Practical Intelligence v General Intelligence


I don’t know about you but I enjoy reading business and personal development books and generally have several ‘on the go’ at once. And sitting in a coffee shop with one of these books is one of my guilty pleasures, down time, me time but perfect time… And this week I was drawn to take Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ with me.

The first few chapters were nothing new, stories that other teachers and mentors have used in the past but then I got to page 101 and something hit me. Gladwell was describing psychologist Robert Sternberg’s practical intelligence. This is where we “know what to say to whom, know when to say it, and know how to say it for maximum effect”.

“So you know how to do something and not why you know it and can’t always explain it either. So its practical in nature and not knowledge for its own sake.” Which is a different type of intelligence to the one that’s measured by IQ and we may have one and not the other. And have one in abundance compared to the other or have lots of both.

Great but what does that mean for business?

  • Well what if we could help people understand practical intelligence? Some may call it common sense or say that it’s innate. And yes, that’s probably true but what if we could help people to start using practical intelligence?
  • What if we could help people to join up the dots more? What value could that have?
  • You may have to walk step by step through why you know what to say, when to say it, how to say it and who to say it to… or help the other people walk through their process.
  • But once we understand it more then the more we can do it … it’s not about manipulation although some, sadly, will use it in that way.
  • How many times have you ‘sold an idea, process, action’ to someone in such a way that they’ve come back to you with it as their idea. Where if you’d suggested it as something they should do directly they would found various objections but as they think it’s their idea they’re happy to go ahead. That’s practical intelligence… we’ve done it for years but hadn’t realised it…
The application is wide, the principle is simple… so go and be an ‘outlier’ and use that practical intelligence its worth way more than your IQ…

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