Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Practical Intelligence and Outliers
Extending his “Trouble with Geniuses” concerns, Malcolm Gladwell offers insight about those particular skills that give talented people the extra edge to become outliers. Too often, we assume, Gladwell suggests, that success is based purely on people’s intellect or physical talents. Genetics tend to play vital roles, but they are hardly the sole determining factors.
To describe the differences between a highly intelligent yet underachieving person and a highly intelligent and successful one, Gladwell highlights psychologist Robert Sternberg’s concept “practical intelligence,” which includes “‘knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.’” Practical intelligence is “knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want. And, critically, it is a kind of intelligence separate from the sort of analytical ability measured by IQ.”
The practical intelligence that Gladwell presents can also be thought of as a kind of “social savvy,” an ability to skillfully negotiate multiple communal and professional environments. Those high IQ folks whom Galdwell mentioned who seemed to squander their talents were actually people who lacked “a community around them that prepared them properly for the world.”
Gladwell mentions that children of middle class and wealthy parents, more so than children of less well-off parents, “learn a sense of entitlement” and as a consequence become socially savvy or develop higher degrees of practical intelligence. How did you respond to Gladwell’s ideas about the roles of wealth and parenting in the lives of those who are more likely to become highly successful?
Or, to look at this from another angle on these topics, we know that SIUE students who wish to improve their academic and analytical abilities in their classes tend to go to the library and tutoring sessions, or they commit themselves to longer hours of studying. Ok, cool. But where would SIUE students interested in elevating their practical intelligence go to improve their skills, and what do they commit themselves to doing?