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So You Think You’re Smart? Prove It.

I’ve become increasingly more convinced that the best sign of real intelligence is being able to see both sides, or all sides, or any argument. You might call that having an open mind. You might call it listening. And you might call it having the good sense to say “I don’t know” a lot. dice

I love it that in the competition of debating the debaters must prepare to argue either side. They find out which side at the very last minute. That’s great preparation for life.

I think most entrepreneurs develop a good relationship with uncertainty. We deal with an uncertain future every day. If we can’t live with doubt and lots of divergent possibilities, we drive ourselves crazy.

On the other hand, I think certainty, being sure of anything, is not so good. We don’t know the past that well because it gets filtered through points of view. And we don’t know the future at all. Hope is good, concern is good, looking at scenarios is good. Planning, as long as the planning understands uncertainty, deals with it, and manages it, is good too.

I think the smarter you are, the less certain of anything. I think people who are sure of things, especially the future, are walking around on thin ice. The smart ones know that the ice can break.

But of course I’m not sure. What do you think?

(image: imagewell/Shutterstock)


  • Tim Berry’s Wisdom of the Week says:

    […] So You Think You’re Smart? Prove It. […]

  • Mike Titgemeyer says:

    To take this one step further. I have found recently that our “instant gratification” approach leads us to more black and white opinions and less adaptability because of it. There is no gray area anymore, which is the basis of where real adaptation is developed!

    Not to get political, but there seems to be a black / white approach to politics on EVERY topic and it is filtering into the workplace as people have adapted this black & white, right & wrong approach to ideas, problem solving and accepting others/new ideas. Fewer and fewer people can handle the traditional debate approach as they are only capable of argueing and understand THEIR view.

    I think mandatory professional training ought to include a debate course, which makes one present and support an opinion they may not agree with.

    Anybody experience this and agree OR disagree?


  • Steve says:

    Evaluating what’s working (and why) and what needs to be changed is an ongoing process for me. I think that this quote by Darwin relates to what you’re getting at in your post: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” As a small business owner (since 2000) I’ve come to see sales and marketing as particularly important areas for consistent testing and experimentation. You, too?

  • Charles Robinson says:

    I know I don’t know but I don’t let myself get paralyzed by fear of that. Sometimes you can only take your best educated guess and run with it. You have to be flexible so you can adjust as things come into focus or you gain more knowledge.

    Or you change the question. Break the project into information-gathering phases that will lead you in a direction. You don’t have to know all the answers when you formulate where you want to go, you just need an idea of how to get started on the journey. The destination itself might even change before you get there.

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