As the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are increasingly felt, so the pressure to utilise our intelligence in solving the challenges that present themselves on a daily basis increases. We now not only need intelligent people but also smart people – people who effectively utilise their intelligence.
There’s a difference between intelligent people and smart people, and businesses which want to thrive in the future need both. During the course of my career, I’ve worked with both kinds and have learnt that you can’t expect the same things from each group.
Let’s take intelligence for a start … There are many definitions for intelligence. To sum them all up, one could say intelligence refers essentially to mental capacity – the ability of a person to acquire knowledge and exercise logic and understanding to arrive at a conclusion of some sort that will enable them to solve a problem or change a situation.
One definition of “smart” tells us that it is about having or showing quick witted intelligence. That tends to indicate that being smart suggests an ability to apply one’s intelligence in a particular situation. I’m inclined to favour this view. I have seen highly intelligent people faced with a situation that they did not know how to deal with and, in contrast, I’ve witnessed people who were not necessarily as intelligent as others but who were smart enough to know to do just the right thing in the situation. “Smart” could therefore be described as applied intelligence.
Now what about people’s view of themselves? As I’ve worked with people in learning situations over decades, I have come to understand that people fall into the following categories:
Those who are not intelligent and know it. They know their place and get on with what they’re given to do.
Those who are intelligent and know it. While one does encounter arrogant intelligent people, the vast majority of them quietly get on with what they’re tasked with doing. Many of them – not all – seek out leadership positions to use their intelligence for the greater good.
Those who are intelligent and don’t know it. These people are recognised by others as intelligent but lack the self-confidence to recognise their own intelligence and act on it.
Those who are stupid but who THINK they’re intelligent. This is the most dangerous group because they hopelessly overestimate themselves and rush in where the proverbial angels fear to tread. They end up causing more damage than good because they usually horribly misjudge situations and don’t understand what is needed to address things in a way that will result in a greater good. Take a look around the world. Notice any of these leaders?
People who think they’re smarter than they are often push their way into leadership positions because they think they can do it. They tend to shout down the intelligent people (both those who know they’re intelligent and those who don’t know they’re intelligent) to get their own way. They also usually feel threatened by genuinely intelligent people so will surround themselves with people who are not as intelligent as they are so that their lack of intelligence is not challenged.
Intelligent people who are smart enough to see what’s going on tend to keep quiet, and this results in the unintelligent, unsmart leaders getting their own way.
It’s time for the genuinely intelligent leaders to stand up for what they believe in. If you’re shouting others down, refusing to listen to other people’s opinions or criticisms, chances are you’re not as smart as you think you are and anything I or anybody else says to you won’t make any difference at all. If, however, you’re intelligent and genuinely smart, I urge you to start making your voice heard. For too long we’ve tolerated the unintelligent, people telling us what to do and what we should do. How long are we collectively going to deny our children a good future because of those who think they’re smarter than they are?
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.