Practical Intelligence is crucial to success

Robert J. Sternberg an American psychologist and psychometrician and the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, a former IBM Professor of Psychology and Education at Yale University and President of the American Psychological Association has proposed a triarchic theory of intelligence and a triangular theory of love. 

 He is one of the creators of the investment theory of creativity, which states that creative people buy low and sell high in the world of ideas, and a propulsion theory of creative contributions, which states that creativity is a form of leadership.

Sternberg has stirred controversy by criticizing IQ tests, saying they are “convenient partial operationalizations of the construct of intelligence, and nothing more. They do not provide the kind of measurement of intelligence that tape measures provide of height.” Malcom Gladwell’s latest book “Outliers” also takes up this controversy and provides keen insight into our self imposed definition of intelligence and success (A great read, I highly recommend it).

In 1995, Sternberg was on an American Psychological Association task force writing a consensus statement on the state of intelligence research in response to the claims being advanced amid the Bell Curve controversy, titled “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns.”
Robert J. Sternberg proposed three intelligences in human cognition.
• Analytical intelligence is the ability to analyze and evaluate ideas, solve problems and make decisions.
• Creative intelligence involves going beyond what is given to generate novel and interesting ideas.
• Practical intelligence is the ability that individuals use to find the best fit between themselves and the demands of the environment.

Practical Intelligence involves the ability to grasp, understand and deal with everyday tasks.  This is the Contextual aspect of intelligence and reflects how the individual relates to the external world about him or her.

Sternberg states that Intelligence is “Purposive adaptation to, shaping of, and selection of real-world environments relevant to one’s life.”
So this practical intelligence is a combination of:
(a) adaptation to the environment in order to have goals met
(b) changing the environment in order to have goals met
(c) or, if (a) and (b) don’t work moving to a new environment in which goals can be met.

Sternberg also believes that individuals considered intelligent in one culture may be looked on as unintelligent in another.

Sternberg believes that Analytical Intelligence (Academic problem-solving skills) is based on the joint operations of metacomponents and performance components and knowledge acquisition components of intelligence.
Therefore, analytical Intelligence is similar to the standard psychometric definition of intelligence e.g. as measured by Academic problem solving: analogies and puzzles, and corresponds to his earlier componential intelligence. Sternberg considers this reflects how an individual relates to his internal world not the external world around him.
What am I talking about?!

I am talking about success in technical fields of study such as safety and industrial hygiene, engineering, and other science based fields are filled with an abundance of analytical intelligence, which is crucial without a doubt.  However, if the application of creative and practical intelligence are needed to truly solve challenges and overcome obstacles in the external world, why are those qualities not rewarded or appreciated within these fields of study.

It would be a rare thing indeed to find a great leader throughout history that didn’t command genius level creative and practical intelligence. So why is it, that 20th and now 21st century intellectuals have been able to monopolized the discussion of intelligence and limit it to only analytical intelligence? Of course the love affair Western civilization has with technology has a lot to do with it, but it has to be more than just that.

I don’t have the answer, rather I am posing the question.


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