Adversity Quotient

By Rachel A. Quero

As Philippine business schools today traverse their institutional road maps for enhanced curricula and instruction that meet the challenges of the 21st century and the learning standards of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), students are expected to acquire multidimensional skills that better integrate technical, social and personal development. As such, educators and industry professionals have increasingly turned their attention to studying human-related indicators for success in work and life achievements. One indicator is Adversity Quotient, which is defined as a person’s capacity to deal with life adversities, and not merely to cope, but to triumph over those challenges. It is also referred to as human resilience, or simply, grit. 

The concept and principles of Adversity Quotient were developed by Dr. Paul Stoltz, a noted thought leader, motivational speaker, business consultant and author of several books on the subject. Stoltz narrates that top companies have chosen the quality of grit as the most important factor for corporate decisions involving employee retention, promotion and succession planning. After intensive research, he developed an instrument to help measure Adversity Quotient, which can be accessed by readers through the internet.  

Interestingly, the theoretical foundations of Adversity Quotient are from the science fields: First is from psychoneuroimmunology, which examines the mind-body relationship. This emphasizes that our thoughts and emotions determine the strength of our body chemistry and even deep down to our cells. Second is from neurophysiology, which focuses how the brain learns and functions. This emphasizes that our habits of thought and behavior are hardwired to our brain such that we can learn how to change those habits. Third is from cognitive psychology, which focuses on how thoughts and feelings affect a person’s mental health. This underscores the need to manage our thoughts and feelings to improve how we react to negative situations. This helps to understand why “learned helplessness” may occur in some individuals such that they tend to give up when they are confronted with problems or difficulties.  

Understanding human resilience has implications for understanding and managing change along several contexts. One area that relates to Adversity Quotient is disaster preparedness and resiliency. As the country is prone to natural disasters, proper measures are required to mitigate the impact of natural disasters. Managers need to implement business continuity measures for the company and organizational members to recover quickly. Business continuity measures should include psychosocial interventions for the affected groups, apart from technical measures to protect company information systems, communication systems, physical safety and utilities.

Adversity Quotient also has implications on business management and risk assessment. Managers should learn how to confront common adverse conditions and institutional risks. Operational problems often occur in the normal course of the business, such as changes in consumer preferences, employee turnover, entry of new competitors and technology innovation. With technology advancements and increasing globalization, managers need to be flexible, adapt quickly, and continually search for innovative solutions to recurring problems and risks. 

Adversity Quotient can also relate to corporate governance issues. For instance, companies often experience problems in balancing the different interests among stakeholders. In one case, the board of directors could favor rapid expansion of markets and products, but the operations and sales department may stifle this move as they need more time to adjust their technical systems and improve the skills of the workforce. 

Another implication is in business ethics, since some negative events could test the integrity of company leaders and affect the image of the firm. For instance, accidents or customer complaints due to faulty products or services require strong ethical decisions from its leaders. An ethical dilemma occurs because managers must decide whether to put first the economic interests of their company by doing nothing and thus save costs, or to take proper measures to correct the problem and protect the consumers even if it results in a loss. As such, during a crisis, leaders are often tested for integrity and fairness. Their ability to discern and adopt ethical solutions are part of the challenges during adverse conditions. 

Last, but not the least, Adversity Quotient has implications for advocating corporate social responsibility. This pertains to the challenge of instilling among organizational members the value and culture of social and economic inclusion. Today’s businesses are expected by society to undertake meaningful programs for the well-being of underprivileged groups. While CSR practices are varied in scope and purposes, a greater challenge is for managers to craft sustainable strategies that empower the underprivileged on the long-term.  


Dr. Rachel A. Quero is an Associate Professorial Lecturer and teaches strategic human resource management, organizational behavior, and corporate social responsibility and governance at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She can be reached at [email protected] The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.

Topics: Philippine business schools , Commission on Higher Education , Adversity Quotient
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