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When It's a Bad Thing to be Considered Smart

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When I was a budding entrepreneur, recently having earned my PhD in astrophysics, people would often introduce me as a rocket scientist. At first I enjoyed the praise.

In time I found being called intelligent didn’t help me in business. By “in business” I mean in business roles with leadership and decision-making. People talk about intelligence as valuable in business and some behave so, but I came to conclude successful businesspeople, especially investors, didn’t value intelligence as someone’s primary value. On the contrary, I came to find many venture capitalists and other investors viewed people with intelligence as their primary value as people whose inexperience they could exploit to make money off of.

I think businesspeople in mainstream music look at talented musicians the same way, but I don’t know the music business that well.

To clarify, I don’t mean people don’t value intelligence. They don’t value it when it’s their most important value. To call someone smart implies their other skills don’t measure up and, in business, people want solutions that work and productive relationships, neither of which require intelligence. What people usually describe as intelligence is what I call abstract problem solving. Intelligence being someone’s primary value means everything else is weaker. Business problems are rarely abstract, so someone being intelligence means they are weaker in everything else.

Read more at Quartz.

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