Intelligence? Emotional Intelligence? I’ll take someone with skill over intelligence

June 12, 2014 by Joshua
in Awareness, Education, Entrepreneurship

I’m not impressed with intelligence. I say that as someone people often describe as intelligent.

Too many people (including myself in the past) consider themselves strong in the abstract ability to solve problems over the activity of solving them.

I value execution over ideas. Concrete over abstract. Earned over entitled. Experience over observation. I wasn’t always like this. I used to hold the opposite values—mind over body.

Note the difference between the definitions of intelligence and skill. Intelligence generally involves abstract problem solving. People tend to view it as something innate or inborn and hard or impossible to change. This perspective often leads to people who consider themselves intelligent feeling they could solve something but not actually solving it. The problem is that abstract problems don’t exist in real life and research shows every time you try to apply abstract solutions to new problems, you have to learn the new domain anyway, meaning you have to develop skill.

Specifically, if I have a problem, a plan doesn’t solve it. Solving it solves it. If I hire an accountant, I don’t want them just to know how to do my taxes. I want them done to where the IRS sends me a receipt they received them.

Intelligence: the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations (dictionary)

Intelligence has been defined in many different ways such as in terms of one’s capacity for logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, emotional knowledge, memory, planning, creativity and problem solving. (Wikipedia)

I used to value the ability to solve abstract problems highly, thinking if you could solve abstract problems you could apply the solutions to many specific problems. Physics and math have lots of abstract problems so I worked on them a lot.

When I started working with people and starting companies, I learned people don’t value ideas. They value getting things done.

Skills involve doing things, not just awareness, and we learn them, meaning they come from experience and action.

Skill: the ability to do something that comes from training, experience, or practice (dictionary)

A skill is the learned ability to carry out a task with pre-determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both (Wikipedia)

People value emotional intelligence, saying that it improves your life more than regular intelligence. Maybe it does. I still value emotional skill.

As a coach, I focus on developing skills in clients, especially emotional skills so valuable in leadership. Intelligence barely factors in since you can’t do much about something you can’t change. Developing skills advances people’s careers and improves their lives.

In pictures

If life is a dance, people who value intelligence focus on and learn stuff like this:

Basic waltz step

People who value skills do stuff like this:

Salsa dancing

Which do you prefer?

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