Friday, 18 February 2011

Are you Intelligent?

Which would you prefer? That people think of you as being intelligence, talented and bright? Or methodical, disciplined and thorough?

I’m guessing most of you think of yourself as intelligent. Like drivers, we all think we are in the 10% when it comes to driving ability. And none of us like to think we are stupid …

Yet intelligence is a curious quality. Intuitively know when we meet an intelligent person. We don’t need to ask them to do tests, or perform calculations. Somehow we can see intelligence in their eyes and hear it in what they say. However, we struggle to explain what we mean by intelligence. Like a fine wine or great art, we know it when we see it. (Of course, schools and universities test for a certain type of intelligence with examinations, but history has demonstrated that many intelligent and capable people have little aptitude for passing exams).

But what about the methodical, disciplined and thorough lot? The well-organised brigade who can always find things and have the right information to hand?

Even though the two are not mutually exclusive, and many intelligent people are also disciplined and methodical, it is not their organisational abilities that grab the headlines.

A visit to the war cabinet rooms in London this week made me think about the complex nature of intelligence, and what is required to outsmart the competition (whether in war or in business). Churchill’s brilliance (although he famously struggled with exams) and the military’s great organisational abilities, were clearly on show. Maps lined almost every wall covered with pins and wool showing enemy locations and manoeuvres. Graphs and carefully stencilled statistics were also pinned to the walls; not hidden away in ring binders.

Military Intelligence has come to mean information and data rather than thinking ability. When the stakes are as high as the independence of a nation, it’s interesting to reflect on whether it was the intelligent, talented and bright bunch who carried the day. Or the methodical, disciplined and thorough crew.


  1. I had a eureka moment when I read a book on the subject which described various different types, forms and levels of intelligence.

    On the one side there's accessing, processing and applying data. Then there's measures which can be used to assess the speed, depth and reach of these aspects...

    ultimately it's possible to divide this piece of handy terminology into as many factors as there are neurons in the brain of the subject under consideration, but what's more interesting is that the judgements we each make as individuals are reflections upon the values we hold most dear, precisely because those are what we've cultivated in ourselves.

    Humans are inherently, persistently and sometimes infuriatingly subjective!

    But it is also our uniqueness which fills conscious experience with meaning and makes living worthwhile.

    So perhaps we should be grateful for the lack of fixed definitions which frees us to communicate additional information - which, although possibly superficially irrelevant, could prove vital later on.

    How many lives are saved by pivotal throwaway remarks never acknowledged?

    So, in answer to your ponderer, could one have worked without the other?

  2. Hello Anonymous

    I'd love to know what the name of the book is. It certainly sounds interesting. I can't argue with your comment about how subjective we are (Don Airey has some interesting insights on this). Whether this is a good or bad thing, though, is open to discussion.

    Totally agree that one couldnt have worked without the other, but wouldnt it be fascinating if the contribution of each could be tested for?

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