Many people feel that they just aren’t smart enough to be an entrepreneur, yet there seems to be no convincing evidence that a high IQ is a prerequisite for this lifestyle. We all know of successful businesses started by first-time entrepreneurs who dropped out of school, and according to many sources, “street smarts” (experience) tends to trump “book smarts” (intelligence) every time.
Another perspective is that there are in fact multiple types of intelligence, and we all have strengths and weaknesses along all of these scales. It does appear that most successful entrepreneurs are those with the broadest range of interests, skills and experiences (street smarts), while a maximum depth in any given discipline is not so important.
Here are basic definitions for the eight most commonly recognized intelligences that cover the potential of most humans, prioritized by my view of applicability to the entrepreneurial role:
- Word-smarts (linguistic intelligence). People with a high linguistic intelligence display a high facility for word usage and languages. They are typically good at communicating ideas, reading, writing and telling stories. Good entrepreneurs need these skills to lead a team, sell ideas to customers and investors and write business plans.
- People-smarts (interpersonal intelligence). These attributes are the embodiment of social skills. Entrepreneurs with high social skills interact more effectively with all their constituents. They are able to sense the feelings, motivations and temperaments of others, to enlist their support and negotiate effectively. They love working with people.
- Self-smarts (intra-personal intelligence). Intra-personal intelligence is the capacity to understand your own strengths, weaknesses and motivations, and to capitalize on these insights in planning and strategy. Good entrepreneurs must be able to surround themselves with advisors and partners who complement their skills to find satisfaction and happiness.
- Number-smarts (logical-reasoning intelligence). Logical-mathematical intelligence is the ability to calculate, quantify and think logically. Entrepreneurs use strengths in this area to balance their passion for a specific solution and to develop the specific steps and financial resources required for building, rolling out and scaling the business to success.
- Nature-smarts (naturalist intelligence). This sort of environmental and cultural insight is deeply rooted in a sensitive, ethical and holistic understanding of the world and its complexities. I believe that good entrepreneurs use this to see new markets first, predict world trends and devise effective marketing campaigns and demographics for focus.
- Picture-smarts (spatial intelligence). Spatial intelligence is the ability to think in three dimensions and the ability to visualize with the mind's eye. Core capacities include mental imagery, spatial reasoning and an active imagination. It’s easy to see how this is important for entrepreneurs in marketing, solution design and product branding.
- Body-smarts (kinesthetic intelligence). This intelligence involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind-body coordination. Business entrepreneurs who are also good at invention and building innovative new products are especially strong in this area. Strengths here also lead to leadership presence and public-speaking prowess.
- Music-smarts (musical intelligence). Musical intelligence is the capacity to discern pitch, rhythm, timbre and tone. In addition to being key to any business directly or indirectly related to music, this skill help entrepreneurs to be better listeners, orchestrate events and develop marketing programs. Music-smart people also tend to be logical.
In addition to looking at intelligence, every aspiring entrepreneur needs to look at mindset. The mindset that works best is one that sees challenges as exciting rather than threatening, setbacks as learning opportunities and a conviction that effort and perseverance will overcome any obstacle.
If you have that mindset and even a few strengths among the multiple intelligences described above, don’t let anyone, including yourself, tell you that you aren’t smart enough to be an entrepreneur.