Successful Intelligence

How Practical and Creative Intelligence Determine Success in Life

Successful Intelligence: How Practical and Creative Intelligence Determine Success in Life by Robert J. Sternberg, 1997
The book explores the 3 major intelligence that are useful in the real world. It is saddening how many talented children have had their dreams shattered because of fallacious low IQ score.


Successful intelligence, as I view it, involves analytical, creative, and practical aspects. The analytical aspect is used to solve problems, the creative aspect to.decide what problems to solve, and the practical aspect to make solutions effective.

People who overuse their IQ-like analytic abilities often find themselves less effective in their lives than do people who moderate their use of these abilities because they apply only in limited situations.

Successfully intelligent people figure out their strengths and their weaknesses, and then find ways to capitalize on their strengths —make the most of what they do well—and to correct for or remedy their weaknesses—find ways around what they don't do well, or make themselves good enough to get by.

Intelligence is:
The capacity to learn from experience, and
The ability to adapt to the surrounding environment.
These common themes are important. Capacity to learn from experience implies, for example, that smart people can and do make mistakes. In fact, smart people are not those who don't make mistakes but rather those who learn from mistakes and don't keep making the same ones again and again.

People with smarter brains consume less glucose while engaged in problem solving.

This theory proposes seven distinct, relatively independent intelligences. Each of them is a separate system of functioning, although the systems can interact to produce what is seen as intelligent performance.
Linguistic intelligence: used in reading a book; writing a paper, novel, or poem; and understanding spoken words.
Logical-mathematical intelligence: used in solving mathematical problems, balancing a checkbook, doing a mathematical proof, and in logical reasoning.
Spatial intelligence: used in getting from one place to another, in reading a map, and in packing suitcases in the trunk of a car.
Musical intelligence: used in singing a song, composing a sonata, playing a trumpet, or even appreciating the structure of a piece of music.
Bodily kinesthetic intelligence: used in dancing, playing basketball, running a mile, or throwing a javelin.
Interpersonal intelligence: used in relating to other people, such as when we try to understand another person's behavior, motives, or emotions.
Intrapersonal intelligence: used in understanding ourselves— the basis for understanding who we are, what makes us tick, and how we can change ourselves, given the existing constraints on our abilities and our interests.

To be successfully intelligent is to think well in three different ways: analytically, creatively, and practically.

Our system of education, in essence, creates Alices by continually reinforcing or rewarding students for their analytical intelligence.

Analytical intelligence is important in knowing the market for any product, but creative intelligence is what produces products in the first place and keeps them coming out.

Practical intelligence is what tells us as buyers not to express too much interest before we bid on something, lest the seller realize that we would be willing to pay a higher price than we hope to pay.

We may look for expertise as suggested by degrees from prestigious institutions, but what may be more important is the continued expertise that has been developed over the course of a career. In other words, how much a professional knows or where he learned it usually matters less than how he has successfully put that knowledge to use in the practice of his profession—in effect, his practical intelligence.

First, it is possible to test for creative and practical intelligence, not merely for analytical intelligence. The students who had tested high in creativity, for example, proved to be creative in our program. Second, it is possible to teach in ways that improve all three aspects of successful intelligence. For example, students with high analytical ability who were challenged to be more creative and practical became so. The students in the control group who were relatively low in all three kinds of ability also had a chance to stretch their abilities. And finally, students who were relatively high in all three abilities, while their course work may not always have been brilliant, showed a degree of competence that was well above average.

Domain expertise can be a reflection of some balance of analytical, creative, and practical abilities, but recognition in a field for outstanding work almost always requires a substantial measure of practical intelligence.

When people fail to be sensitive to the existence of problems, they often wait to take action until it is too late, or a much more radical solution is needed. Denying the symptoms of serious illness and postponing treatment is an unfortunate example.

If one side or the other is perceived as "the enemy," it will be difficult to reach common ground. Successfully intelligent people represent information about a problem as accurately as possible, with a focus on how they can use that information effectively.

Better readers showed a differential distribution of time across the different purposes. Good readers spent more time reading for details and analysis, whereas poorer readers actually did not vary their reading time across the different reading purposes. They read everything the same way.

Conventional, IQ-based academic intelligence is customarily measured by the ability to solve well-structured problems, whereas real-world successful intelligence is the ability to solve ill-structured problems.

Successfully intelligent people also don't fall into the trap of thinking life is always a zero-sum game—with a winner and a loser. By thinking about their own interests and those of others, they are often able to negotiate toward a solution that is maximally effective for everyone, rather than effective only for some at the expense of others.

Some undergraduates at good universities are abysmal students. They are there because of athletic prowess, or because their parents are alumni or are viewed as potential megadonors. Yet when we hear that someone attends a good university, we may be impressed. Why? Base rates. For the most part, students at good universities have good academic credentials.

Members of the majority do not maliciously or even purposely reject creative notions. Rather, they simply do not realize—and often do not want to realize—that creative ideas represent a valid and often superior alternative to the way they think. To them, creative people tend to be somewhat oppositional in nature, a tendency they find annoying or even downright offensive.

The person who is high only in creative intelligence may come up with innovative ideas but will not recognize which are good ones and will not know how to sell them, in any case. The person who is high only in analytical intelligence may be an excellent critic of other people's ideas but is not likely to generate creative ideas of his or her own. The person who is high only in practical intelligence may be an excellent salesperson but will be as likely to sell ideas (or products) of little or no value as to sell genuinely creative ones.

People tend to be creative in certain domains but not in others. Most people are above average in creativity in at least some domains but below average in others.

People who are successfully intelligent in one domain (e.g., business) are not necessarily successfully intelligent in another (e.g., intimate relationships). The notion of someone's being "gifted" or not is a relic of an antiquated, test-based way of thinking. People can be gifted, but with respect only to some set of performances. It is for this reason that it is so important to identify one's areas of strength and weakness. Quite simply, no one is good at everything.

The single most powerful way of developing creative intelligence in your employees, your students, or your children is to serve as a creative role model yourself. People develop creative intelligence not when you tell them to but when you show them how.

One way you can encourage creative intelligence is by allowing people to choose their own ways of solving problems and, sometimes, to choose again when they learn that their selection was mistaken.

But to make the most of our creative potential, we need to be able to tolerate the discomfort of an ambiguous situation long enough so that what we produce is the best or closest to the best we are capable of.

Creative thinking almost inevitably encounters resistance. The question is not whether it will encounter resistance but whether the creative thinker will have the fortitude to persevere in the face of it.

Practical intellectual skills may count for little in getting into medical school, but they count for a lot in building up a successful practice.

A number of studies have shown that fluid abilities are vulnerable to age-related declines but crystallized abilities are maintained and generally increased throughout the life span.

The hallmark of the practically intelligent individual is facile acquisition and use of tacit knowledge.

Practically intelligent people do not simply try to acquire as much knowledge as they can about the system in which they are working. They know that they need to acquire information about the system that is not readily accessible to everyone.

Tacit knowledge was still a significant predictor of performance, even after everything else was taken into account. The lesson of these studies is that tacit knowledge often matters as much as or more than academic intelligence for job success. And it seems not to matter what the job is. Even in ivory-tower academic jobs, tacit knowledge is key to success. Knowing the ropes is more important than most of what you learn in school. Indeed, some of those who best know the ropes may have done poorly in school.

Tacit knowledge is like other aspects of practical intelligence in that it increases over the course of the life span, in contrast to academic intelligence, which decreases. It is important to keep one additional finding in mind, however. People with more business experience did not score uniformly higher than those with less such experience. In fact, some people with many years of business experience performed quite poorly. The point here is that what matters most is not how much experience you have had but rather how much you have profited from it—in other words, how well you apply what you have learned.

Creative intelligence in particular seems to rely heavily on internal motivation. Creative people almost always love what they are doing.

Schools, unfortunately, often encourage students to capitalize on the wrong abilities. They teach career-preparation courses in which the abilities needed for success in the classroom are different from those fundamental for success in that career.

Successfully intelligent people avoid undertaking either more or less than they know they can handle at a single time. And they allot their time to maximize their performance.