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Are You a Genius or a Genius Maker?

I consider myself very fortunate for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that I have the opportunity to work with people who are the best and brightest in their respective fields and are passionate about their work and the impact it has on others. Some of these folks are literally geniuses. What I’ve come to learn is that there not all geniuses are created equally and that you don’t need to be a genius to be a genius maker.

A stereotypical genius is “the smartest guy/gal in the room” and knows it. When they speak, all around them are in awe and are drinking from the fountain. It’s not done in a way that encourages debate or collaboration but a sense of brilliance, charisma and something special, even mind blowing, to which no one else can compete. Depending on the insight it could even be life altering for those fortunate enough to be in the presence of the genius. If you ever have the opportunity to be in the same room with a genius I’d suggest that you take advantage of it.

A genius maker on the other hand may or may not be a genius, but that’s not what is special about them. What is special about them is they have the ability to bring out the genius that exists (although in varying degrees no doubt) in everyone they come in contact with. It’s about digging deeper, asking smart and thoughtful questions and creating an environment that forces everyone to push themselves harder – to stretch themselves to think deeply and gain understanding from everyone around them.

The power of the genius is not to be underestimated. To truly be a genius at something is an accomplishment that very few of us will ever achieve for many reasons. However, the power they have is limited. It can grow arithmetically (how many more people can they transfer some of their insight to at a given time?) versus exponentially.

A genius maker makes everyone around them smarter, not just in the moment but permanently, and instills a want in people to replicate that for others. Now let’s assume a genius has an IQ of 175 (60 points or more above the norm). Their knowledge is valuable yet they don’t make those around them smarter. If you’re a genius maker (let’s say with a respectable IQ of 135) and you can make 500 people (over the course of your life) smarter by just 2 IQ points you’ve added 1000 IQ  points to the universe that did not and would not exist without you. That’s a legacy that anyone would be proud to have.

Can you be a genius AND a genius maker? Yes, but the pool or universe of this group is incredibly small. Anyone can be a genius maker, not everyone can be a genius. If we’re even a bit self aware or introspective (and honest), most of us would agree that we aren’t now, nor will we ever be a genius. And that’s okay. But everyone can be a genius maker.

How can you make those around you smarter? While there isn’t a magic potion, it comes down to having a mindset that believes in stretching others, an ability to listen without an agenda, a knack for asking more questions more often and being able to manage your ego so you don’t have a need to be “the smartest person in the room” (even when this may be true).

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Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I call it ‘the power of the stupid question.’ In working with technical professionals, many of them brilliant, I find that many of them focus on getting the technology right, producing accurate results, and managing their process well. Sometimes, it’s a case of missing the forest for the trees — they produce good results, but they miss out on why their client is asking them to produce that particular result. Maybe, it’s less important to get the results down to three decimal places of accuracy, and more important to produce a really good, layperson-understandable summary. Maybe even a diagram that summarizes the results. In my work helping these people publish their ideas in client-facing publications, that’s where the ‘stupid question’ comes in. I ask questions that a layperson would ask, and although my client may tend to roll her or his eyes at what they consider an obvious point, the fact is that it’s anything but obvious to the reader. So, this is how I help my clients communicate complex ideas. I think that having someone there to ask stupid questions is a big part of helping ‘geniuses’ get their ideas across, and this is how I’m doing my part for ‘genius making’. Do you think that having to explain issues to a generalist is an important part of helping ‘geniuses’ communicate?

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