Intelligent people are successful. This is how we assume the world works. Smart people have the intellect to spot opportunities and make the most of them using the right resources and skills. As a result, these people rise to the top.
But this isn’t necessarily what reality reveals. Whether it’s in the corporate world of leadership or among online entrepreneurs, high intelligence is not always an indicator of business or career success.
Being too smart can be a hindrance.
And intelligence, especially as far as academic achievement goes, is no precursor to good business acumen.
This was highlighted in a study of Harvard graduates in business, law, medicine and teaching which showed a negative or zero correlation between an IQ indicator (entrance exam scores) and subsequent career success (reference).
Whether you’re the founder of a startup company or a solo-professional such as a freelancer, your high intelligence might not be the asset you think it is.
And if you’ve never been classed as particularly smart, then you might have precisely what is needed to be incredibly business savvy.
So how can this be?
Reasons why smart intelligent people fail in business
Let’s look in more detail about why reliance on intellect can let a business owner down.
For example, if you’ve always overachieved academically you might:
- Feel entitled to business success
When your intelligence has opened doors to you educationally, it’s easy to assume the same happens in the business world, especially when forging your entrepreneurial path. Except it doesn’t.
Building a business from the ground up requires you to fight tooth and nail as an equal with every other competitor in your field. You might be more intelligent – perhaps more educated – than your competition but knowing a lot about history, literature, or philosophy will count for little in the cutthroat world of startups or solopreneurship.
Entitled business owners are at risk of losing out to more humble competitors willing to get their hands dirty and work late nights.
- Find it hard to admit to mistakes
If you are accustomed to overachieving and you feel smarter than most people around you, then admitting to mistakes can be hard.
What differentiates successful business leaders is the willingness to accept responsibility for mistakes without hiding or passing the blame. Whether you’re a corporate leader, a startup founder, or a freelancer working one-to-one with a client, accepting and then rectifying a mistake is key to moving forwards successfully.
Clinging too tightly to an identity as an ultra-smart person, who can do no wrong, can be hugely damaging.
- Fail to collaborate or delegate
As an intelligent person, you can probably do a lot of things better than other people. This is especially the case when it comes to strategizing and looking at the bigger picture. It’s therefore tempting for many intelligent high-achievers to do everything themselves because they don’t trust other people. But this is a surefire way to burnout and collapse.
Collaborating with skilled professionals in other fields of expertise allows you to bring together a diverse range of skills and talents, which usually leads to exceptional products and services.
Delegating tasks improves your workflow and enables you to focus on what you do best.
Real smartness in business is knowing when and how to find the best collaboration and delegation partners.
- Place emphasis on logic over emotion
Intellectually-minded business owners or freelancers, particularly those who excelled in college, often rely heavily on logic. After all, it’s logic and hard intellectual graft that achieved high grades and accolades. Yet running a business in the real world requires emotion as well.
Emotional intelligence is an essential component of business success. Knowing how to get the best out of other people is critical if you’re a business owner. Even as a solo professional, you still need to understand and empathize with your target audience, especially when working with clients.
Logic is vital, but so is emotion. Cultivating one over the other can lead to destabilizing discrepancies.
- Regularly overpromise
High intelligence leads to confidence. When you’re smart, you can figure your way through most problems and find solutions. Yet this over-confidence can lead to an unhealthy habit that can be disastrous for an entrepreneur’s reputation.
Some entrepreneurs and freelancers are good at overpromising but underdelivering. They assure a customer or client they can help them achieve great things but then fail to deliver the goods in a way they promised. When this happens too frequently, a poor reputation is cultivated. This can be hard to shake off.
More savvy entrepreneurs – albeit with perhaps fewer educational achievements – know to only promise what they can deliver.
- Rely on intelligence over hard work
Hard work is the energy behind every successful business.
When you’ve relied on your intelligence to see you through difficult exams and course work, while perhaps not working as hard as others, it can be a big shock when you face the realities of entrepreneurship. There’s no escape from hard work.
You can find many smart ways of working, which will improve productivity, increase workflow, speed up cash flow, and build profits faster, but even these techniques still require a lot of good old-fashioned graft.
- Lose touch with the beginner’s mindset
When your head is filled with knowledge, it’s easy to lose a fundamental way of thinking. It’s known as the beginner’s mindset.
This mindset is the constant desire to learn and improve, regardless of how successful you become. In many ways, it’s connected to the attribute of being humble, as mentioned in the first point.
Successful entrepreneurs remain hungry to learn, whether it’s information about their industry or indeed, about the world in general. They look at things from the eyes of a beginner and marvel in the wonderfulness of life and knowledge.
When you rest on your laurels and assume you know enough, that’s when failure becomes inevitable.
The truth about entrepreneurial intelligence
As you might have realized while reading through these seven reasons, we’re not necessarily picking on IQ. It’s more a sense of entitlement born from educational excellence.
Some of the most successful business people are not necessarily the most knowledgeable. They may not do very well in an examination or be able to write an essay. Yet they are incredibly smart.
They are also humble, hardworking, emotionally wise, thirsty for knowledge, and fantastic with people. And these are key to developing a business and seeing it thrive.
You might have some fantastic educational achievements under your belt. These are certainly worthy of respect. Just don’t let them get in the way of your entrepreneurial journey, which usually requires a whole lot of different skills, talents, and ways of thinking.