Building More: The Smartest Person In The Room

Building More: The Smartest Person In The Room

Words and Photos: Corey Adams

There is a well-known saying around poker playing circles. It is more of an unwritten rule that must be lived by. If within 30 minutes of sitting at a poker table, you can’t figure out who the sucker is, you are the sucker. 

I want to take this thought and flip it just a bit. Who is the smartest person that you know? What makes them the smartest? Have you ever found them to be unintelligent? What is smart?

Intelligence is such a relative thing. Don’t believe me? Let’s say there are four people in the room. One is your Vice President of operations, one is your executive assistant, one is your foreman, and one is your 15-year-old niece, that is a sophomore in high school. Who is the smartest?

Well, it depends on the question, and that is why intelligence is relative. If we ask these four a question about your next Tuesday afternoon schedule, your assistant will win. If we ask a question about the progress on a specific project, your foreman takes the cake. If we ask a question about whoever the Tik Tok flavor of the month is, your 15-year-old niece will look like a genius. 

The moral of this exercise is that knowing the answer doesn’t make you intelligent. So, what does?

I define intelligence as the ability to understand a question or situation, critically think about the question or situation, evaluate possible solutions to the question or situation, and then deliver a coherent response to the question or situation. To simplify it, the smartest person in the room is the person who can find the right answer, whether they know it or not. 

Too often, humans believe that the smartest person is the one who answers fastest. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes time to process a question or situation. Answering a question too quickly shows me that you are not thinking about the entirety of the question or situation; you just want to look smart.  

Another flaw business owners have is that we feel we are the smartest because we have to make the decisions. Decisions are based on risk-reward ratios. Yes, decision-makers should have some intelligence, but it is not a requirement. I am sure you can think of a few unintelligent decision-makers that you have crossed paths with. 

This last one might hurt a little to some of you, but it has to be said. Money or success is not a sign of intelligence. Just because person A is richer than person B does not automatically make person A more intelligent. This hurts a lot of egos in the business world, but we are not here to stroke egos. Many success stories are right place, right time based. No matter how much we like to say self-made, we all had help, had a good situation to go for it, and had a great support group to get us over the hump.

Why this article? Well, it should be our goal to fill our staff with the smartest people possible. This article is more about how to identify these people so we can hire them, promote them, and see through the butt-kissers. 

Make it a goal to find the people that will tell you that they do not know an answer, but they will find out and get back to you. In fact, go a step further and ask a question that no one could possibly know. The one who answers immediately is probably a little too arrogant and self-absorbed for my taste. I like the pause for thought. It shows me that they are thinking first and not trying to answer first. 

Intelligence requires humility and allows for collaboration. How we evaluate, intelligence plays a big part in how our staff is constructed and works together. Once we realize that intelligence is relative based on the question, we find that the smartest person in the room is not the one who appears to have all the answers but the one who has the drive to go find all the answers.

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