The Vast World of Intelligence: Rethinking What Makes Us Smart

The Vast World of Intelligence: Rethinking What Makes Us Smart

In a recent blog post, we invited readers to explore Billy Collins’ poem “Genius,” a profound reflection on what exactly makes someone intelligent and how our concept of genius changes over time. “Why do we find it so hard to agree upon who or what deserves the word?” we asked.

The word genius often conjures images of historical figures who embody traditional intelligence. Think of Albert Einstein, a man with an innate understanding of physics and logic and figures. Or maybe it’s Emily Dickinson with her mastery of language, her keenness of thought and her prolific poetry.

According to developmental psychologist and Harvard Professor of Cognition and Education Howard Gardner, Einstein and Dickinson represent what he calls logical and linguistic intelligence, both of which are valorized by IQ tests and held up as societal pinnacles of education. If you’re logically and linguistically intelligent, Gardner explains, you probably succeeded in school, and others will likely perceive you as smart.

But there are six other forms of intelligence that Gardner has identified and categorized in his research.

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Reading Mindfully: Imbolo Mbue’s “A Reversal”

Reading Mindfully: Imbolo Mbue’s “A Reversal”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

An English-speaking native of predominantly French-speaking Limbe, Cameroon, acclaimed author Imbolo Mbue arrived in the United States at age 17. Her first novel Behold the Dreamers was published in 2016 and tells the story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York City just as the Great Recession hits. Earning wide critical praise, the novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s book club. O, the Oprah Magazine wrote that the book “challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred.” As you read Mbue’s short story “A Reversal,” consider how we determine where we belong.

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A Book That Works: The Utility of Literature Outside the Academy

A Book That Works: The Utility of Literature Outside the Academy

This week, we are thrilled to share insights and reflections from Erin Ulrich, a senior English major at Oberlin College who recently completed a month-long internship with Books@Work.

My internship with Books@Work has focused primarily on data-analysis and listening to interview responses from program participants. While the nature of this work may seem mundane at first, it has offered me a first-hand glimpse into how exactly Books@Work works.  While the impact of the program improving colleague relationships and promoting a fruitful, healthy and productive work environment are obvious from the company interviews, I have been particularly moved by the community interviews.

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Weekend Reading: February 2018

Weekend Reading: February 2018

Happy February! We’ve compiled our favorite articles and essays from the last month for you to browse and enjoy this weekend.

In Pacific Standard, Michele Weldon examines why “as humans, we are helpless story junkies.” Take the latest winners and finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism, Weldon writes: “The best reporting in all of the categories is tied to the personal stories of the individuals impacted.” Journalists, novelists, advertisers, politicians and CEOs seem to understand and capitalize on the power of story. But why does a well-told story resonate so profoundly with the average person?

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Why Inclusion and Wellness Go Hand-in-Hand

Why Inclusion and Wellness Go Hand-in-Hand

In December 2017, the Jo Cox Commission released a report calling for the appointment of a minister to combat social isolation and loneliness in the United Kingdom. Loneliness, the report declared, is harmful to human health, particularly among the country’s nine million elderly who say that they are “often or always lonely.”

Over the last few years, the Commission has invested in a national strategy to address what they see as an epidemic – and thus Homeshare UK was born, an organization that pairs an isolated elderly person looking for companionship with a younger person in need of low-cost housing. 95-year-old Florence and her 27-year-old student housemate are two participants – but can two people with a near 70-year age difference find commonality?

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Reading Mindfully: Billy Collins’ “Genius”

Reading Mindfully: Billy Collins’ “Genius”

The writer John Updike praised the poems of Billy Collins as “limpid, gently startling. . . they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.” Arguably the most popular American poet of the modern era, Collins served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and one term as New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. Despite his many accolades and awards, he did not begin his career as a poet until the age of forty. His work is widely known for its humor, which Collins refers to as “a door into the serious.”

As you read Billy Collins’ poem “Genius,” consider these questions if genius is something we have or we create.

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Nurturing a Culture of Growth at Work

Nurturing a Culture of Growth at Work

“In your career, you’ve worked with numerous companies on cultural transformation. Is there anything about Books@Work that is new for you? Is there anything different in how the program nurtures individuals and the community?”

There are several dimensions that are different. In my McKinsey days, the cultural transformation was always embedded in a business transformation and a performance imperative. We would ask what role culture played in achieving tangible business goals, whether that is sales growth, cost reduction, responsiveness, whatever it is.

I was initially skeptical about Books@Work because it did not tie directly to a business outcome. How would I know that I was actually making progress?

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Weekend Reading: January 2018

Weekend Reading: January 2018

In 2013, Google conducted a study called Project Oxygen to determine its top employees’ most important qualities. The idea was to test its hiring algorithms, which were set at the time to sort for elite computer science students from top universities. The study concluded that STEM expertise – widely revered at Google – was the least important quality of the eight discovered. Founding director of the Futures Initiative Cathy N. Davidson elaborates in The Washington Post:

“The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Those traits sound more like what one gains as an English or theater major than as a programmer. Could it be that top Google employees were succeeding despite their technical training, not because of it?”

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Reading Mindfully for the Holiday: Grace Paley’s “The Loudest Voice”

Reading Mindfully for the Holiday: Grace Paley’s “The Loudest Voice”

Widely known for her short fiction, award-winning author Grace Paley was also an essayist, novelist, poet and activist. Born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrant parents in 1922, her prose is heavily influenced by “the language of her childhood, a heady blend of Yiddish, Russian and English.”

In 1978, Paley told The New York Times that she considered her work “a history of everyday life.”Paley’s short story “The Loudest Voice” was published in 1959 and follows Shirley Abramowitz, a young Jewish girl who is asked to be the narrator in her school’s Christmas pageant. As you read the story, think about how we decide who “owns” a certain tradition or ritual.

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Pins and Needles: Why Discomfort Is the Key to Change

Pins and Needles: Why Discomfort Is the Key to Change

An early innovator of creative nonfiction, Norman Mailer is known for pushing the envelope and transgressing genre. His career path alone is a testament to his willingness be uncomfortable and challenge boundaries: He was a novelist, an essayist, an activist, a playwright, an actor and a filmmaker. “Every moment of one’s life is growing into more,” Mailer once said, “and retreating into less.”

But retreating into, for many, is the natural reaction when dealing with discomfort. Consider a common work situation: You’re working with a group of colleagues on a complicated project. You seem to be reaching a consensus in how to move forward until one colleague raises a new, alternative idea. Another colleague shuts it down abruptly, and awkward silence ensues. You step in with a joke to ease the tension and get the discussion back on track.

But what if that colleague’s idea was worth exploring?

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