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What’s Grit Got To Do With It?

January 3, 2017

julieblog_1The topic of grit is ubiquitous from the media, to the boardroom, and even in the classroom. The Office of Education and Technology of the U.S. Department of Education is taking a closer look at grit as a means to best prepare students while some California schools are grading students on non-academic skills including grit. Angela L. Duckworth et al. studied the importance of grit in predicting individual success. Their research ushered in a global grit conversation.  Just how popular is the topic of grit? A Google search on “grit” yielded over 11 million results, and a search on “Angela Duckworth and grit” netted over 84,000 results.

But what is grit? Hearing the word “grit” brings to mind the True Grit novel by Charles Portis and the film adaptation (either the 1969 version starring John Wayne or 2010’s featuring Jeff Bridges, depending on your preference) where Mattie Ross grit, blog, definition, human resources, HRdemonstrates perseverance overcoming many challenges to bring justice.  Formally, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines grit not only as “sand or gravel” but also as “firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger”. Grit as defined by Angela Duckworth et al. (2007) is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. Their research on grit set out to understand what other noncognitive skills drive success beyond intelligence.

The concept of grit is universally appealing.  We all want our employees, children and even ourselves to be passionate and persevere in pursuit of long-term goals. Grit has risen beyond a subject of interest to a matter of applicability within organizations.  What matters most when assessing for top talent: grit, intelligence or other attributes such as skill and personality?  Do we focus solely on grit, one attribute of a person, or do we take a more comprehensive and complete view of a person – an assortment of attributes such as skills, cognitive ability, and personality, for example?  

On a macro-level, assessments can be categorized into two types: “can do” and “will do”.  “Can do” aHR, human resources, SHRM, hiringssessments measure specific knowledge, skills or cognitive ability. “Will do” assessments measure how someone is likely to act in a given situation through their personality, preferences and attitudes. For example, a Healthcare Service Provider, in order to deliver superior patient care, must possess the “will do” such as interpersonal communication skills and service-orientation and the “can do” technical skills and knowledge.

PAN recently wrote a blog about increasing predictive power of assessments that allow for a wide range of knowledge, skills, abilities and other attributes to be measured, accounting for a comprehensive view of a person. While grit is an intriguing aspect to be further explored, looking at multiple attributes, the "can do” and “will do” offers a full view of individual success potential.