Thefeelgoodfactor's Blog

Random thoughts

Random thoughts

on July 26, 2011

Disclaimer:  The flow of thoughts in this post might not be coherent, and my sincere apologies for that.

Couple of years ago I had an argument with my friend over whom should one prefer in a team: a person gifted with extraordinary levels of intelligence but not really willing to work hard, or a person with average intelligence level but ready to do work really hard. At that point of time, I was arguing that the former would any day be better, as we can always try to increase his motivation levels so that he can go that extra mile.

There were a few problems with that kind of discussion however. The most important among those was the fact that definition of intelligence is not universal. I have always thought of intelligence as “the ability to learn and apply new things/knowledge quickly and efficiently”. Somehow, I feel that most of the proxies that we use for intelligence depend on the stock of knowledge an individual already has, and I am not too comfortable including that in intelligence.

Recently, I came across an article by Harsha Bhogle titled “What is talent in sport?” . It made me think about the hard worker vs. prodigious person debate once again. Am I wrong in including in excluding the existing stock of knowledge with a person when defining intelligence? That stock of knowledge, in turn, could have built on hours of smart work and exposure to different situations possible. ( A small diversion – I remember from my IIT coaching days, the director of BASE explaining the difference between hard worker and a smart worker. A person working in a quarry might be a hard worker, but he definitely is not a smart worker. And again smart work doesn’t mean one need not put a lot of effort. Its just that when you work smart, you try to do things efficiently.In this post, I use hard worker and smart worker interchangeably).

Looking back, most of the toppers at NITK in my batch were those whom I would classify as smart workers rather than as people having high IQ. (Again topping a batch is not a good measure I agree, but even if I include participating and winning in tech fests, I think most of them were hard workers). I believe that most of what I have achieved so far is mainly a result of hard work rather than intelligence, and frankly speaking, I think I am satisfied with where I am.

The other way of looking at it is, had the “intelligent person” spent an equal amount of time as the hard working person, the former could have achieved much more. However, it is not as simple as that for the simple fact that the marginal improvement in result decreases with increase in effort. Hence, effort and result relation shouldn’t be linearly interpolated. ( Common way of thinking is that if X spent only 50% time preparing for the exam compared to Y, and obtained 80% of Y’s score,  then X should be more intelligent. This is definitely flawed!).

While I am still confused choosing between intelligent and hard worker, what is really irritating is the attitude of some people who are not really that brainy (read average intelligence or below) and still don’t work hard. ( Definitely, they are not required in the team!). They just don’t seem to understand that smart work to a certain extent can negate relatively lower intelligence levels.

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5 responses to “Random thoughts

  1. Nishant Yaji says:

    It all boils down to the ‘value addition’. The one who adds – stays, one who doesn’t – pays. Probably Behavioral sciences can throw light on extracting value from the first category you mentioned.

    P.S : Seems like you have already evolved into a manager considering that mulling over the effectiveness of people at work.

    • balaji n says:

      The team/group can refer to the groups/team for course project as well. This is something that most of us anyway evaluate apart from the friendship quotient. So I don’t think the post has anything to do with me evolving into a manager 🙂

  2. Hamsini says:

    I’d agree. My batchmates spent considerable time in the library looking up for research papers half of which could have been achieved through secondary references and saved them a good week of looking up.

  3. aburad says:

    Intelligence in overrated 🙂
    There is again a difference between intelligent and smart worker. Smart worked would be working efficiently whereas its working is not guaranteed for an intelligent person. Selection would also depend on your personality as well.

    Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid -Einstein

  4. Sanil says:

    If you are looking for a team player – than more than intelligence or hard work – its how the person work with people. You see its always a group of ordinary people – putting extra-ordinary effort. Intelligence and hard work adds to the portfolio – but nothing beats teamwork.

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