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Developing Intelligence

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4 modes of intelligence on this page
on this website
Our consultancy practice aims to integrate several related notions of intelligence in business and other organizational contexts.
Business Intelligence
(Military Intelligence)
Actively collecting, interpreting, and using vast quantities of complex data.
Collaborative problem-solving between people and technical artefacts within and beyond complex enterprises.
The capacity to acquire and use knowledge effectively for personal and organizational learning.
Authentic and flexible engagement with the demands of the environment - sometimes called Requisite Variety.

In an intelligent organization, the complementary capabilities of people and technology are deployed to the full. We support both technological and organizational aspects of achieving and enhancing intelligence.

intelligence predicts success?

intelligence versus character

can we measure intelligence?

systems of intelligence

developing intelligence

from stupidity to intelligence

notion finder



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Intelligence as a predictor of success

veryard projects > kmoi > developing intelligence > predicts success

Success in many fields depends on a combination of four things:
Intelligence Mental ability. How one behaves in relation to knowledge, complexity and change.
Character Moral and social qualities. How one behaves in relation to oneself and other people.
Beauty Physical appearance and style. How one is favoured by other people.
Luck How one is favoured by Chance or Providence.

On this page, we focus on Intelligence.

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Intelligence versus Character

veryard projects > kmoi > developing intelligence > versus character

A traditional education ranked Character higher than Intelligence, for both boys and girls. And perhaps they had a point. At least as taught in schools, Intelligence is largely to do with what a child can achieve on its own, and is tested for each child in isolation. Collaboration between children during tests and exams is regarded as cheating. In contrast, Character has to do with the behaviour of the child in social situations - in the playground or the sports field. Healthy collaboration, direct competition, responsible behaviour, standing firm against bullying. Even such apparently private matters as concentration or self-esteem have strong links with social behaviour.

If we're interested in what a person can achieve in isolation, then Intelligence may be an important factor. But if we're interested in what a person can achieve in collaboration with others, then Character may be just as important. In particular, Leadership is usually regarded as a question of Character rather than Intelligence. The leader doesn't have to be the most visibly intelligent person on the team.

Do we have to make the choice between Character and Intelligence? Can't we have both? There are certainly people who have both Character and Intelligence. But it's often difficult to spot them.  Because it is usually the people without Character that want to draw attention to their Intelligence, and the people without Intelligence that want to draw attention to their Character.
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Can we measure intelligence?

veryard projects > kmoi > developing intelligence > measurement

In normal parlance, intelligence can be displayed by human adults and children, dogs, cats and dolphins, and computer programs.

For human children, we have a measure of intelligence known as ‘mental age’. Thus a clever seven-year-old may have a mental age of ten; while a handicapped teenager may have a mental age of five. Having a mental age of x is equivalent to having the mental abilities of the standard x-year-old. (This is not the place to discuss whether such standards mean anything )

Even if we suppose this measure to be valid for children, it's not much use for comparing adults. Is a mental age of forty more or less intelligent than a mental age of sixty? If we say of a thirty-five-year old woman that she has a mental age of twenty, this will probably be taken not as an insult to her intelligence but as a compliment to her enthusiasms.

Psychologists have invented another measure of intelligence, known as the Intelligence Quotient (IQ). This has been widely criticized for its cultural bias, since it ignores many of the mental abilities that normal parlance regards as intelligent, and concentrates on a few unevenly distributed cognitive skills.

Criticism of current IQ tests does not imply that measurement of intelligence is impossible. Indeed, to appeal again to normal parlance, we are perfectly happy saying that A is more intelligent than B, or even that A’s superiority over B is greater than B’s superiority over C. Future psychologists may well develop scientifically valid measures of human intelligence that are acceptably close to our intuitive notions of intelligence.

This suggests although it seems that we do not yet have a scientifically valid measure of intelligence that conforms with normal parlance, this does not mean we could never have one.

For domestic animals and computer programs, we have no general measures at all. Yet we usually have no difficulty talking about canine intelligence, or artificial intelligence. Some local measures are possible; thus we can measure the FIDE rating of a chess program, but the statistical relationship between FIDE ratings and IQ is very weak. We cannot compare the intelligence of two medical diagnostic programs, let alone compare the intelligence of a chess program with that of a medical diagnostic program.

Animal intelligence consists largely in the skills of cognition, memory, learning and manipulation. Dolphins are more intelligent than dogs, because they learn tricks quicker; cats are more intelligent than dogs because they refuse to learn tricks. Dogs adapt to human needs, while cats get humans to adapt to their needs, or go off to find better humans. Thus dogs and cats display or deploy their intelligence differently: dogs adapting themselves to the environment and cats changing the environment to suit themselves.

What about the intelligence of an organization? An organization may behave in intelligent or unintelligent ways. Most observers can probably think of organizations that have appeared oblivious to its environment, made the same errors over and over again, and displayed no ability to remember or learn. Many of these organizations have already collapsed; many yet survive through political intervention or clinging to some fortuitous monopoly. Other organizations are alert to changing circumstances, react creatively to new threats and opportunities, are constantly learning from their own experiences and from the mistakes of their competitors. It seems appropriate to refer to this difference as a difference in organizational intelligence.
more Organizational Intelligence

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Systems of intelligence

veryard projects > kmoi > developing intelligence > systems

29th April, 1999. John Searle appears on the radio to discuss his recent New York Review article.

Old questions: "Are machines more intelligent than people? Can computers have self-consciousness and freewill?"

Some people might ask: How intelligent are people anyway? Can people have self-consciousness and freewill? (Common sense notions of consciousness and freewill are undermined by both psychoanalysis and hypnotism.)

I'd prefer to ask a different set of questions. What kinds of system can have such (emergent) properties as intelligence, self-consciousness and freewill?

People and computers alike display intelligent behaviour in some contexts, and not in others. People and computers alike depend on a complex support network. A person's ability to solve certain puzzles depends on various cultural factors. A computer's ability to beat a Grandmaster at chess depends on a team of chess experts and skilled programmers.

People and computers seem increasingly disembodied, fragmented.

A person is not just a mass of organic material, but also a mass of characteristic ideas, thoughts and feelings, expressed in words or acted out, distributed across diaries and letters, or captured in the memories and interpretations of other people. My name is held on countless databases, with various fragments of information about me, and embossed on several pieces of plastic card. No doubt much of this information is incorrect, incomplete or out-of-date.

What appears to be a self-contained computer may be merely a facade, providing access to a distributed network of other machines and systems.

Children of competitive middle-class parents are increasingly being subjected to additional training, including IQ coaching, in order to get high scores on various tests - perhaps to win places and scholarships to elite schools, or perhaps simply because it is thought to be a worthy activity in its own right. But what is being tested here, what do the tests really reveal? - the brain-power of the child, the skill of the coach, or the enthusiasm and resources of the parents?

What appears to be a self-contained child may be merely a test-scoring system. But if we reduce our children to test-scoring systems, if we reduce our schools to test-scoring-system improvement systems, where's the intelligence in that?

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Developing intelligence

veryard projects > kmoi > developing intelligence > development

Intelligence can be divided into five characteristic abilities.
Perception The ability to observe the complexities of the real world.
Information Processing The ability to manipulate and transform information about the real world. Reasoning.
Memory The ability to store and recall information. 
Learning The ability to develop new knowledge and skills, and to learn from experience.
Behaviour The ability to adjust behaviour to suit the situation. Requisite variety.
In the past, the education system was focused on developing memory. The point was to transfer ready-processed information from adults into children, either via lectures or via books, and then test how much they remembered.

Today's education system has a great emphasis on developing information processing skills.  Children are given projects, which require them to collect and collate information from a variety of sources, including local libraries and the internet.  (As a result of this, the children often end up better informed about some topics than the adults around them, which would never have been possible in the old system.  There is no need for adults to feel threatened by this, but it seems that many do.)

Information processing is clearly an important skill in today's world.  Personal memory is perhaps less valuable than it once was. But a balanced education must pay attention to all five aspects of intelligence.

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

From stupidity to intelligence

veryard projects > kmoi > developing intelligence > from stupidity

Each organization has its own particular form of stupidity - it is up to the consultant (or the above-average manager) to recognize the ways that stupidity manifests itself and to find a way of doing something about it.

Stupidity is not making errors. Stupidity is repeating them.

Most people are born intelligent and creative. A lot of this intelligence and creativity gets lost by the time we leave school - but sometimes it can be rediscovered in later life. Thus often the focus for personal development is not "How can I become more intelligent and creative?" but "How can I remove the blocks that get in the way of the intelligence and creativity that is buried within me?"

Psychoanalysts look at the hidden repetitions in a person's behaviour and relationships.

Similarly, we can look at the barriers to intelligence and creativity in organizations. Here too, stupidity manifests itself in a repetition of some kind.
more Organizational Intelligence

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Content last updated on December 13th 2001
Technical update November 27th 2003
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