Ideas are a dime a dozen; people who implement them into action are priceless.
~Mary Kaye Ash
Many times while teaching college classes I have explicitly encouraged, and sometimes even pleaded, that my students take note of something specific that will help them in the class. Examples of these prompts have included important people, contact numbers, term paper expectations, and even exact test questions. What has always been fascinating to me is the relatively small number of students who actually document what I am telling them is important — even after directly and emphatically encouraging them to do so. For example, I might say “OK, make sure to write this exact question down as you are going to see it, word-for-word, on the next test.” As I look across the room maybe 20-25% of the students move their pencils or document the question on their tablet, while the others just kind of sit there doing nothing. As you might guess, those who take down the question end up getting the question correct on the exam, while most of those who disregarded my prompt miss the question. All this leads back to the question of intelligence and how we make judgements about what people we think are smart — is intelligence as simple as following through on expert advice (as in my example), or is intelligence much more broad and complex? Most people seem to think the construct of intelligence is complicated and incredibly difficult to measure, but an argument can be made that often intelligence may be as simple as using good information when received.
The question of doing what we know we need to do
A student who struggles in school knows that he needs to get as much information about the upcoming test as he can, yet tunes out his teacher when the teacher gives review questions.
A student athlete regularly experiences nerves before competition, yet when provided important advice about how deep breathing can help control anxiety he disregards the help.
A prospective employee is encouraged by a resume expert to change a few things on her resume in order to attract more attention, but she instead ignores the expert’s help and continues to send out the same poorly written resume.
Why, when presented with important helpful information, did the three people above fail to use the expert advice? Laziness? Still convinced their way is better? Lack of trust in the expert providing the help? And what difference does it make if these people have high IQ scores if they do not seem to have the knowledge needed to use information that would make their lives better? The big question is how “intelligent” is a person who does not have the awareness and follow through to use important information?
There are some who immediately act on good information, and others who receive the same information yet sit passively and do not act. Are the people who simply use information “smart,” regardless of what their IQ score might be? If we are talking about productivity and likelihood for future success, one’s capacity to score well on an IQ test may be far less important compared to simply applying information provided by an expert toward life situations and problems. The old saying “Knowledge is power” may be a bit misleading, and perhaps better written as “Knowledge is potential power” and only powerful when it is used.