Friday, February 18, 2011

Thoughts On Practical Intelligence

One of my favorite things to do growing up was to pretend I was using the bathroom and sit on the toilet for hours at a time reading books. As the middle child in a family of five kids, there was no where else in the house where privacy was a given and I could sit in peace and quiet for as long as I wished, or at least until someone else needed to use the restroom haha.

Most recently, I've been delving into Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers" and I'm very much enjoying it. I became aware of the book a couple years back, during my first internship, when it was assigned to one of the other interns for our summer reading project. He made it sound fascinating, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Time just wasn't on my side, because I've been too busy to read much as of late, aside from blog posts.

My favorite section so far has been the one on geniuses and how their environment and circumstances contribute to their success, outside of their innate intelligence. Gladwell distinguishes between two different types of intelligences in the book: analytical intelligence and practical intelligence.

As you can probably guess, analytical intelligence is the kind that demonstrates itself as strength in math and science, primarily. It allows a person to solve problems such as equations and apply formulas as solutions. Things such as logical reasoning and efficiency are also the results of a highly analytical mind. Analytical intelligence is also able to be measured by IQ, so it is inheritable (about 50%) and natural.

Practical intelligence however is more a product of nurture, an intelligence gained from exposure to experiences and situations that allow a person to gain knowledge of how to act. In Gladwell's words:
It is procedural: it is about knowing how to do something without necessarily knowing why you know it or being able to explain it...It's knowledge that helps you read situations correctly and get what you want...the presence of one [analytical or practical intelligence] doesn't imply the presence of the other...[it's] knowing how to "customize" whatever environment you're, for your best purposes.
This really stood out to me because I feel like this explanation is precisely the skill set that strong public relations students learn during their college years.  When we say "I'm a people person" what we really mean is that we have a solid grasp of how to practically navigate conversations and situations to benefit both ourselves and those with whom we interact.

What I find truly fascinating is how we seem to be able to recognize those who have learned this skill, and those who have not, and sift our relationships with our peers until we have a group of  like-minded individuals. Most of the people I enjoy talking with have this practical intelligence quality (and most of them enjoy a hefty dose of analytical intelligence as well).

I was telling a friend of mine recently that when I was younger, I felt like some kids had been giving a handbook (how I thought of practical intelligence) when they were born that allowed them to navigate social interactions with more ease than I. I told her that I felt cheated by not having received this instruction, and that I had to learn it on my own, through watching other kids and adults.

Obviously, I've since gained this knowledge, or I wouldn't have recognized it when I read about it. Practical intelligence (man I love having a name to call it!!) has been something I've thought about for quite a long time, mostly because of my own deficiency in math and science. I always knew there had to be another skill set that was equally as valuable. In school I learned to cultivate it. And now I know what it's called.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - I'm Broke

Not for long ;)