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Intelligence assessment

Here you will find details of the method used to assess the extent to which a nation is behaving in an intelligent manner.



The ILH perceives intelligence as the ability to stay alive / ‘in the game’. Much like living organisms, the three elements of survival are:


  1. Sense - The ability to detect threats and opportunities

  2. Decide -To swiftly decide how to respond

  3. Act.


For many living organisms, this is a cognitive exercise whereby our senses guide our actions. Cognition and intelligence are strongly correlated. The better we can sense-decide and act, the more intelligent we are.

In what has been referred to as the infinite game, the objective is to stay in the game. There is no winning or being runner up. You either survive to play another day or die. In this sense, a fox or wild salmon is no less intelligent than a human because they still exist today. They have adapted. One could argue that we are more intelligent because not only have we adapted to the environment, we have designed our own.


The counter argument is that we have created environments that are so relatively safe and predictable that we have lost the ability to sense danger and opportunity. Perhaps many of us do not realise that these new environments are constructed to benefit the powerful. Humans are not designed to spend much of their lives doing process work in a factory/office/kiosk.


This is how most organisations operate. It would appear that many leaders believe that past successes are indicative of future successes. This is clearly not the case. Similarly the individual’s journey of education, work and a steady rise in socio-economic status, which many have taken for granted, no longer exists. Intelligent nations need to recognise and adapt to these new realities.

Intelligence comes in two forms:

  • Natural – people

  • Artificial – tech.

Currently, there is much consideration given to AI, but little to people.

Cognition, per se is of no real value in itself. However it is the fuel that drives innovation, which is the only approach to engaging with an unknowable future.

An innovation-oriented nation is likely to be largely driven by the capability of the nation’s leadership.

Our approach

To assess intelligence at a national level, we study the following elements:

  • People

  • Technology

  • Innovation

  • Leadership.


It is important to recognise that this assessment approach is far from rigorous. There are several issues:

  • The global listings used are more an indicator of relative ranking. So even the number one ranked country on a given index is not immune from the harsh winds of increasing disruption. And in many cases, the rankings are misleading in that they are rewarding factors that demonstrated industrial era success, which are likely to be inhibitors to adapting to an increasingly unknowable world.

  • The pace of change is accelerating. With the global listings are trapped in amber, ie not real-time, and some being several years old, they are likely to have deviated from current reality.

  • Some indicators overlap in that a given variable, eg. government corruption may be represented in more than one index. So any attempt to develop an intelligence index based on the global listings whilst likely being broadly representative might imply a degree of confidence and accuracy that is unfounded.

The following indices were considered:

It would perhaps be helpful to arrive at a score. This would only be of use if it was clear what represented best practice in respect of building a nation optimised to thrive in an unknowable future. As the ILH develops a greater understanding of this, we may present a score. However providing a specific number whilst cognitively satisfying may again be misleading because of the lack of underlying scientific rigour. Also such a number implies a simple linear cause and effect and the reality is that nations are nested complex systems.



That stated, we have arrived at a rough score for each index by calculating the nation’s relative performance to the others in the list. So, the top ranked nation will score 100%. The only exception is Fragile State Index, where we have created a score whereby the least fragile nation scores 100%. Thus a high score is a positive in respect of a nation’s wellbeing.

Providing a score such as 98% or 61% would imply an unfounded level of rigour in our method, and in the method of the index compilers, that is not reflective of the truth. So to engineer in a degree of blurriness the figures are loosely grouped as follows:

  • Grade A: 91 - 100%

  • Grade B: 81 - 90%

  • .......

  • Grade J: 0 - 10%

The score represents the ranking order, so the top nation will score 100% and the worst performing nation 0%. So these numbers need to be considered as performance relative to other nations and not as a measure of performance appropriate to an increasingly unknowable future.

Further notes

Intelligence has several elements:

Leadership – This can be thought of as the organism’s nervous system or decision-making mechanism. A nervous system optimised for increasingly unpredictable situations will become increasingly essential. The quality of a nation’s government, business and civil society leadership (NB. This is less about leaders and more about agile decision making) is a determinant of intelligence.

Innovation – The organism’s ability to adapt to novel situations in a timely manner is equally important.


Natural intelligence – People are innately innovative, though the industrial era process model has largely suppressed this. ‘Street smartness’ trumps certifications in an increasingly disrupted world.


Artificial intelligence -As AI plays an increasing role in innovation, it is important to explore to what extent a nation is gearing up for this reality.

In the context of a nation, we also need to consider:

Economic fertility – The extent to which a nation is considered competitive on the global stage tells us the extent to which a nation’s infrastructure is supportive of economic prosperity and to what extent government and business are contributing to this.


Citizen wellbeing – Happy citizens are more likely to be innovative. Though it could be argued that unhappy citizens are perhaps even more likely to be innovative. Social unrest is a necessary precursor to dismantling a dysfunctional / archaic model. The skill of government, as we move out of the industrial era, is to manage the transition with minimal social friction. In any case, whilst ‘unhappy innovation’ might well be the driver, citizen wellbeing will keep society on an even keel once a new direction has been set.


Governance – Balancing for example national social, economic, educational, defence and health demands is a complex task.  Whilst there will always be compromises, keeping these (and other) plates spinning in an increasingly unknowable world will be the marque of a resilient nation.

Here is an example report – Intelligent Ireland.

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