25 Nov 2013

How Intelligent Are You?

I've hugely been inspired by Sir Ken Robinson ever since I heard his TED talk. I also ended up reading his book. It wasn't as inspiring as his speech, but that’s another point. But there are some amazingly insightful points on creativity he touches upon. I’d like to discuss one of them here.

Often when Sir Robinson asks a group a question “How would you rate your intelligence from 0-10?” he gets a patterned response. Very few people rate their intelligence between 9 and 10 and as many rate them between 3 and 4. For saving some people the embarrassment he doesn't go below the rating 3. But the vast majority of the group almost always rates its intelligence between 5 and 7. A typical bell curve is formed.
Bell Curve on people rating their intelligence from 0-10

Sir Robinson believes that this method of gauging intelligence is flawed. Intelligence cannot be measured by a SAT, GMAT or JEE score. That’s simply a mark of how well you can study. It isn't necessary that people with low IQ scores are not intelligent. I know – it sounds like a paradox, right? After all, IQ does stand for Intelligence Quotient.

So what is intelligence? A common way to define it is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.” Most people think intelligence is tangible, measurable. But intelligence is also linked to different aspects like logic, abstract thinking, understanding, self-awareness, communication and more. Can intelligence be measured in those aspects too?

It can’t, can it? Intelligence is not just about how good you are at mathematics, logical reasoning and language. It’s also about how good you are at solving problems; even ensuring they don’t arise. Or how brilliant you are in your field – be it advertising, marketing, finance… even cooking! Or your ability to gauge situations… see what is not seen by others. Or your ability to manage people well.

These aspects cannot be quantified. However, it doesn't mean that people possessing these skills are not intelligent. Yes, floating news is that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had IQs of 160, but their intelligence was not defined by how much their SAT scores were. Also, it’s unlikely that Sir Richard Branson would score well in an IQ test. Will you say that he, Sharad Pawar, Dhirubhai Ambani and the likes are/were not intelligent people? Or would you say Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar are not intelligent because they weren't great at academics?

We believe education makes us intelligent. Unfortunately, education is often assumed to be the curriculum taught in school. Ever wondered why maths and science are given more weightage while arts and music take a back seat? Because the industry needs the former… maths and science are more likely to get us a job. But creativity and intelligence are different. They demand you think and act beyond more than what this world expects of you. And each one of us is intelligent; each of us is creative. We've just stifled that side of us for fear of ridicule from the world. And we try to curb that intelligence in kids also, thinking that being different won’t get them anywhere. Apart from not being fair, this robs the world of many opportunities to improve… in art, culture, technology, education and more.

Remember, the question shouldn't be “How Intelligent Are You?” Instead, ask yourself (and anyone else) “How Are You Intelligent?” What makes you special, not how special you are.

image Courtesy: Google Images


  1. The main problem is trying to gauge the intelligence itself. It's such a complex thing. Intelligence, according to me, is the ability to acquire knowledge, ability to reason and assess in a logical way and then take actions accordingly. When the knowledge itself can be so varied, how can the intelligence be evaluated.?

    Very well written. Enjoyed reading. :-)

    1. Thanks, Kanthu. It's encouraging for a writer when a reader gets the idea spot on :)

  2. Very nice article. And the last line...sums up all that you are trying to say very aptly :)

  3. wow! Never actually sat down to think WHAT intelligence might actually mean. Well, your post has made me wonder.... I would say intelligence has a lot to do with the speed at which one can assimilate the knowledge all around, and react accordingly.

  4. Thanks, Thinktank and Nirvana. Glad you liked the article :)

  5. Very insightful and logical. The norm is that a scorecard and the school ranks are considered as an evidence to intelligence. Parents and relatives insist that the one who is good at studies will get a good job. Well of course he will. The way he has been studying proves that he follows rules and will follow the management guidelines too. Intelligence or smartness indeed has many sides

  6. Really nice point of view.

    Dhirubhai, Dhoni, Branson are actually skilled people. They are successful people. but that does not necessarily mean they should be intelligent.

    Being intelligent should not be confused with being skilled or successful. Or being happy !! also, it does not ensure you would be successful or skilled. But it only means you can grasp things or concepts faster than some others can.

    Thanks for sharing your views!! cheers :)

  7. Devil and Purvesh, thank you very much for your comments...


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