset is about believing that success is based on hard work, learning, training, and doggedness; it is about believing not in a static state of ability, but rather, in an ever-evolving growth process that eventually leads one to success. Dweck has found that in students with Fixed Mindsets, where they believe that abilities are somewhat fixed and that doing badly equates to failure, electrical activity in their brains measured almost zero when they confront errors. What does this mean? It means that they run from their errors, that they do not engage with it, that they are afraid to think and that they see these errors as the end of the road.

On the contrary, students with the Growth Mindset experiences immense electrical activity in the brain when they confront errors. They see errors as difficulties that can be overcome with effort and time, and they believe that abilities can be developed. They process the error, they learn from it, they make connections, and they grow. They go through a process of grit, developing them into more capable workers and problem solvers.

Carol Dweck

Professor of Psychology & TED Speaker, Carol Dweck

What this means is that organisations need to recognise that there is more to screening than just IQ and personality tests. Yes, intelligence and personality type does shed some light onto an applicant’s potential for success; however, grit is a more stable predictor for success than the others. It also means that organisations need to start seeing their employees as dynamic people with infinite potential and ever-evolving abilities; organisations themselves need to have a Growth Mindset, in order to inculcate a similar belief in their employees. Demonstrating this would require firms to go all the way down to the way their organisation behaves – how they treat failure, obstacles, errors, and difficulties. Perhaps the best time to demonstrate the Growth Mindset best would be during turbulent times, where leaders are given the opportunity to be truly transformational, and where followers are given the chance to outperform themselves. This is one of the ways in which the organisation can grow and succeed – through grit, resilience, and perseverance.

After all, organisations do not just aim to exist for the duration of a star burst. Growth is not a mere sprint – it is a marathon.


Duckworth, A. L. (2013, April). The Key to Success? Grit. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Ted:

Dweck, C. (2014, November). The Power of Believing that You Can Improve. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Ted:

Tomasulo, D. J. (2014, January 8). Grit: What Is It and Do You Have It? Retrieved March 28, 2015, from Psychology Today:

Are We Being Fair to the Introverts?

Are We Being Fair
It comes as no surprise that despite stating that there is no ‘right or wrong answer’ or a ‘good or bad’ personality type on almost all personality tests like the MBTI, many of us still think that being extraverted is better than being introverted, because being able to gain energy from crowds rather than expending energy from being in a crowd sounds a lot less taxing, and way more appealing. Extroverts have the reputation of being the life of a party, and introverts have that of being a wallflower. Naturally, people would think that extroverts are a lot more well-liked, and therefore are more likely to do better in life due to the circles and networks that are inevitable as people naturally gravitate towards them.

Author & TED Talk Speaker, Susan Cain

Author & TED Talk Speaker, Susan Cain

Accordingly to author Susan Cain who wrote about the power of introverts, schools and workplaces are designed mostly for extroverts and their need for lots of stimulation. I never noticed it until she pointed it out in one of her TED talks. Look at the classrooms in UTown – the classrooms have circular tables, and students are expected to sit around the tables, look at each other’s faces, and interact with each other through the course of the lesson. Most of our modules here at NUS Business School require extensive amounts of group work and collaborating, and class participation and debates are highly encouraged, or rather, necessary if you want to get good grades on your transcript as well. Which brings me to my question – are we being fair to the introverts?

If the environments of schools and workplaces are more favourable to extroverts, it seems a little like a self-fulfilling prophecy of some sorts that extroverts are typically seen to do better in life and to succeed more often than introverts. It is no wonder that they do better, since they are more comfortable in these learning and working institutions, isn’t it? I’ve had many friends who willingly sacrifice good grades for their business modules just because they feel immensely uncomfortable speaking up in class and engaging in class debates. But yet, at the same time, we also know that introverts can actually be the best leaders! (Think Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, and Audrey Hepburn) Does that mean that by encouraging teamwork and class participation, we are marginalizing these great thinkers who just so happen to be introverts and stifling their creativity?

Classroom at UTown, NUS

Classroom at UTown, NUS

Introverts bring with them their own set of strengths like their ability to do creative thinking, to embrace solitude, and to analyse complex problems. They contribute to an integral part of any organization by providing interesting perspectives and ideas, and so, there is a need to be more inclusive to introverts. This doesn’t mean that we are to stop collaborating, or and to start working in isolated pods. What this means is that organizations need to start recognising that sometimes, solitude and silence is good, and in fact necessary for the cultivation of great ideas and thinkers. Organizations need to provide more space and allowance for introverts to breathe, so that they can regain their balance from all that stimulation during class or work. Google has done a great job in providing isolation pods for their employees to take a break from the constant chatter. Social skills are necessary, but the ability to sit down and think quietly is also necessary as well in order for quality and creative work to be done.

Example of an Isolation Pod

Example of an Isolation Pod

In my previous internship stint with a marketing communications team where lots of creative writing and content-creating was involved, I managed to see for myself, first-hand, how organizations can better cater to the different camps of introverts and extroverts. The office was an open-concept floor space with no walls or pillars, and everyone was in view of everyone else. This was good for brainstorming and communications without any barriers; however, it was not so conducive for the introverts who need time and space to think alone and recharge in the company of just themselves. Recognizing that the roles of the employees involve high creativity, the organisation actually linked the office to the garden, so that the employees can head out of the office for a solitary walk in the greenery whenever necessary. I thought this was a great idea because it amalgamated all the positive aspects of each personality type and allowed for both collaboration and deep thinking.

It helps to know your personality type and working style, so you know your strengths and weaknesses and work on them accordingly. It helps even more if organisations cater to the needs of both introverts and extroverts and provide an encouraging working environment, both physical and emotional, to create a supportive and inclusive culture that will ultimately help everyone reach their fullest potential.

P.S I’m an ambivert – my MBTI states that I’m 52% inclined to extraversion, and 48% to introversion. Hmmm.. 🙂

Cain, S. (2012, March). The Power of Introverts. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from TED Talks:
Smith, J. (2014, September 6). Here’s Why Introverts Can Be The Best Leaders. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from Business Insider:
Collingwood, J. (2007). The Benefits of Being an Introvert. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 27, 2015, from Psych Central: