Lewis Terman believed that only knowing the IQ of a person could predict their success in life and this potential could be measured since childhood. That is why he sent his colleagues to California schools and gave the children a few IQ tests, identifying 1500 children whose IQs averaged 150 points.
He took for granted that these children were going to make great contributions to their disciplines in the future.
After 35 years Terman error was obvious, the majority had regular careers, and a surprising number ended up with careers that even Terman considered failures. Nor were there any Nobel Prize winners in his group of geniuses.
His fieldworkers actually tested two elementary students who went on to be Nobel laureates William Shockley and Luis Alvarez—and rejected them both.Their IQs weren’t high enough. Terman concluded: “We have seen that intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated.”
IQ is as important as height in basketball
It’s like basketball: once someone is tall enough, then we start to care about other things, like speed, agility, ballhandling skills and aim.
Bringing together people with the highest IQs and thinking that they will be the most successful group is the same as gather the highest basketball players and say they are the best team.
The relationship between success and IQ works only up to a point. Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage.
If intelligence matters only up to a point, then other things must start to matter more. Suppose that instead of measuring your IQ, I gave you a totally different kind of test, one that measures something much closer to creativity, one that has no single right answer.
Write as many different uses that you can think of for the following objects:
- a brick
- a blanket
For your surprise an English researcher named Liam Hudson found that average students had much more diverse answers than students with high I.Q.’s.
Creativity is just connecting things
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
— Steve Jobs
An example of this
Time after working on the first iPod prototype, Apple engineers showed their work to Steve Jobs to review. Steve inspected it for a while and then rejected it because it was too big.
Engineers argued that they had to do the impossible when creating this prototype and that there was no way to make it smaller.
Steve thought for a moment, grabbed the prototype, headed toward an aquarium and dropped it inside. When it hit bottom, air bubbles emerged. “Those are air bubbles. That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.” said Steve.
How you can become a creative genius
Well, there are two ways and you need to master both if you don’t want to be slave to the so called “inspiration”:
- through history
- through mental models
Nobel laureate Erik Kandel, in his work called Intelligent Memory Theory, wrote about how we come up with ideas. This theory says:
“Our ideas are simply the combination of stories and knowledge we have already saved and when combined randomly is when a new idea is generated. This occurs primarily in the unconscious.”
So everytime you’re trying to come up with an idea for e.g. a new marketing campaing, you should look throught tons of campaings that you should have properly stored and organized in your hard disk.
This may sound simple but its ridculosly powerful and it takes some time to develop properly, since you have to make your way through years of history.
I remember when I was reading Moonwalking with Einstein, there was a chapter who talked about some study that a group of scientists did with two groups of chess players:
- a professional group
- a novice group
The biggest difference was that professional players were using their long-term memory to find similar matches, whereas novices were trying to solve the game without learning from previous games.
So whenever you’re solving something ask yourself: “am I the novice player or the expert player?”
Through mental models
The trick is to filter all kinds of situations through a list of ideas (called mental models) until one or more explains the phenomenon. The list must have models from various disciplines to avoid the “man with a hammer tendency” (to a man with only a hammer, every problem tends to look pretty much like a nail).
A model is an idea that helps us better understand how the world works. Models illustrate consequences and answeer questions like “why” and “how”.
Take the model of Density as an example. What happens? The iPod in the story has air inside of it, surrounding the electronic components. Basically where there is space in between the case and the circuitry, there is air. When dropped in the aquarium, the air escapes because air is less dense than water. This idea helps explain “why” and predict “how” stuff likely to behave in certain situations.
Did you ever ask yourself “How do I become smart”? Here is my solution to this question, using only the basic ideas that every college freshman should know.
- Compound Interest
- Tipping Points
Inversion: So, how do we become smart? First, we must invert the problem and find the opposite. How we don’t become smart? Being stupid.
Avoidance: As Charlie Munger would say, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die so I’ll never go there.” The wisdom behind this quote is that we can succeed without making good decisions by just avoiding the bad ones, for a long time. (Belive it or not, Charlie is Warren Buffett’s partner). And the best way to avoid being stupid is by learning something new every day for a long time.
Compound Interest: There is agreat quote that says “If you do not understand compound interest is because you’re PAYING for it.” For this example we’ll change it for something like “If you do not understand compound interest is because you’re LOSING for it.” Let’s assume that we have an initial amount of knowledge, after reading one book our initial knowledge will increase but after reading two books will not only increase our initial knowledge, it will also include the knowledge from the first book. How cool is that? Well, it does not stop here.
Tipping Points & Lollapaloozas: A lollapalooza effect occurs when multiple forces (biases, tendencies or mental models) act togheter at the same time in the same direction in order to cause extreme results. It’s really simple, just think about when you’re boiling water. You start with some water at maybe 50°F, you can heat it up 50°F more and nothing happens, 100°F more and still nothing, but if you heat it up 20°F you’ll have a complete different thing. That’s the Tipping Point. Now imagine that instead of water we are talking about knowledge; you start reading ten books, start taking lessons, attending lectures, and maybe, just maybe, one or two books more can radically transform your vision about that subject.
- The golden rule is that you need to have multiple models from multiple disciplines because if you just have one or two that you’re using, you’ll torture reality so that it fits your models, (or at least you’ll think it does). “To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
- The best models come from biology, physics, mathematics, microeconomics and psychology. Just think about what every freshman knows, and thats what you need to know. There is a nice list at Farnam Street.
- Remember that our ideas are simply the combination of stories and knowledge we have already saved. Think about the chess players test and always ask yourself “am I the novice player or the expert player?”.