Which Different Types of Intelligence Dictate Success in the Job?

by Feb 7, 2023Culture, Decision Making, Diversity, Growth, HR, Talent

It is important to understand that different types of intelligence dictate success on the job. Are you hiring quick smart or slow smart? Someone with a high intelligence quotient or IQ is smart. The whole idea of an IQ test is to measure how innately intelligent someone is–to get a sense of their mental capability or horsepower. We have now been using this and other measures like SATs to screen for intelligence for decades.

But there is something these tests can’t quite measure: whether someone is “quick smart” or “slow smart.” The premise for this comes from work done by researchers like Daniel Kahneman, who published some of his theories in the book Thinking, Fast And Slow.

The answer matters to employees and employers because some jobs are better suited to one kind of smarts than the other. This concept matters if you want a perfect match of skill and career.

Let me explain.

Slow Smart

When we say that someone is “slow smart,” it’s meant as a compliment. It means someone is extremely intelligent but also takes time to think about a problem and analyze it before coming up with a solution. They’ll come up with the correct answer but aren’t comfortable making snap judgments or relying on their intuition or gut. Instead, they’d collect more data to get the correct answer without making mistakes. This group of people put in the hours and generally do well in school because that is an environment that gives the time needed to develop a correct answer.

Being slow-smart is a great skill set for any job that relies on attention to detail. Think engineers, accountants, and IT network designers. In fields like these, you want people to take their time as they develop elegant solutions to complex problems. It is even more critical in high-risk decisions that can cause significant financial losses or negatively impact human lives.

Quick Smart

Someone who is “quick smart,” tends to process information extremely quickly–even if they can’t say precisely how they do it. When you hear someone described as “scary smart,” it’s probably someone with quick smarts because they seem to come to the correct answer fast. They usually get to the answer far quicker than the rest of the crowd.

People with quick smarts are the ones who finished the end-of-semester test in one hour, while the slow smart folks took the entire two-hour allotment of time to complete and double-check their answers. And when you compared the results, their scores were comparable (although not always). Both kinds of people are intelligent. It’s just that their brains process information differently.

Slow smart folks sometimes criticize quick smart people by saying that they’re only relying on their “gut.” People with this skill sometimes can’t explain how they came up with an answer unless pressed to show their work. But it’s more than gut.

You can see how this kind and different types of intelligence play out in the workplace. People with quick smarts are great in roles like sales, PR, or even journalism–all roles requiring someone to operate in a dynamic situation where they often interact and react to another human being. In positions like these, you need to move fast and keep up with wherever a conversation or scenario unfolds. The outcomes and pathways are unpredictable, so the ability to intuitively and quickly determine the best approach is at a premium.

Matching Smarts With Roles

Consider what might happen when you create a mismatch between someone’s smarts and the role. A highly analytical or slow-smart person might have a challenging time in a sales presentation role where they need to stay on their toes and react to multiple people asking questions and a changing scenario in real-time. You can’t ask the customer to slow down.

On the other hand, if you ask someone with quick smarts to join the accounting team and analyze expense reports for the past year, they might jump out the window.

The point is that the better you can assess the kind of smarts someone has, slow or quick, the better you will be at matching them with a role where their gifts will be used to maximum effect.

Level Up Your Smarts – Understand Different Types of Intelligence

So, when it comes to looking for a job or screening candidates for an opening in your business, think about ways to screen for how someone’s smarts might best fit the role. Is it a slow smart job or a quick smart job? If you can do this well, you might even turn someone who might have been overlooked as a B player and make them into an A-level superstar.