Finding the right person to do the right job is one of the biggest hurdles any successful person will face. Identifying a standout individual from the pack is no easy feat, and quite often the trait you’re looking for isn’t a qualification or skill that can be articulated in a resume.
Jeff Bezos is the most successful man in the world right now sitting on a comfortable personal fortune of over $150 Billion USD. But he didn’t get there by hiring anyone and everyone. The world’s richest man once stopped by the offices of Chicago-based web development company Basecamp a few years ago and shared with the team some insight into what he values most in a highly intelligent employee. The discussion was reported by founder Jason Fried on the company’s blog.
The single most important sign of intelligence, as valued by Bezos, was in fact someone who often gets things wrong. The smartest people are those looking at a problem or question from an alternative perspective and are willing to adapt their views as they learn more.
Over time, Bezos has “observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking,”
“He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait,” Fried reports. “It’s perfectly healthy – encouraged, even – to have an idea tomorrow that contradicts your idea today.”
The phenomenon is scientifically dubbed “intellectual humility” – the ability to embrace the fluidity of ideas and opinions and accept the possibility that you’re wrong. The concept is echoed by Stanford professor Bob Sutton who talks of “strong opinions, which are weakly held.” It’s argued that this shouldn’t be considered a bad thing, as those who are too attached to what they believe in are undermined by their ability to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ evidence that clashes with their opinions.