Here’s how to know whether you have the intelligence to succeed

Jan 5, 2018

There’s a new type of intelligence that helps you set and fulfil the goals you need to succeed in your graduate career. Here’s how to spot and use it to your advantage.

After years of describing intelligence as something based on your cognitive abilities and then as the ability to understand yourself and others well (emotional intelligence), psychology has delivered up a new concept of intelligence that, in my view, ramps it up several notches.

It’s the intelligence to be successful, and it’s crucial if you’re an ambitious graduate seeking to build your career. Understanding it will help you to succeed.

The augmented theory of successful intelligence describes the way you set and achieve meaningful personal goals. It’s the key to succeeding in anything you do in life because, after all, setting and achieving personal goals precipitates success.

What’s successful intelligence?

So, what do you need to know about this new branch of intelligence? Well, firstly, that it teaches intelligence as not a single entity but as one made up of a variety of components. These are analytical, creative, wisdom, common sense and practical abilities. Its augmented nature means that when you combine these components you’re pretty much unstoppable…

Here’s how they work together. You know those great ideas you come up with? Well, that’s the creative component of successful intelligence at work. To work out whether your ideas are any good or not and how to tweak them to work, you’ll need to apply your analytical abilities. The practical component is then used to put those ideas into practice and, finally, your common sense and wisdom/ethical skills help you to convince others of the value of your ideas and to ensure that they work for the common good.

Intelligently successful people use these skills to propel themselves forward in their personal, professional and/or business lives. Dr Robert J. Sternberg, professor of human development at Cornell University, who won the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Psychology for developing the augmented theory of successful intelligence, says that this is the most important type of intelligence a person can have. It’s the intelligence of how to succeed in your personal goals.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses

What makes successfully intelligent people different to others, Dr Sternberg explains, is a mental aptitude that helps them recognise the strengths and limitations of their own analytical, creative, wisdom and practical abilities. They will maximise their strengths and compensate for weaker areas by seeking out the help of others who can help them achieve their personal goals. Successfully intelligent people do this well because they’re not rigid in their outlook. They’re good at spotting, defining and solving problems. If something isn’t working they’ll adapt or discard it.

You may be thinking, ‘Help, I’m not like that! What hope do I have!’ Don’t fret. The good thing about successful intelligence is that it can be developed. You can work on the various components to develop and strengthen them or compensate for them in other ways, for example, enlisting the help of people who are stronger in the areas where you are not. People with this type of intelligence will often seek out a coach or mentor to help them improve. They may take courses, read books, listen to talks and join networks. Successfully intelligent people are also good at building effective teams.

The likelihood is that you will have these skills in varying degrees, so start making use of them by taking the following steps:

(1) Identify your strengths and capitalise on them;

(2) Identify your weaknesses and either correct or compensate for them; and,

(3) Most importantly, work at adapting to, shaping, and selecting environments to work in your favour. This means that at times you must change to fit the environment, and at times you must change the environment to fit you.

Higher order thinking

This final step involves the higher order thinking abilities that lie behind each component of successful intelligence. To illustrate, you would use higher order thinking abilities at each step of the process of applying your creative, analytical, wisdom and practical skills, etc. They help you to plan, monitor, and evaluate courses of thinking and action, so to make decisions about how to apply knowledge and action within the right contexts.

Successful intelligence gives us real opportunity to understand what happens when we are ‘being intelligent’. It helps us understand how to use our intelligence to our best advantage. Unlike cognitive intelligence, which is thought of as fixed and hereditary, or emotional intelligence, which is relationship-based, successful intelligence helps us explore deeper aspects about how we think about, influence and adjust to our environments.

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