How Do You Become The Wisest Person In The Room?

Tom Gilovich is a professor of Psychology at Cornell University with an interest in judgement and decision making. He is also the author of the book, The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights. He has studied many different facets of social psychology including sports decisions, political judgement and decision making, and relationship decision making.

What is the difference between wisdom and intelligence? A lot of aspects go into defining wisdom, but in short intelligence is more about being book smart and wisdom is more about being people smart. To have wisdom you have to be knowledgeable about people; why they do what they do and think what they think.

How can this be translated to the workplace? Gilovich discusses what managers normally do when employees are not performing as well as they should be. Most managers try to change the employee’s behaviors by pushing them in the direction the manager wants them to go. They push them with incentives, punishments, or motivation. But Gilovich says most of the time the poor performance isn’t due to a lack of motivation, it’s because the employee has a hard time “translating their good intentions into effective actions”. So instead of pushing, it is important for leaders in the workplace to understand their employees and to find ways to help their employees put their intentions into action.

Another subject that deals with understanding how people think and act is discussed in an article where Gilovich talks about the difference between experiences and material things and how they impact our happiness. He found three things to be true. Experiences connect us to other people more than material goods do, we are less comparative with experiences than with material things, and experiences contribute more to our identity than material things. In the end he found that people get more enduring happiness from experiences than material things.

Could this principle be used in organizations to make employees more happy and content with their jobs? We spend a majority of our time working, and yet it seems that most people become more and more dissatisfied with their jobs as time goes on. Perhaps if we could find a way to make work more of an experience people would enjoy their jobs and their satisfaction would grow over time. But who is responsible for this change, the employee or the employer? Perhaps a little bit of both. It is important for both parties to be a part of this change. Employers should focus on creating a better employee experience, however up to this point the responsibility has been put on the employer alone. It is also up to the employees to change their outlook.

Gilovich gave an example of two janitors working at NASA, when asked what they do for a living one janitor said “I clean the floors and empty the trash” the other janitor said “I help put people on the moon”. Both janitors were correct, except one looked at the simplistic version of the job whereas the other one looked at the bigger picture. One of these two janitors is going to have a greater sense of purpose and a better employee experience based on their outlook.

Another thing we have to understand is that there are times when we misevaluate things in our lives. Gilovich gives the example of riding a bike. When you are biking and you face the wind you cannot deny it is there; it is in your face and you feel it. However, when you turn around and have it at your back you are grateful for a minute but then you don’t even notice it after awhile. This demonstrates how the things we have to overcome are the things we pay attention to, because we have to. Those hard times in life or the barriers that stand in the way of our happiness, we have to focus and work hard to overcome them. But the things in life that give us “a boost” — a pay raise or a new car, the good times — those are the things that are easy to forget.

Because we easily forget the good, easy times we have the tendency to look at others (possibly co-workers) and feel that the other people have better lives. We have a tendency to claim life is “unfair” when we see others get raises, promotions, or good things in life.

How can we be the wisest one in the room and put it into practice in the workplace? We spend about 30% of our lives in the workplace, so happiness and fulfillment at work are important. In order to improve the employee experience it is important for both employers and employees to focus on cultivating experience. How can employees have a sense of purpose at work, how can employees and employers connect and form relationships, and how can employees attain more freedom while still performing their job? All of these things play into the big picture of employee experience and how to be the wisest one in the room.

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What you will learn in this episode:

  • The difference between wisdom and intelligence
  • Why we misevaluate certain things
  • Strategies and techniques to use to be the wisest person in the room
  • How experiences have a different effect on us than purchasing material things
  • How motivation impacts workplace
  • Who is responsible for creating a sense of purpose; the employee or the employer
  • Biases we are subjected to
  • What is naive realism and how can we avoid it?

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Jacob Morgan is a keynote speaker, author and futurist. For more, subscribe to his newsletter or visit TheFutureOrganization.

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