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A blog that looks behind the scenes at how we bring our mission to life, every day

This global leader wants to know: What’s your WQ?

This global leader wants to know: What’s your WQ?

When Johan finished university, he wasn’t looking for a job. He was searching for a way to express his vision for a better world. Growing up in Sweden, he spent the majority of his life training as an opera singer. Earning a business degree was always his backup plan—that is, until a semester abroad in Syria changed everything.

“I went to study Arabic,” says Johan. “Every time I asked a question, my teachers ignored me. Eventually, I realized asking questions and fostering critical thinking was not emphasized in the education system there. Learning was about receiving and internalizing knowledge without asking why. It made me aware that education isn’t equal for all. Ever since it’s been my mission to change this.”

From then on, Johan has worked to help transform education on six continents. After joining EF Education First as a 360 Global Management Trainee he’s translated his entrepreneurial spirit and passion for youth empowerment into innovative initiatives. Over the years, he’s taken on roles ranging from Director of Strategic Alliances for the Hult Prize—named ‘One of the Top 5 Ideas Changing the World’ by TIME Magazine—to Senior Manager of Product Development and Operations for EF Gap Year. During that time, he’s launched summer programs for young people interested in global business, run incubators for budding social entrepreneurs, and developed a global internship program and leadership academy for American gap year students, aimed at helping them build 21st-century skills in 11 cities on three continents.

His latest challenge? Partnering with teams across EF to define a new standard for competence fit for today’s global world—World Quotient, or WQ. According to Johan and his EF colleagues, WQ is the factor that will set leaders apart from the rest in a rapidly changing world.

What is WQ exactly, and how can we cultivate it? Johan gives us tips and shares insights from his career at EF.

What is WQ?

In today’s interconnected world, leaders are not defined by IQ (intelligence quotient, i.e., how “smart” they are) or EQ (emotional quotient, i.e., how well they can build relationships). To get ahead in the age of the fourth industrial revolution, leaders need to become more human by developing WQ. WQ reflects the ability to understand the world and the people in it, regardless of cultures, borders, or beliefs. WQ is about the skills, knowledge, values, and attitudes that make someone an open, empathetic, adaptable, and culturally fluent human being. Building strong WQ requires stepping outside of your comfort zone, moving abroad, and immersing yourself in a different environment.

Where did the idea for WQ come from?

At EF, we’re in hundreds of countries meeting thousands of young people every day, making it possible for us to spot trends early on. Right now—more so than ever before—young people have an urge to get out into the world. And they don’t just want to vacation. They want to connect deeply with other cultures and learn how to collaborate with people who are different from them because they understand these skills will make a difference in the future. We realized there was an opportunity to lead this movement and to give it a space and a voice.

How do you measure WQ?

Building on Harvard and EF research, as well as insights from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the Council of Europe’s current definition of global competency, we’ve identified four key areas that form the WQ framework:

  • Knowledge (intercultural understanding and knowledge of global and intercultural issues)
  • Skills (ability to see conflicting perspectives, empathy, and adaptability)
  • Attitudes (openness, interest in learning about other cultures, and the belief that you can make a difference)
  • Values (awareness and appreciation of the interconnectedness of all peoples, and the ability to think about what’s good for the global community)

This is what we think is important right now. Our mission is to help young people adopt this way of thinking, starting with EF’s WQ Summit in Stockholm, a global initiative connecting thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and future change-makers from around the world to discuss how we can build these skills and make a positive impact on the world.

What will happen at the WQ Summit?

For one day, we’ll bring together 20 global speakers from different industries who share a strong WQ, 300 university students, and thousands of live viewers to discuss how we can better understand each other and how we can work together to create the world we want to live in. Our goal is for everyone to leave the summit with the knowledge they need to drive change and take action.

Has working at EF increased your WQ?

Absolutely. My career at EF has opened my mind to the world and given me a global network, both inside and outside of work. I lived abroad for a few years before starting here, but my career at EF has taken me around the world, allowing me to interact with local people and learn from them, continuously building my WQ and expanding my horizons.

What’s the best part of your job?

I have the freedom to create groundbreaking programs from scratch, launch them globally, and watch students grow through those programs. I love traveling, meeting new people, and spotting global trends and harnessing them to impact the world. Ultimately, I know I’m helping people become the best version of themselves.

Learn more about WQ and discover how you can boost yours at EF.