05 August 2009

What is “smart”?

The word is everywhere. In interviews, in meetings, and in process I hear the reference. What does it mean when someone says “she is really smart”?

Smart can be a lot of things. Smart can mean that a person knows a lot. Lot’s of knowledge frankly, is not always helpful. Applying the appropriate part of that knowledge to the problem at hand is quite useful. This part of smart is also a split category. Some smart people have read a lot. Some have done a lot. Knowledge without application is less than optimal. Experience without a core understanding of theory or reasoning can be problematic as well.

Smart can also mean that the person learns or figures stuff out… is a problem solver. That is also very useful in many, many situations. The third type of smart is really more an issue of judgment. These people are often notable because they seem to know what to do in certain situations. They may utilize “smarts” from either of the first two categories… or not.

Of note… is something that is perceived as smart, but may not be. A quick confident answer is often seen as smart. Be very careful with this one… it is primarily behavioral, and as such a learned skill. This one can get you into big trouble.