I was clever as a child. It meant that I did well in tests and exams, teachers liked me, and I was seen as destined for ‘great things’. Then I went to university and studied a mixture of subjects. One day, when I was debating with my tutor about the beliefs that influenced Dicken’s writings, he turned round to me and said, ‘The trouble with you is that you are intelligent rather than clever!’ Up till then I had thought that clever and intelligent were the same thing, but now I had to check it out.. I concluded that I would rather be intelligent, even though it might not lead to the ‘great things’ predicted for me.
This sounds boatsful, but it was a big turning point for me. Up till then I’d believed the hype that some people were bright, and some people were stupid, and most fall in between. But exams and grades don’t measure intelligence – they mostly measure rational understanding and memory.
Intelligence is the ability to see connections between different things, to make decisions based on a blend of feelings and thought, to take account of the wider context. I see it as a mixture of common sense and creativity. And it may not be intellectual. – we do now talk about emotional intelligence for example.
I believe strongly that we are all intelligent in some ways. It is our inherent way of assessing things. But formal education tends not to help us explore our own version of intelligence – in fact it may suppress it.
If you want to identify your form of intelligence, look at what you’re good at, you love doing. Can you create a great meal out of bits and pieces? Do you use colour in a different way? Have you found the way of being active that really works for you? Do you ‘know’ when someone else isn’t quite right?
All great innovation starts with intelligence – being able to see connections between apparently unrelated things. And we all have those moments of inspiration – don’t let others put you off by poo-pooing your idea. It is what makes you the unique human being that you are.
(And I am forever grateful to Krishan for encouraging my intelligence, even though he knew it would make an academic career unlikely!)