Sunday, May 18, 2008

How to Be Smarter

The definition of intelligence, its measurement, and the belief that it relies more heavily on nature or nurture are all up for debate. In discussions on intelligence, there does seem to be general agreement that there are steps any person can take to make the most of the intelligence they have. 

The New York Times ran an article this week detailing some of the methods of maximizing intelligence: exercise, a pursuit of lifelong learning, sufficient sleep, and challenging ourselves with riddles, puzzles, and mind-bending games. Though my favorite piece of the article involves its reference to the list Conde Nast released of the 73 top brains in business. And you'd think that list would be chocked full of Ivy-educated, fabulously wealthy finance types. And there are some of the those, though their number is surprisingly, and pleasantly, few.

The majority of Conde Nast's list is dominated by people who go out of their way to think different, be individuals, people who recognize that differentiation, not assimilation, is the way forward in the world of business. The list includes a collection of people who don't make headline news, but quietly, in their own way are simultaneously changing the world and building wildly successful companies. 

This list gives us some profound food for thought: our education focuses on test achievement, elite school acceptances, and hitting numerical thresholds. Do we need to have a metric in place in our education system that captures a sense of confidence, an ability to look at challenges with new eyes, and have the courage to forge ahead against adversity, naysayers, and others who wish we'd just "be like everyone else"? Current business successes would suggest that the idea is worthy of consideration. 

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