There are so many different ways to be switched on, it got me thinking about what it means to be ‘smart’.
It’s not normally what I write about, so I have included the words mashups, Google Earth, data sets and search engines so you can’t say I have strayed too far.
To my story…
The other day I met with a senior member of the Victorian Government who made me feel a bit on the dumb/humble side. We were having a discussion about the use and availability of data sets that could be used in what is known as mashups (mashups being websites that put together information from different organisations to generate interesting insights, such as housing sale prices on GoogleEarth).
Anyway, what made me feel humble/dumb was the mention of a whole lot of websites that I knew nothing about. I felt quite ill prepared for the meeting as it appeared that I hadn’t done my homework.
Later, while staring at my monitor, I realised that I shouldn’t be feeling dumb at all. All that happened was that the person pointed out they knew more in a specific area than I did. That didn’t make them smarter; in fact it didn’t even mean they had conducted more research. It just meant they had come up with some facts I hadn’t.
I then started thinking about thinking. Did knowing more mean you were smarter, or was there other kinds of smart? In the past, I had chatted with Michael Hewitt-Gleeson whom runs the School of Thinking. Michael had talked about how our brain works (in fact he coined the term “software for the brain”). Thinking about this, I started to jot down a list of ways I could be smart, and this is what I came up with:
Intelligent – The ability to make fine distinctions between different situations and see the detail (for example, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, do actually have some differences other than age and hair colour).
Wisdom – The ability to see patterns and act on them (I have finally noticed that my daughter does her homework much better in the morning, so now we only do it then).
Creativity – The ability to come up with new ideas or solutions (for example, there were plenty of search engines around before Google came out).
Rational – The ability to act logically based on the information before you (I have a mate who’s very clever but goes to pieces in airports; his wife accepts this and takes charge when they go on trips).
Empathy – The ability to understand the emotions of others and act upon it (like when I know my wife is stressed, I don’t mention the new parking fine).
Anyway, there are probably heaps of other types of “smart” as well, as I am not a “smartness researcher”, but this list works for me. Its value is that when I meet with someone who points out lots of things I don’t know, I no longer feel embarrassed. Instead I remain confident, knowing I am dealing with someone who clearly has good research skills, but may not be wise, intelligent, creative or even rational.
Brendan Lewis is the founder of two IT service firms, Edion and Verve IT, and executive director of the Churchill Club.
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