Intelligence is being smart, oddly enough, and in the business world that means knowing the tasks you do well and having wisdom in how you make decisions in your workplace. You could consider versatility as part of this virtue, but equating them would be misleading. Intelligence isn't about learning a bunch of different skills, but being wise about how you use your current knowledge and how you manage your own career. It's about making the right decisions that not only get your job done, but get's it done well and with the respect of your superiors and peers.

Intelligence is about more than education, but education is certainly a part of it. If you already have a career, then it's probable you have the education usually required for that field. If you were lucky enough to land the job without a degree, you might want to save up and take the time for night classes or whatever other steps you need to take to get that customary education. No matter how cynical you are of the education system, the people who took those classes and share similar experience really did pick up a few ideas that you missed out on. And even if that were not the case, those looking at your resume in the future will be making that assumption—whether for new employment or for advancement.

If you have more than enough formal education for your job you are free to focus solely on your people and office-relationship skills (although before you say this confidently, you may want to take on versatility, which is all about learning all the finer points and skills for your career). This is something that is usually practiced naturally over time, but fortunately for those of you who are more uncomfortable in this subject these are skills that can really be practiced and developed over time. Many books can be bought and used on these subjects and there are often different classes on them as well. If you think it will help, personal counselors can help guide you through any anxieties, poor-decisions making, or anger issues that may be standing in the way of your best success.

Once you have those skills and knowledge you need to develop good habits toward applying that knowledge, which is essentially what wisdom is. It may be weird to think of wisdom as a habit, but many times being wise in your decisions is about having habits in place for planning and avoiding knee-jerk decisions based on whims or emotion. Once you have good decision-making systems in place, over time you will even be better at making decisions when you really do have to act quickly.

Down below are some activities that will help you improve your education, personal skills, and wisdom for the workplace. Use them as a guide or starting place for your own goals.


  • Review the Educational Requirements for Your Job: If you have the job already you might think this is a waste of time, but you should reevaluate this if you haven't done so already. There might be greater pay potential or opportunities for advancement if you continue your education. Otherwise, those in your profession might have become better educated on average than when you acquired your job years ago. If there is discrepancy there, you might want to continue your education so you can be better off in case something happens to your job or you want to look for a better position elsewhere.
  • Work on Versatility: This involves the micromanagement of all the skills you use at your job everyday. Working on this virtue will help ensure you are up to date on the latest practices and ideas in your profession.
  • Work on Your Social Intelligence: Your social intelligence is about your basic social smarts—this can cover topics from knowing when people are lying, how to earn the trust needed for a sale, or how to avoid conflict in the work place. There are some good books on the topic itself, and others for more specific skills in that set.
  • Learn Good Decision-making Habits: Sometimes it is smart to make decisions based on your instinct (your subconscious does have access to social skills that are less apparent to your conscious state, believe it or not). Many times, however, our worst mistakes are made during hasty, knee-jerk decisions. Make an effort to spend time to study your options when making any decision with significant weight. Think about all the people who will be affected by each choice, the short and long-term consequences, and how these decisions will affect your business-world and personal goals. It may help you to keep a temporary journal for such decisions, as writing thoughts like these down may force you to contemplate more carefully and it also encourages strong self-reflection.
  • Manage your Emotional Response: In this regard you might benefit from working on your tolerance. If you have issues with anger, bitterness, or anxiety, finding methods to manage these issues so they are less likely to affect your judgment will greatly improve your ability to make wise decisions. Having a smart head won't be of any use if you're not using your head when making tough decisions!
  • Learn from the Greats: Maybe a business great you respect have written a book, or maybe there is a biography or documentary that will catch your eye. Learning about these people can not only inspire you, but can help you learn from their success and failure as well.

Your Record

If you make an important decision without due reflection—and you had a reasonable opportunity to have made it more carefully—then mark yourself at fault. If you react inappropriately due to an emotional rather than logical reaction, then mark yourself at fault. If you make any unwise decision that you could have avoided with the knowledge you possessed, then mark yourself at fault. Make some goals based on the activities up above, and mark yourself at fault if you fail to complete the activities or reach your goals.


Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Writer, Dramatist, and Poet

Intelligence is not to make no mistakes, but quickly to see how to make them good.

Bertolt Brecht, German Playwright and Poet

All wish to possess knowledge, but few, comparatively speaking, are willing to pay the price.

Juvenal, Roman Poet and Satirist

Golden Mean


Recommended Reading

The Little Book of Business Wisdom: Rules of Success from More than 50 Business Legends — by Peter Krass

This book contains bits of wisdom from 50 different business greats.

Smart Business, Stupid Business — by Diane Kennedy, Megan Hughes

A basic book with basic business smarts aimed for the small business owner. A great guide if you feel you could be making better decisions in your start-up.

The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life — by Thomas M. Sterner

This book is all about being satisfied with the present moment, and not being focused on instant gratification or filling in every moment with excessive emotional content. A good guide if your problem with intelligence has more to do with wisdom and self-control than smarts.

Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships — by Daniel Goleman

This best-selling author on both emotional and social intelligence wrote this book that lays out the theory of social intelligence and argues the case for the benefits society would reap from empathetic social attunement.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Intelligence is what you use when you don't know what to do. Jean Piaget