Cognitive Assessment: Understanding and Leveraging Intellectual Capital

December 14, 2015 | By Maretha Prinsloo


“In the past, ‘human potential’ was an empty catch phrase in the face of such stultifying concepts as ‘general intelligence’. No longer is it the case that IQ is destiny.”

– Neil Lightfoot


For those who focus on People management it is important to understand the cognitive strengths and weaknesses of people, their strategic orientations, judgement and decision making capabilities as well as the work environments that are best suited to their profiles.

This kind of information cannot be fully obtained from traditional measurements of intelligence, or IQ tests, given the limited focus and misleading theoretical assumptions underlying “ability” measurements. IQ tests are aimed at content related problem solving skills (by using verbal, numerical or spatial item content, for example). They largely focus on the effectiveness of linear, logical-analytical processing, as applied within a highly structured knowledge domain. In most cases, the constructs of mental speed and power, which are in essence unrelated, are measured as a single construct.

Why not IQ?

IQ tests measure one small aspect of cognitive functioning only, namely the reasoning skills which are normally required by diagnostic, structured, technical problem solving contexts where a person can rely on his/her knowledge and experience.

Complex and less structured work environments, however, require a great deal more than a technical approach. Instead, it may involve dealing with vague and fuzzy issues and challenges that are of a long term, dynamic and interactive nature. Here, a rule oriented, knowledge based approach will not suffice. The thinker needs a flexible, learning oriented approach; a tendency to integrate and conceptualise information; metacognitive awareness; and an openness to, and trust in, subtle intuitive insights which may result in innovative ideas.

What is the alternative?

A different kind of cognitive assessment approach is needed to effectively measure aspects of thinking that go beyond IQ test requirements. An important first step would involve the development of a self-contained theoretical model of thinking processes. Such a model needs to reflect the integration of various paradigms in intelligence research, including the differential, information processing, developmental and contextual approaches. In addition, the development of an innovative methodological approach anchored in systems modeling, will enable the tracking and mapping of information processes. Key challenges for the design of such a cognitive assessment tool further include: the use of technology to trace the application of micro processes in fractions of seconds; capturing the data numerically for algorithmic interpretation; accommodating for cultural diversity; eliminating test bias; measuring untapped potential; and meeting the metric requirements of test validity and reliability.

A solution: The Cognitive Process Profile (CPP)

The CPP has been developed according to the above mentioned criteria. It is an automated, online simulation exercise which is based on a well-researched theoretical model of information processing. The CPP tracks a person’s thinking processes in great detail and analyses it algorithmically. The results provide a comprehensive report on the person’s cognitive preferences and capabilities, including his/her cognitive styles, processing competencies, strengths, weaknesses, learning potential as well as a work-related context most suitable to the person’s cognitive approach. The CPP results have been linked to the Stratified Systems Theory (SST), also referred to as the Requisite Organisation (RO) model, of Elliott Jaques. Both the person’s current and potential SST / RO work environments are indicated by the CPP report and development guidelines are provided.

The CPP thus offers a dynamic, online, modelling technique aimed at the measurement and deployment of intellectual capital in the work environment. It is normally used to inform selection, placement, development, succession and team compilation decisions as well as to ensure talent retention though career pathing initiatives. To date, this tool has been researched extensively and used globally.

With the CPP, Cognadev has made significant inroads in challenging the static construct of IQ in intelligence research and the view that “a high IQ is best”. Instead, with the CPP, cognitive preferences and capabilities are contextualised by indicating where a person would be most effective, what his/her development areas are and how those could be improved.

Contact Cognadev to find out more about the CPP.

“People are not your most important asset. The RIGHT people are.”

– Jim Collins