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You're Smart. So What?


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A blog post of mine hit the front page of Hacker News today. I think it's the kind of thing you all would enjoy as well. The title of the post is You're Smart. So What? and it is an examination into the value of soft skills. Probably not earth shattering to any of us but if you know of any teens or college students, they might get value out of it.

 

http://blog.chrisdrane.com/?p=49

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You know, I have worked with a lot of smart people and come to realize that smart simply means raw brain power.  I have found two types of smart people:

      - Smart people who use their brainpower to make simple problems complex and then solve the complex  problem.

      - Smart people who use their brainpower to make complex problems simple and then solve the simple problem.

 

I have found that people in the second category are far more successful and right than people in the first category. Examples of the second category are Buffet and Jobs. People in the first category tend to have a lot of hits and misses. I find a lot of those kinds of smart people in academia (and analyzing macroeconomics  ;))

 

 

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I have felt this feeling before, I wanted to keep the young people I knew from doing the stupid stuff I did.  The only problem is, they don't seem to listen any better than I did when people were telling me the same thing :).  And they'll probably be saying the same stuff when they are my age.  If your book does anything to solve this problem for a few kids it will be a great accomplishment.

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You know, I have worked with a lot of smart people and come to realize that smart simply means raw brain power.  I have found two types of smart people:

      - Smart people who use their brainpower to make simple problems complex and then solve the complex  problem.

      - Smart people who use their brainpower to make complex problems simple and then solve the simple problem.

 

I have found that people in the second category are far more successful and right than people in the first category. Examples of the second category are Buffet and Jobs. People in the first category tend to have a lot of hits and misses. I find a lot of those kinds of smart people in academia (and analyzing macroeconomics  ;))

 

I'd like to make a distinction between lazy smart people and industrious smart people instead. To be extremely succesful (at least in business, games) I think you need both.

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Great article, thanks for sharing.

 

I really liked this comment too:

 

I know quite a few dumb smart people – those who are extremely intelligent but not very adept socially. I read an article once that discussed qualities that made people good co-workers and one of the most valued traits was being agreeable. I am married to an engineer and our social circle is chock full of them. “Agreeable” doesn’t really describe any of them. While most are wonderful to have around if you need facts and knowledge, they certainly aren’t people that make others feel good about being in a relationship with them. They tend to argue very readily, in fact, usually, and when they hear something they don’t believe to be true, they passionately and rather rudely attack the point, which is seemingly much more important than the speaker’s feelings. I marvel at how any of them manage to have intimate relationships, much less marriages.

 

I would go so far as to say that I think there should be a class in high school about relationships, how to get along with others. I would make Deborah Tannen’s books about communication required reading.

 

I heard a DJ talking about being the “Actually Person.” He said when people are talking, he’s the to interject, “Actually, …..” Actually the avocado is a fruit. Actually, there is no such word as irregardless, it’s just regardless. Actually, I don’t get laid much, thank you. I added the examples but my point is, no one really likes the Actually Person, except maybe other Actually People. Those people who instinctively know or have somehow learned that getting along with others is “actually” more important than correcting them at every opportunity are the successful ones.

 

* I am a closet “Actually Person.” I read that article and decided to keep corrections to myself unless they pertain to my job/are crucial, then I find a really nice way to offer the information.

 

I was an 'actually person' until I read 'How to win friends and influence people'.  I think that book is a great starting point for people looking to attain the soft skills mentioned in the post.

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You know, I have worked with a lot of smart people and come to realize that smart simply means raw brain power.  I have found two types of smart people:

      - Smart people who use their brainpower to make simple problems complex and then solve the complex  problem.

      - Smart people who use their brainpower to make complex problems simple and then solve the simple problem.

 

I have found that people in the second category are far more successful and right than people in the first category. Examples of the second category are Buffet and Jobs. People in the first category tend to have a lot of hits and misses. I find a lot of those kinds of smart people in academia (and analyzing macroeconomics  ;))

I'd like to make a distinction between lazy smart people and industrious smart people instead. To be extremely succesful (at least in business, games) I think you need both.

Kurt von Hammerstein (Google the name) prefers clever and lazy:

 

I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.
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Great article, thanks for sharing.

 

I really liked this comment too:

 

I know quite a few dumb smart people – those who are extremely intelligent but not very adept socially. I read an article once that discussed qualities that made people good co-workers and one of the most valued traits was being agreeable. I am married to an engineer and our social circle is chock full of them. “Agreeable” doesn’t really describe any of them. While most are wonderful to have around if you need facts and knowledge, they certainly aren’t people that make others feel good about being in a relationship with them. They tend to argue very readily, in fact, usually, and when they hear something they don’t believe to be true, they passionately and rather rudely attack the point, which is seemingly much more important than the speaker’s feelings. I marvel at how any of them manage to have intimate relationships, much less marriages.

 

 

Hey!  (As an engineer) I resemble that I remark!

 

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Consider Buffett's famous comments on IQ: "If you are in the investment business and have an IQ of 150, sell 30." "You don't need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ." It's an appealing story, but is it accurate?

 

http://www.wu.ac.at/executiveeducation/other/vgsf/activities/seminar/2011-05-27-grinblatt_smartinveseurope0511.pdf

 

Translated into IQ scores, it looks like Finnish investors with an IQ above 120 outperformed those with an IQ of 100 by roughly 2.2% annually.

 

Somewhat perversely, I think quantitative aptitude might be underrated in investing. (Of course emotional control, social and qualitative thinking are also critically important.)

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Consider Buffett's famous comments on IQ: "If you are in the investment business and have an IQ of 150, sell 30." "You don't need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ." It's an appealing story, but is it accurate?

 

http://www.wu.ac.at/executiveeducation/other/vgsf/activities/seminar/2011-05-27-grinblatt_smartinveseurope0511.pdf

 

Translated into IQ scores, it looks like Finnish investors with an IQ above 120 outperformed those with an IQ of 100 by roughly 2.2% annually.

 

Somewhat perversely, I think quantitative aptitude might be underrated in investing. (Of course emotional control, social and qualitative thinking are also critically important.)

 

An IQ of 100 is just average (50th percentile), where 120 is well into the above average category (89 percentile).  I'd believe that someone with an IQ of 120 would do measurably better in most tasks which  require some amount of analytical analysis, such as investing.  No one would find it surprising if a study found that on average investors with a 100 IQ beat investors with an 80 IQ.  But when you are talking about the difference between an investor with a 130 IQ and one with a 160, both of which are above the 90th percentile already, I think the increased intelligence doesn't matter as much.  I think once you are "smart enough" (being above some minimum threshold) having the knack for finding good investments isn't something that is measured by an IQ test.  It can only really be measured by your returns over a long period of time.

 

 

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It is a good observation.  Look who developed the EMH (folks with high IQs) and who are smart and think they know the right answer to everything.  I would rather work with folks who aren't as smart but who work hard and have horse sense and know what they don't know (as skill that some high IQ folks have a hard time with).

 

Packer

 

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No one would find it surprising if a study found that on average investors with a 100 IQ beat investors with an 80 IQ. 

 

Yes, that would be my expectation. But that study actually seems to indicate the opposite: average investment returns for people with IQs lower than 100 are not lower than people with IQs of 100. It's only above 100 where IQ has an impact on investing performance.

 

But when you are talking about the difference between an investor with a 130 IQ and one with a 160, both of which are above the 90th percentile already, I think the increased intelligence doesn't matter as much.  I think once you are "smart enough" (being above some minimum threshold) having the knack for finding good investments isn't something that is measured by an IQ test.  It can only really be measured by your returns over a long period of time.

 

That study doesn't break down the top quantile, but there is a much larger jump between the 8th and 9th quantile than between the others. I think it suggests that people with 130, 140, 150+ IQs are substantially dragging up the average returns within that quantile. If there is leveling off above a threshold, it's probably above 120.

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Great article, thanks for sharing.

 

I really liked this comment too:

 

I know quite a few dumb smart people – those who are extremely intelligent but not very adept socially. I read an article once that discussed qualities that made people good co-workers and one of the most valued traits was being agreeable. I am married to an engineer and our social circle is chock full of them. “Agreeable” doesn’t really describe any of them. While most are wonderful to have around if you need facts and knowledge, they certainly aren’t people that make others feel good about being in a relationship with them. They tend to argue very readily, in fact, usually, and when they hear something they don’t believe to be true, they passionately and rather rudely attack the point, which is seemingly much more important than the speaker’s feelings. I marvel at how any of them manage to have intimate relationships, much less marriages.

 

I would go so far as to say that I think there should be a class in high school about relationships, how to get along with others. I would make Deborah Tannen’s books about communication required reading.

 

I heard a DJ talking about being the “Actually Person.” He said when people are talking, he’s the to interject, “Actually, …..” Actually the avocado is a fruit. Actually, there is no such word as irregardless, it’s just regardless. Actually, I don’t get laid much, thank you. I added the examples but my point is, no one really likes the Actually Person, except maybe other Actually People. Those people who instinctively know or have somehow learned that getting along with others is “actually” more important than correcting them at every opportunity are the successful ones.

 

* I am a closet “Actually Person.” I read that article and decided to keep corrections to myself unless they pertain to my job/are crucial, then I find a really nice way to offer the information.

 

I was an 'actually person' until I read 'How to win friends and influence people'.  I think that book is a great starting point for people looking to attain the soft skills mentioned in the post.

 

It depends on what is considered dumb. Is not socially likable considered dumb or not knowing the right from the wrong dumb? All the innovators , successful businesssmen did not get there by being likable or agreeable. Being right is most important to them.  Evolution works by being right even though in the minority. Whenever something is run by "consenses"  or the likability by majority tend to fail because nobody wants to be the bad guy and do that right thing.

  Having said that, when you are in the social party (where one group thinks the other group dumb) it is not a good idea to argue with people. People get offended when their beliefs and ideas questioned.  They take is personally and resent whoever calls it out. It is not necessary to do that in a party. So it is better to shut up and let the other person keep their beliefs and feel good.  The trick is to know the audience and when to argue and when to be likable.

 

  Influence, The psychology of persuasion is also a great by Cialdini.

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Look who developed the EMH (folks with high IQs) and who are smart and think they know the right answer to everything.

 

I recently met another local Dad who went to Harvard and Stanford (our daughters ride horses together).  He was econ/business at those schools.  In fact, he knows Ben Bernanke because they were down the hall from each other at Harvard.

 

So, I asked him if it were possible to do worse than the market, because the market is efficient.  He laughed at that one.  Says he had never thought of it like that before.

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Look who developed the EMH (folks with high IQs) and who are smart and think they know the right answer to everything.

 

I recently met another local Dad who went to Harvard and Stanford (our daughters ride horses together).  He was econ/business at those schools.  In fact, he knows Ben Bernanke because they were down the hall from each other at Harvard.

 

So, I asked him if it were possible to do worse than the market, because the market is efficient.  He laughed at that one.  Says he had never thought of it like that before.

+1 lol

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Consider Buffett's famous comments on IQ: "If you are in the investment business and have an IQ of 150, sell 30." "You don't need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ." It's an appealing story, but is it accurate?

 

http://www.wu.ac.at/executiveeducation/other/vgsf/activities/seminar/2011-05-27-grinblatt_smartinveseurope0511.pdf

 

Translated into IQ scores, it looks like Finnish investors with an IQ above 120 outperformed those with an IQ of 100 by roughly 2.2% annually.

 

Somewhat perversely, I think quantitative aptitude might be underrated in investing. (Of course emotional control, social and qualitative thinking are also critically important.)

 

An IQ of 100 is just average (50th percentile), where 120 is well into the above average category (89 percentile).  I'd believe that someone with an IQ of 120 would do measurably better in most tasks which  require some amount of analytical analysis, such as investing.  No one would find it surprising if a study found that on average investors with a 100 IQ beat investors with an 80 IQ.  But when you are talking about the difference between an investor with a 130 IQ and one with a 160, both of which are above the 90th percentile already, I think the increased intelligence doesn't matter as much.  I think once you are "smart enough" (being above some minimum threshold) having the knack for finding good investments isn't something that is measured by an IQ test.  It can only really be measured by your returns over a long period of time.

 

Right, it's the common concept of marginal utility. I remember Outliers talked about this a reasonable amount.  If you're about 6'3", more height doesn't necessarily make you a better basketball player (depending of the position you play).  Apparently they did studies on all lawyers who graduated from a prestigious school (some percentage had entered under a special program for underprivileged people, so those people entering were significantly less 'smart' or 'educated'), and they found there was absolutely no difference in their career path's success rates by any measure.  There is an obsession in our society to measure things, and sometimes those things don't matter.  Another example was the combine and the wonderlic, apparently scouts use the information to grade football players, but it makes no real difference:  http://www.cnbc.com/id/28813545

 

That said, there is a real difference and correlation up to a point.  I do think someone with a 120+ IQ is going to do better in general and in investing than someone with an 100 IQ.  That's why Buffet said 130 vs 160, not 100 vs 160...

 

Plus in STEM fields, I think IQ does correlate better to a higher level than an average field.

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Guest valueInv

Consider Buffett's famous comments on IQ: "If you are in the investment business and have an IQ of 150, sell 30." "You don't need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ." It's an appealing story, but is it accurate?

 

http://www.wu.ac.at/executiveeducation/other/vgsf/activities/seminar/2011-05-27-grinblatt_smartinveseurope0511.pdf

 

Translated into IQ scores, it looks like Finnish investors with an IQ above 120 outperformed those with an IQ of 100 by roughly 2.2% annually.

 

Somewhat perversely, I think quantitative aptitude might be underrated in investing. (Of course emotional control, social and qualitative thinking are also critically important.)

 

An IQ of 100 is just average (50th percentile), where 120 is well into the above average category (89 percentile).  I'd believe that someone with an IQ of 120 would do measurably better in most tasks which  require some amount of analytical analysis, such as investing.  No one would find it surprising if a study found that on average investors with a 100 IQ beat investors with an 80 IQ.  But when you are talking about the difference between an investor with a 130 IQ and one with a 160, both of which are above the 90th percentile already, I think the increased intelligence doesn't matter as much.  I think once you are "smart enough" (being above some minimum threshold) having the knack for finding good investments isn't something that is measured by an IQ test.  It can only really be measured by your returns over a long period of time.

 

Above a certain level, temperament matters a lot more than intelligence. Being smarter doesn't mean you have control over your emotions.

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It depends on what is considered dumb. Is not socially likable considered dumb or not knowing the right from the wrong dumb? All the innovators , successful businesssmen did not get there by being likable or agreeable. Being right is most important to them.  Evolution works by being right even though in the minority. Whenever something is run by "consenses"  or the likability by majority tend to fail because nobody wants to be the bad guy and do that right thing.

  Having said that, when you are in the social party (where one group thinks the other group dumb) it is not a good idea to argue with people. People get offended when their beliefs and ideas questioned.  They take is personally and resent whoever calls it out. It is not necessary to do that in a party. So it is better to shut up and let the other person keep their beliefs and feel good.  The trick is to know the audience and when to argue and when to be likable.

 

  Influence, The psychology of persuasion is also a great by Cialdini.

 

I think you've captured something with these two paragraphs that I like. 

 

While I wouldn't say that I was an "actually" type, I was extraordinarily argumentative.  Eventually, I changed but I'm not sure it has suited me.  One reason I changed was that I felt others didn't like being argued with -- especially in front of the opposite sex -- and so were therefore angry with me.  And, frankly, that they were also stealing my insights afterwards.  The arguing was hurting me twice with men -- women, though, were attracted to it.  Something I knew but not to degree.  Plus, there are other ways to impress women -- at least the types you'd actually want to date, marry, etc.

 

There is a downside to being agreeable and you hit on it in your first paragraph.  When (inevitably) rivals think (or conclude) that you are a threat to what they're after, they like nothing more than to learn that you're "agreeable".  They conclude that you will be easy to manipulate and thus easy to remove as a threat.  War analogies make this one easy to see.

 

My trouble comes from the fact that I'm "faking" it when I'm being agreeable.  When the rival realizes this -- and it always happens sooner or later -- he becomes quite angry.

 

Had they never concluded I was easy to roll, they would have been much less likely to get angry when it didn't happen.  (War analogy again -- don't look weak when you're strong.)

 

So, I like your distinction regarding the times that being agreeable is clearly useful and the times when it is likely a negative.

 

Some of my funnier stories revolve around how this plays out with salesmen.  They'll agree with anything to get rapport.  Later, you get to know them, and realize they're just as clueless as everyone else.  They were just "agreeing" with you in hopes of getting a sale at some point.

 

These ideas are another reason why a moderated board of smart people having tons of segmented conversations on topics is so damn interesting.  It has the positives instead of the negatives in the reality you described above. 

 

So, Sanjeev has created here what I had hoped to find at University -- applied intellectuals.  Well done.

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The smart ones aren't 'at' these conversations. They either anonymously stepped away from the controversial conversation (after noting the contents), or dropped a remark in passing (if there was a target they wanted to message to) - & walked away. They circulate, & they don't start a conversation unless they have a specific purpose. To confirm ... simply ask your wife!

 

IQ, work, and wealth are not correlated; we just want to believe it. There are lots of very wealthy, 'dumb' people, & it is nothing new; we call them the nouveau riche. He/she may be nothing more than a lucky sperm; 'dumb' in behaviour - but with a family smart enough to give the $ to someone else to manage.

 

When too many are gaming the conversation - you get sterility, & the message becomes the tone. And any diplomat will attest that it has nothing to do with content - content you get from your analysts. To cut through the sterility, most diplomats will deliberately stir the pot, & test the reaction with an open mind.

 

All senior PM's have to be practiced diplomats - but the higher you rise the more filtered & nuanced the message (as tone increasingly dominates). The more unwashed the conversation you can hear, the more valuable it is; & if you can hear it in a reasonably anonymous venue - the more valuable still. It could be via a blunt weekly beer with your analysts - to hear what they really think (GE); or indirect mentoring via a BB.

 

Then keep in mind that 'dumb' is very generational, occupational, & time sensitive. Grandpa just looks dumb because his 'smarts' were with a different technology, at a different time, & in a different industry. Anonymous contributions on a BB lets everyone get around it, to everyone's benefit.

 

SD

 

 

 

 

 

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The smart ones aren't 'at' these conversations. They either anonymously stepped away from the controversial conversation (after noting the contents), or dropped a remark in passing (if there was a target they wanted to message to) - & walked away. They circulate, & they don't start a conversation unless they have a specific purpose. To confirm ... simply ask your wife!

 

IQ, work, and wealth are not correlated; we just want to believe it. There are lots of very wealthy, 'dumb' people, & it is nothing new; we call them the nouveau riche. He/she may be nothing more than a lucky sperm; 'dumb' in behaviour - but with a family smart enough to give the $ to someone else to manage.

 

When too many are gaming the conversation - you get sterility, & the message becomes the tone. And any diplomat will attest that it has nothing to do with content - content you get from your analysts. To cut through the sterility, most diplomats will deliberately stir the pot, & test the reaction with an open mind.

 

All senior PM's have to be practiced diplomats - but the higher you rise the more filtered & nuanced the message (as tone increasingly dominates). The more unwashed the conversation you can hear, the more valuable it is; & if you can hear it in a reasonably anonymous venue - the more valuable still. It could be via a blunt weekly beer with your analysts - to hear what they really think (GE); or indirect mentoring via a BB.

 

Then keep in mind that 'dumb' is very generational, occupational, & time sensitive. Grandpa just looks dumb because his 'smarts' were with a different technology, at a different time, & in a different industry. Anonymous contributions on a BB lets everyone get around it, to everyone's benefit.

 

SD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you implying that only introverts can be smart?

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This thread seems to be focusing on the stereotype of a "smart" person, someone who's introverted, keeps to themselves and is deeply technical.

 

I propose there's another type of "smart" individual, the one who has social smarts.  This is the person who is able to muster all those hiding-in-the-basement-brain types to get something done.

 

I have managed teams with extremely smart people, I am by far the stupidest one on the team, yet on their own nothing would get done.  They would be happy to thrash on some intellectually challenging point constantly that is inconsequential to the delivery of the project.  The person leading isn't dumb, but they are able to differentiate details that matter and details that don't matter.

 

If book smarts ultimately mattered for success librarians and historians would be ruling the world.

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