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Friday, March 16, 2018

Meaning Quotient - a meaningless concept

The meaning of the “Meaning Quotient” C.M. Heydenrych – Lecturer MANCOSA Introduction The concept of a “Meaning quotient” is not a new one. Drucker, the famous management “guru” has alluded to the concept and has stressed that the meaning found in work is an important motivator of performance in the work situation (Drucker, 1946). In this short essay an attempt will be made to explore the definition of the concept and while it may have some kind of face validity, a case will then be put forward for why, though it may be useful as a concept, it does not even remotely approach validity as a scientific construct, let alone warrant the label of being a “quotient”. It will furthermore sound some alarm bells to learners to be aware of the use of unfounded concepts in any academic discourse. Issues relating to the definition of the concept. In the original article by Susie Cranston and Scott Keller in the McKinsey Quarterly the authors barely attempt to define the concept – the closest that they get to that is by stating that “By ‘meaning’ we and they imply a feeling that what’s happening really matters, that what’s being done has not been done before or that it will make a difference to others.” Furthermore, though they use the term “quotient” they make no attempt to indicate how it may be measured or calculated. No indication of “norming” the construct is provided. In the most rudimentary understanding of the concept “quotient” one would expect it to be one number expressed as a ratio to another. For example in the concept “intelligence quotient” it represents the score of the person attained expressed as a ratio to age of a person or “a number representing a person's reasoning ability (measured using problem-solving tests) as compared to the statistical norm or average for their age, taken as 100.” (Glossary, 2016) For a construct (in psychology, a tool used to facilitate understanding of human behaviour) to be useful one needs to be able to discriminate it from other similar constructs, one needs to be able to measure it in some way and it needs to have some validity to predict and have some correlation to other aspects of human behaviour. The idea of persons experiencing an MQ as put forward in this article does not meet any of these requirements and thus has use in only the most general of terms. The behavioral sciences use constructs such as conscientiousness, intelligence, political power, self-esteem, and group culture – all of which have been extensively researched and have very specific meanings and uses. MQ does not. Concerns Since a “construct” is defined as “a concept which represents relationships between empirically verifiable events or processes” (Chaplin, 1971). None of this is available for the concept of a Meaning Quotient. It is important that a student in the Social Sciences be aware of the use of quasi-scientific or “pop” concepts in their endeavour of building a solid academic underpinning to their understanding of a particular subject matter. A critical view should be taken of all concepts that they encounter in their studies, in particular of those found in the more popular type of articles found in non-peer reviewed sites often encountered on the internet (of which this one may also be an example!) The mere addition of the term “quotient” may lend some respectability to a concept, such as is also found with “Emotional Quotient”, but that does not alter the fact that the concept has not passed all the rigours of scientific scrutiny (perhaps I should add “yet”). Conclusion MQ may have face validity. It is however not a generally accepted and valid psychological construct and should be viewed and used as such. Johannesburg 15 March 2018 References Chaplin, J.P.: Dictionary of Psychology. 1971. Cranston, Susie & Keller, Scott: Increasing the ‘meaning quotient’ of work. McKinsey Quarterly January 2013 ( - Accessed 15 March 2018) Drucker, P.F.: Concept of the Corporation. 1946. Glossary of Important Assessment and Measurement Terms. Philadelphia, PA: National Council on Measurement in Education. 2016. intelligence quotient (IQ). Retrieved 2017-07-01.

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