How to Embrace You Are Not the Smartest Person in The Room

Mar 24, 2020

Elizabeth Houghton

Sutton Full Potential Founder

In the academic and professional world, it isn’t unusual to come across people who are obsessed with being ‘intelligent’ or ‘smart’. Such personalities, whether leaders or subordinates, may often feel jealous or ‘less than’ those who demonstrate stratospheric intelligence. If you’re someone who finds it difficult to embrace not being the smartest person in the room, this read may be helpful.

Opening the Channel for Holistic Growth

The majority of the so-called intelligent people tend to subscribe themselves to one specific theory, that which relates to education. This means that they look at education or academics as simply a means to attain certificates and degrees. You might think that college graduation marks the end of your learning curve; but unfortunately, such a belief will only hinder your professional success and render you increasingly incompetent.

The truth is that the learning process doesn’t ever stop, unless you decide to shut your mind. One of the best ways to keep learning is to be surrounded by smarter people, especially at your workplace. This type of learning process will ultimately lead to holistic growth, both personal and professional.

The Trend of ‘Learning Weeks’

The Association for Talent Development has done research which suggests that 80% of all transferred knowledge is forgotten. Further, under 15% of the knowledge actually gets applied by employees at work. This means that the ‘one expert directing the rest’ model is quite outdated and you need to take the pressure off yourself and allow your team members, colleagues and seniors to share their experiences and knowledge too.

There are some companies that conduct something known as the “learning week”. The concept is self-explanatory and is based on the idea that ‘nobody knows everything’. For the learning week, employees jointly come up with a topic for discussion and facilitate a peer learning session. It has been proven that employees at all levels learn immensely when they explain or demonstrate their skills and knowledge to others. This also creates an environment of open-minded learning wherein team-leaders/managers get an opportunity to listen to creative ideas that might help improve the efficiency of operations. Companies such as Ericsson have been extremely successful in promoting learning weeks among thousands of global employees.

Don’t Trap Yourself

Think about it: if you decide to surround yourself with those who are unable to challenge your beliefs and knowledge in any way, aren’t you committing a social and professional blunder? The only possible outcome from such a situation is that you will become isolated, complacent and ultimately stagnant with regards to your professional growth. Further, you will end up putting yourself in a safe, comfort zone which has people who have nothing to teach you and are not interested in learning themselves.

Think of it as a trap that is quite tempting only because it allows you to feel like you’re the smartest person in a group, but actually keeps you shielded while also making you ignorant. Wanting to be the smartest person in a room is perhaps an unrealistic and unfruitful goal. You want to keep growing and acquiring greater knowledge by learning from each and every person who works with you. This is what will make you even more confident about your capabilities over a period of time. In the end, recognising your weaknesses with ease is as important as acknowledging your strengths.

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