“When you hear the term street smarts, it likely conjures notions of someone immune to being fooled or hustled. But what about street smarts in business? Could the same practical intelligence qualified as street smarts make someone a better manager of people? Dr. Tony Alessandra explains that street smarts is far more applicable – even in business – then conventional wisdom would lead us to believe.”
According to Dr. Robert Sternberg of Yale, “street smarts” is a far better predictor of managerial success than academic performance. They even said a very high I.Q. could be a detriment to managerial success.
His theory of intelligence went beyond the traditional notion of I.Q. He believes there are three facets to intelligence: abstract intelligence⎯the ability to analyze, deduce, and think logically; experiential intelligence⎯the ability to creatively combine different experiences to solve a problem; and contextual intelligence⎯the ability to use one’s environment to play the game. The latter, intelligence within a context, Sternberg also calls street smarts, practical intelligence, or tacit knowledge.
“I don’t think street smarts has anything to do with big cities or small cities,” Sternberg stated. “It’s no longer a negative term that conjures up images of street gangs or con artists. There is no denying that street smarts has its roots in the impoverished areas of inner cities, places in which people had to develop certain abilities just to survive physically; but just as blues singers are no longer slaves, street smart people are no longer just city-dwellers. They are born, raised, live, and work in all types of environments.”
“I use the term much more generically. In any pursuit in life there is a formal knowledge base and an informal knowledge base. The formal knowledge base is what you’re told. It’s what you get in the manual when you start a job. It’s what you get in the course work in college. Informal knowledge is everything they don’t bother to tell you. And usually that’s the stuff that makes the most difference. It’s the stuff they can’t say and wouldn’t say if they could. That’s why we call it tacit knowledge. It’s what you learn from your environment. You might say it’s the unwritten rules of life.
“There’s street smarts for country life and there’s street smarts for city life. There’s street smarts for being a business executive and street smarts for students. Even students need street smarts in order to write papers⎯they need to know what’s going to sell their professors.”
So how do you learn to be street smart? Work on developing these elements of street smarts:
– Trust your intuition
– Develop perceptiveness and ability to anticipate
– Size up people quickly and accurately
– See the big picture
– Fake it till you make it
– Use chutzpa when necessary
– Believe in yourself⎯Be confident
– Don’t believe everything you see and hear
– Be hard to take advantage of
– Use your “mental categories” and generalizations to keep you on guard
– Give people the time and rope to either hang themselves or prove their integrity/sincerity
– Think quickly on your feet
– Be persisten
– Be prepared
– Be flexible
– Change your surroundings or adapt
– Surround yourself with experts & contacts
This article was originally published on Dr. Tony Alessandra’s Assessments 24×7 Blog.
Dr. Tony Alessandra has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having been raised in the housing projects of NYC to eventually realizing success as a graduate professor of marketing, internet entrepreneur, and hall-of-fame keynote speaker. He is a behavioral and communication expert, and author of 30+ business books including The Platinum Rule, Collaborative Selling and The Art of Managing People.