Intelligence vs. Wisdom

Intelligence vs. Wisdom

Keith E. Stanovich explains on his book “What Intelligence Tests Miss” the mental dispositions that contribute to real world performance:

The tendency to collect information before making up one’s mind, the tendency to seek various points of view before coming to a conclusion, the disposition to think extensively about a problem before responding, the tendency to calibrate the degree of strength of one’s opinions to the degree of evidence available, the tendency to think of future consequences before taking action, the tendency to explicitly weigh pluses and minuses of a situation before making a decision, and the tendency to seek nuance and avoid absolutism.

It seems that real world performance depends on finding the gray areas. Entrepreneur and angel investor Chris Yeh summarizes Stanovich’s points as wisdom. More brilliant people on gray areas and wisdom:

  • Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha explain on their book The Start-up of You the problem with this belief in extremes, which they call false choices To get ahead in the professional and entrepreneurial world one needs to find a balance between seemingly opposed positions.
  • On his essay Is It Worth Being Wise?, Paul Graham defines a wise person as “someone who usually knows the right thing to do.”
  • Those that read Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, will sure remember his many examples of gifted people with extremely high IQs that didn’t achieve any significant success in the professional world, contrary to what one would expect of such genes.

Wisdom, then, is the key to results. And as I’ve said before (here and here, wisdom means acceptance of complexity. This is not to say that intelligence does not matter. But the uses of intelligence are complimentary to wisdom. Intelligence is the tool that will solve a problem, once wisdom tells you why that problem is the most important to tackle.

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