Context and Intelligence

A few days ago I read a post by Doc Searls, Flattery, that pointed to an older post of his, Getting Flat Part 2. Getting flat: Part 2 is compelling reading. There is a lot there worth thinking about, but I just want to focus on one point. Doc talks about how we measure intelligence and how, as a society, we put so much stock in those measures. It is so ingrained that I find myself "grading" people on their "intelligence" almost immediately upon interacting with them, I guess most of us do that.

After reading Getting Flat Part 2, I came to the conclusion that what I am looking at is not intelligence but decision-making ability. Intelligence is that native ability for the brain to process. In reality most of us are in the middle of the bell curve regarding intelligence. Where the big spread occurs is in decision-making ability. So what’s up with that? I go back to one of my favorite words "Context".

Knowledge is what you know, what you have managed to accumulate inside of your brain. It is unique to you. I like to call knowledge content in context, meaning, everything that you have seen or heard or thought (content) creates the context for what you are about to do next. Your knowledge is your context for decision-making.

So when we label someone as "smart", we are really saying that they have a better context for making the decision at hand than the person we label as "stupid". Chances are that their native ability to process information (intelligence) is similar.

Put me in middle of Tokyo or in a GE Board meeting and I am going to look really stupid. I would be totally out of context. Put me in front of someone that wants to learn about SCUBA or blogging and I look like a pretty smart guy.

We need to stop rating people’s intelligence and start expanding people’s context. Can you say diversity…


One Response

  1. Lee – This is great insight and a very similar message to some posts I’ve made recently on my blog. No, I I’m not shamelessly using your blog to promote mine, but rather to validate something that is missing from both evaluating intelligence AND information – ‘context’ is a very relevant topic. This is something I stated on one of my posts:

    “The same body of information can provide different knowledge depending on the person using it and the context of the situation. Wiki’s provide flexible and evolving context for whatever knowledge is relevant to a particular group at a particular time – and the GROUP is managing it!

    ‘Knowledge’ is only relevant in the context of changing conditions when someone who needs to make a decision can synthesize ‘information’ INTO ‘knowledge’ given the current change situation (i.e.; context). With the added element of ‘wisdom’, the right decision is made and the correct action taken.”

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