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Management Essay on Smarts in Business is not about IQ

Smarts in Business is not about IQ

In the article “Smarts in Business is Not About IQ,” Richard Karlgaard offers an interesting perspective of smarts, a phenomenon that is normally linked to general intelligence by academics. According to Karlgaard, smarts refers to the learning ability, thinking capacity, and application capability of an individual, which many have measured through the use of cognitive tests. Karlgaard, however, opines that the idea of smarts is an absolutely different phenomenon in the real world, with its definition transcending SATs, and being described more by character traits such as resilience, perseverance, and hard work (Karlgaard, 2013).

The idea of high IQ not being necessarily ubiquitous to success is also backed by Keld Jensen, who in the article “Intelligence Is Overrated: What You Really Need to Succeed,” contends that financial success emanates more from human engineering skills. These skills include the ability of a person to communicate, lead, and negotiate, as well as possess the right personality. Essentially, technical knowledge only contributes to 15 percent of success (Keld, 2012). The ability to succeed, therefore, comes from the adaptation of an individual to the ever-changing market, that places them in a higher position to win than to lose (Karlgaard, 2013).

Even though IQ measures the ability of an individual to perform in school, it does not test and measure creativity or even the extent of an individual’s gift (Chitale, 2009). According to Tom Georgens the CEO of NetApp, as quoted by Karlgaard, careers are neither built on what an individual learns in school nor their academic credentials, but rather the hands-on experience that they gain through their work and interactions with others. This is what really defines world smarts, and not the high IQ or academic scores and credentials (Karlgaard, 2013).

Greg Becker and Maynard Webb provide a strong foundation for the idea of experience as a building block to success in Karlgaard’s article. According to Becker, most companies will look for individuals who have undergone a myriad of trials, and would therefore find solutions and means of making things work. On the other hand, Webb indicates that what companies really want is talent, and this is different from intellect, because it is based on what an individual has done (Karlgaard, 2013). Both therefore agree that an individual’s ingredient to success is not just intellect, but also the ability to adapt and become tough as well as learn from their hardest experiences in life. To lay further emphasis on experience and other forms of intelligence besides a high IQ, Keld (2012) states, “A person with less education who has fully developed their EQ, MQ, and BQ can be far more successful than a person with an impressive education who falls short in these other categories.”

A very important point of the article is brought out by the idea that individual success is not defined by our inherited intelligence quotient but rather, a smarts applicable to the real world is a direct descendant of real world experience, which is mainly the lessons that one learns the hard way. Karlgaard defines grit as a manifestation of smartness that is acquired from a diverse set of experience, which tends to enhance the ability to adapt and learn fast (Karlgaard, 2013). In the very least, therefore, the article argues that smartness and consequently success in business are not a matter of the highest intelligence quotient, but instead, are centered on individuals who go out of their way to place themselves in situations that require the use of grit. The result is an individual who is well seasoned by experience and whose knowledge base is far wider and more useful than just the internal intelligence and academic credentials. Thus, in the real business world, grit is the apt definition of smartness.



Chitale, R. (2009, October 14). Does High IQ Spell Success? ABC News. Retrieved from

Jensen, K. (2012, December 4). Intelligence Is Overrated: What You Really Need to Succeed. Forbes. Retrieved from

Karlgaard, R. (2013, November 27). Smarts in Business is Not About IQ. Forbes. Retrieved from


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