High Intelligence; Being Wrong

Jeff Bezos is much more than Amazon’s founder with personal fortune of some $150 billion. The guy is smart. It’s also obvious he surrounds himself with other smart people who can help make his vision reality.

How does he find them? The answer Bezos gave in a recent interview was the exact opposite of what you’d expect.

Most of us, when we want to figure out if someone is smart, ask if the person is frequently right: Do they have correct knowledge about the world and their area of expertise?

But Bezos’s counter intuitive strategy isn’t just to look at how often people are right. Instead, he also looks for people who can admit they are wrong and change their opinions often.

Bezos has observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.

That willingness to consider new information goes hand in hand with a willingness to admit your old way of thinking was flawed. In other words, to be super smart you have to change your mind a lot.

Modern science agrees too. They call it intellectual humility. Studies of decision-making show that people who are more willing to entertain the idea that they’re wrong make markedly better choices. Being wrong, is a sign of curiosity, openness to new information, and ultimately smarts.

So, next time you’re trying to determine if someone is super smart or simply bluffing, ask when was the last time they changed their opinion.

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