No-nonsense perspectives on startup growth

This article was published on March 11, 2021


Never only hire the smartest people

Intelligence isn't everything

Never only hire the smartest people
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

CEO and co-founder, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

It isn’t easy to guess how smart you really are. I certainly know people a lot cleverer than me — and I’m regularly dumbfounded by the simplest things. Yet, occasionally I’ll end up doing something ‘pretty smart.’

And this is totally fine.

The older I get, the more I understand (and experience) that intelligence isn’t everything — it’s just a tool. On its own, a tool can’t do much of anything. It isn’t until it’s wielded correctly and used in tandem with other specialized equipment that the real magic happens.

[Read: The one question every leader should ask themselves]

A high-quality camera in the hands of an amateur will probably not produce a better photo than a cheap one in the hand of an artist. Just like how intelligence in the hands of a person who doesn’t know how to use it in a creative way is pretty useless.

I think I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the limited amount of intelligence I possess by being stubborn and persistent — and then combining that with creativity and unrestricted thinking.

That’s my full toolset: some intelligence, combined with a lot of creativity and persistence.

There are people who are smarter than me (a lot, actually) but some are just too rigid in their thinking, too entitled to work hard, or not creative enough to come up with even one original thought. They’re damn smart, but that’s all.

Being extremely intelligent will not get you anywhere unless you have the social skills, intuition, and sense of timing to match.

So, how does this knowledge help us? You can use it to put your own talents to good use and discover skills in others. You can be a complementary tool in your team’s collective toolbox (sorry for calling you a tool).

Pure creativity without a sense of marketing and commerce isn’t going to get you very far. And the smartest person in your class isn’t the one most likely to succeed — but they might know the best way to implement your creative solution.

Companies should never ‘only hire the smartest people,’ because intelligence on its own can be pretty dumb.

Can’t get enough of Boris? Check out his older stories here, and sign up for his newsletter here.

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