Business acumen is more than just financial literacy; it's people skills, business smarts and a passion for what you do, says an organisational psychologist.

Muritai21 partner Cynthia Johnson says research shows business acumen is a rare quality in New Zealanders. But there is no clear-cut definition. Johnson and University of Canterbury adjunct professor of psychology Derek Roger have spent the past year researching what business acumen means to New Zealand's top business leaders.

According to their findings, it is made up of three different attributes.

•Understanding how the organisation works and makes money: Johnson says a lot of people see this as financial literacy, but it is more than this.


•The people factor: People who are able to build and maintain relationships with customers, colleagues and managers.

•Energy and excitement: They love their jobs and enjoy what they do. They are exciting, driven and confident in their work. Johnson points out that these people are not arrogant, they are generous and kind-spirited.

However, it is very rare for someone to possess all of these qualities.

After interviewing more than 20 significant business leaders about what they thought it meant, Johnson compiled a survey based on their answers. The next phase of their research will focus on whether business acumen is innate or can be learned.

They will approach a new set of companies and ask whether they can test this on employees.

•Any company interested in this should contact Johnson at cynthia@