The lie of the career factor intelligence: success from stupidity?

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People are happy to tell that success includes good ideas and a smart strategy - something that requires a certain level of intelligence. But maybe all nonsense, because often the stupid are particularly successful - because they live according to the motto: “Brazen is is cool”. Best of HR –®

Here writes for you:

Simone Janson Simone JansonSimone Janson is publisher, German Top20 blogger and Consultant for HR communication.


Too much intelligence just hurts

Actually, the thesis comes from a good friend, with whom I spoke some time ago about a few old acquaintances - highly intelligent, but was the issue of career is clearly on the wrong track. The reason, so my friend: Intelligent people are more self-critical - and self-criticism is the success in the way!

A tip is therefore: Be as vehemment as possible - whether you're wrong or not. Because the more specific you appear, the more people believe it. I'm afraid there is more to it than you might think at first glance. But: to bring something vehemment over, what is wrong - I think only people who do not question themselves. And think about your own mistakes and claim something to stand out: That can stupider people actually better!

Intelligent people are more critical

Often, intelligent people also disrupt the processes in Company: They are not only very critical with themselves, but with others, questioning work processes, can not adapt well, putting their finger on wounds. As a result, they make the bosses nervous, they could even cheer up the colleagues. So fire better right now!

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Or is seditious behavior again just a sign of stupidity - like Corinne Maier in The discovery of laziness attested, because one makes it better beautifully comfortable? Yesterday I read once again in a career counselor that just women would do well to adapt themselves to the rules of the game and always bravely glue the boss. Good people, who keep the good faith, rather than say their opinion: Unfortunately much too often usual and mE innovation killer Nr1.

If you do not work, you have more time to think

With this thesis, I was recently confronted with an event. And she even agrees: If you munch out in your job day by day, you simply do not have to do your own actions.

Sometimes that might be just fine - but sometimes (self) criticism would not hurt. In The Art, Less To Do, the authors also describe how work has historically been used as a manipulation factor - very interesting. The mistake in the thesis: Not all Hartz IV recipients are intellectual lights.

Intelligent people see through the games ...

... and just don't feel like it. Maybe not all. But some of them tend to become existentialists. Because why should you turn the whole day in the hamster wheel when there is another way?

At this point you are happy to hear the frustration argument "These are people who did not make it!". Counter question: What does “make it?” Actually mean - because everyone has to make a compromise - right?

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This is what science says: German personnel are not very interested in intelligence

This thesis has also recently been underpinned by a psychological study: According to this, German staff are not very interested in the intelligence of their employees. In the United States, however, intelligence tests as a setting criterion have long been recognized practice.

244 studies from Germany were evaluated according to the latest methods - and the Bonn psychologist Jochen Kramer has it in a so-called meta-analysis: General intelligence is, however, an important prerequisite for a high work performance and professional success.

4 Areas of professional success were examined

That means: It does not look so bad in the German personnel departments. Because the study has also examined very specific data on the influence of intelligence on four areas of professional success. These are:

  1. Work performance,
  2. professional learning,
  3. Income
  4. and professional career.

Thus, if an employee is selected with their intelligence in mind, he is likely to achieve a high work and learning performance with a probability of well over 80 percent - compared to 50 percent at random. According to Kramer's investigation, intelligence makes it successful!

Intelligence: Career opportunities are at 70%

Taking the intelligence into account, the chances of the selected applicants for a career and a high income are just under 70 percent. "For different professions, fluctuations can be expected with these values," Kramer puts into perspective, but emphasizes the basic connection: "The more intelligent an employee is, the more likely he is to do good work and to be successful in his job."

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Intelligence, i.e. the mental abilities of a person, was taken as broadly as possible in the analysis. “Only studies that took into account at least two of the three areas of mental skills - numbers and arithmetic, language skills and spatial imagination - were included in my study,” explains Kramer.

General Intelligent more important than mental skills

Basic assumption is namely: In the professional life general intelligence is important instead of only specific mental abilities. Since general intelligence is not the only decisive factor, the Bonn scientists are now interested in how much of the share of success, for example, have emotional intelligence or social skills.

However, the question remains whether the formula higher intelligence = more success actually always applies or has its limits. Why, for example, are so many above-average intelligent people relatively unsuccessful?

The creative has ideas, the stupid she steals it and becomes successful

An example that often occurs in history: the first mover is not always the more successful one. Because most people only have to get used to new ideas, good ideas are usually often suspiciously eyed and smiled.

Some good idea is still not quite mature! Bad luck for the first mover, if the second mover simply takes the idea, improves - and thus becomes successful. The creatively successful has the look, the stupid the success!

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I now put this consciously as a theses in the room - and look forward to an animated discussion!

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  1. Harriet Lemcke


    I also keep on observing (sometimes fascinated, sometimes shocked, sometimes angry) that stupid people can go astonishingly far and display an almost provocative, defiant complacency. A few months ago I had a conversation to initiate a business - my partner was looking for communication specialists for joint consulting projects for medium-sized customers. It quickly became apparent that the person I was talking to was blessed with complete ignorance of the subject of communication in general and in particular. When asked about this, he said with a shrug: "And if I only have a 3 percent idea of ​​the topic, then I still know 3 percent more than the entrepreneur to whom I sell it at a high price." And I have seen a real specialist in the same context who constantly questioned everything, wanted to deliver the best possible results, but was unable to place her services on the market at the right conditions.

    In terms of employee relationships, I can also confirm that there are people who have enormous specialist knowledge and also the aspiration to advance the company for which they work. They work hard and are rarely praised or promoted for it. Others, on the other hand, who have "steam chats and coffee cup holders" have little idea of ​​everything, have an opinion on everything, are in no time with the boss by "you", do all the private work (so that they have their head free after work) more time in the boss's office than in his own workplace, are not interested in the big picture or his own productivity - and are promoted. From the organization's point of view, this is almost logical. Organizations strive to maintain stable conditions. Lateral thinkers MAY advance the company. However, they are uncomfortable, threaten to question the way the existing system is shaken, and are therefore perceived as unpleasant. The idlers, on the other hand, are unproductive, but also harmless. Even more - they make those responsible feel good.

    And here the circle closes, because here the laws of the market apply. In the end, no products and services (analogous to intelligence and productivity) are purchased, but solutions and good feelings (analogous to coffee-epidemics and chief mother-mothering).

    • Simone Janson

      Dear Mrs. Lemcke,
      that with the feelings, so coffee break philosophies and Chefbemutterung, you said nicely. I also come more and more to the point that man lives much more in the Stone Age than he likes.
      One point, however, I see now a little different from when I wrote 2010 this article: courage is important and courage is rewarded.
      However, there are a lot of intelligentsia, which critically question, how they themselves call the example so beautifully, but which also push themselves before decisions and ultimately before the responsibility. It was precisely the lack of self-confidence that drove your specialist ...

  2. Nele E.

    Hello Mrs. Janson and interested,

    the topic was a while ago, but I noticed it here for the first time today. Since I have always thought about these phenomena, here is a little insight: the polarized introduction may be a tried and tested means for a feedback round - especially to knock off positions :-). However, the topic itself is very complex and complex and raises many other questions. Above all, delimited terms are necessary: ​​what is intelligence, how can it be recognized and / or established? What does "stupidity" mean and then - in connection with success and / or career ?! Everyone connects different contents and goals with it !!!! => and accordingly there are no ratings. In addition, there are incalculable factors such as “at the right time in the right place in the“ right ”company or closing an existing“ gap ”…. etc.
    More generally: a few factors, I believe, are already part of "success" and "a career". It takes the “will to power”, targeted “dealing with power”, competence: hard facts and the use of selected aspects of soft skills such as B. Communicative competence => Use of effective rhetorical means to achieve goals (verbally and non-verbally) by convincing and u. Under certain circumstances persuade (“seduce”), or IMPLEMENT THIS !!! etc. ... ... Also - as discussed here - to be convinced of yourself and to be able to put yourself in the center, i.e. to be present, not to hide, to signal, I can do it, I do it, I want it, etc.…. . The ability to make relevant contacts, to be “the mastermind”, to maintain rope teams, which means: I can make and use shoulders. Last but not least, success needs a “narrowing” to a (previously i-as defined) focus. And finally: "The dose makes the poison." Too much or too little also decides about success and career => rise and decline !!! Because being able to stay "up" also requires power, energy, strategy, etc. ... ...
    I would like to add two aspects regarding intelligence (otherwise a “doctoral thesis could result from this :-D): intelligent people need“ food ”for their brains, so they often go stalking to find them. In this way they meet all kinds of deer that are not interesting for them. Therefore, they prefer to ignore these antler carriers or overtake them on the left or right. The hooves don't like that at all. So they in turn use their own food instinct and shift to ruminating the tried and tested “eternally” the same. Therefore, they acquire with the well-known porridge quite considerable skills in and with different branches, but each prefers similar content such as. B. Organization, planning, leadership, control etc.…. . The Hobees (highly gifted adults or highly gifted bees :-D) are confronted with these prepared purees and find no equivalent for themselves in execution and performance, because they prefer to deal with questions such as: Do we do the right things? ... as: Are we doing things right? or from both points of view are able to think, feel and act etc.… .. The ability to see forest AND trees and furthermore traces in the sand, snow and on the firmament often creates misunderstanding, fear, resentment and envy !! Therefore there are attacks and struggles, which the cognitively controlled self often answers in such a way that it LEAVES and leaves the place => quite raised head, but without "recognizable victory". :-)) Or sad !!!!
    The last note: high intelligence is often paired with high sensitivity and / or sensitivity (Andrea Brackmann !!! => Normally gifted and beyond the norm, sic !!!), this means that this “being different” communicates with other people and does not “necessarily” meet “mutual love” but is rather connoted on the contrary. Thus, in addition to “not being seen and being recognized”, a rejection occurs because the “other” behavior and interest is perceived as a missing nest smell. Okay - so far - so good. Smiles allowed - absolutely :-))

    • Simone Janson

      Hello Nele,
      I have to admit that the contribution was shot out of the stomach very impulsively at the time and that I might not write it that way anymore today. Yes, I know these very intelligent people who tease others with their different way of thinking. However, there are two methods to deal with it: complain about it or think with the given intelligence about how to communicate in such a way that others understand you. In this respect, the contribution I wrote there would be a little too "wretched" today.

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  5. Manuela Potthast

    I almost shared the article - after all, a good approach. I'm up "The mistake in the thesis: Not all Hartz IV receivers are intellectual lights." bumped ...
    Many ALG II recipients work full-time and have no more time than a well-paid head of department or similar.
    Yes, of course, people who think and think about themselves and are not always the most popular co-workers. But there should nevertheless be companies which attach great importance to this.

    • Simone Janson

      Hello Mrs. Potthast,
      Admittedly, I did not quite understand what bothers you about the thesis: With the statement “Not all Hartz IV receivers are intellectual lights”, I am questioning exactly the thesis set out above. As you say: employees in companies are not generally stupid command recipients who have no time to think - and vice versa, not all Hartz IV recipients are disguised geniuses. There are such and such. Now I have polemically illuminated the topic once to stimulate thought and discussion about the topic.

      Because that is what it is ultimately: for the contribution does not imply any general theses. To generate attention and resonance, polemic is, unfortunately, much better than differentiated consideration.

      It is possible, for example, to make an article from the best comments. Moreover, I am excited about the attention of an old article by 2010, which I myself have been aware of by a recent comment.

      I find it a pity that you do not want to share the article and other people have the opportunity to say your opinion on the subject. But of course this is your decision.

  6. Milena Dagko

    RT @SimoneJanson: Co-Discussing - The Lie from the Career Factor Intelligence: Success from Stupidity? -

  7. Tina Groll

    RT @SimoneJanson: Co-Discussing - The Lie from the Career Factor Intelligence: Success from Stupidity? -

  8. Simone Janson

    Hello Mr. Brundold,
    Yes and no - on the one hand I agree with you, surely with such an attitude there is also a bit of self-pity and one would like to say “then think of something creative and intelligent”.
    On the other hand, I would like to take my own branch of journalism as an example: what is really good is not the high-intensity offerings from Feulliton or business but catcontent and cruises in Dubai - the tone of an editor.
    Recently I was at the petrol station, because only two regional newspapers and the picture newspaper were sold in daily newspapers. Everything else had not run, they told me.

    Would we now conclude that more intelligent offers are unnecessary and adapt the level of all newspapers accordingly?

    I see that it is also very intelligent person in the job so that they often go for example because they see things differently than the colleagues or the boss and uncomfortable. Of course, one can represent his views more subtly than some do, but is this always good?

    How are your experiences?

  9. Constantin W.

    Too much intelligence hurts only: the fools are more successful. there is something on that!

  10. Robin Brunold

    “Above all, the stupid have success - I'm just too smart to be successful”
    For me, this sounds especially after wailing on a high level.
    How better to justify his own failure than by saying, "I am simply too intelligent to be successful."

  11. Fakt_mrs

    The problem of the creative is the monetarizing of its idea. Everyone needs this type, but no one wants to pay it.

    • Simone Janson

      Hello, the problem is mE more complex: Since creativity is in, there is a very large range of creatives. From this position, the demanders then believe they can afford to push the prices.

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  14. stephan

    "The lie of the career factor intelligence" - or why Bollo has found a job

  15. Eveline3112

    Exciting thesis and so true :-) Tweetcount Widget

  16. Simone Janson

    Strangerli, this is an absolutely brilliant supplement! Thank you, that was really missing!
    PS: If anyone still finds that a point in the list is missing - only to!

  17. Strangerli

    Point 6 is still missing:

    6. Surround yourself with intelligent people

    With a good, experienced and intelligent troupe you do not need to worry anymore. It is important to get people on board, who can do with their intelligence the tasks that are given or delegated to them. These recognize the mistakes that one overlooks out of stupidity, discuss these with each other in the short term and correct them by themselves. Only in rare cases would they go back to the (stupid) supervisor, otherwise they could eventually be described as dependent. Thus behind the back of the boss or the stupid / n errors is eliminated, improved and possibly brought to a success. The stupid sees himself confirmed in his way of working and believes to do everything right.
    But beware: you should be careful not to recognize this independent work too much. Furthermore, it is important to surround yourself with enough followers who would like to smear honey around your mouth. This one can always tell that you have made all this achievement and achievements and not the intelligent. Thus, the name spreads with success.
    Of course, the intelligent must not be too intelligent, because otherwise they would make themselves independent and become a nasty competition. It is best to overload these people with work, so they do not get to think about their life situation too much and then you can make it look like they are too slow at work.

    “Decisions are made by people with time, not people with talent because they have to fix the problems that people have done with time.”

  18. Frank

    Yes, I also noticed that the fools often succeed.
    Maybe because they're just stupid.
    but it does not always have to be the case.

    • Simone Janson

      Hello Frank,
      Of course this is not always so .. that was just deliberately expressed provocatively .. :-)

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  20. Simone Janson

    Hello Meike,
    thanks for the nice comment. First of all, I'm glad that certain blog posts (and specifically all of you mentioned) have not only scared me a bit :-)
    I have to find the article with the Swiss company again… I'm actually not a friend of such “women-make-everything-better-theses” because I have had very strange experiences with women and I don't think that women generally don't are also interested in power (sometimes it is even more stressful because it expresses itself much more indirectly).
    However, my impression is that the goals of men and women are often different. Women are often more concerned with work-life balance, while men seem to have no trouble sitting in the office for 12 hours - probably because they are more focused on their work and willing to sacrifice more time for work , Apart from the fact that I do not believe that more presence also means more productivity basically - another topic ... :-)
    Occasionally, I also have the impression that sometimes work seems to become an end in itself ... Me in my opinion also on the enthusiasm for technical products and social media: I find some gagets also pretty cool - but always, because it also connects me with people and not because I think the thing is cool in itself.
    What does this have to do with the initial thesis? ME are two other factors that prevent female perspectives such as generalist thinking, professional and private life, etc. from becoming obsolete in everyday work ... And superficial career tips such as “just play the game with” help me in the short term.

  21. Meike Leopold

    Hi Simone, that intelligence alone is no guarantee of a steep career - I totally agree with you in that. If you don't have the necessary instinct for power, it doesn't do much - professionally. In my opinion, the problem in the blog post “Snakeoil” that you quote is precisely that it leaves open whether it is meant ironically or not. On the blog in question, I have already spoken of A and B people, if I remember correctly ... Overall, I would say that maybe it is also about the question of what communication will look like in the (future) knowledge society and which form of communication is the more profitable: the “female” or the “male” that is propagated on the said blog. Or a good mix of both. In the seminars from:, for example, women learn how vehement behavior, etc. works and functions so that they can prevail in predominantly male-dominated power structures. But maybe there will also be seminars for men in the future, in which they learn to communicate in a more team-oriented way and I say “more domination-free”? I am thinking of a nice article in the current Brandeins about a Swiss company in which for business reasons (!) Almost only women work.

    Greetings, Meike

  22. Eva Zil

    Hello Mrs. Janson,

    I think your theses are right.
    However: Really smart people, who really want to bring something to them, recognize their inner career killer and work on it. This can be done with coach, trainings, behavioral therapies, etc.
    For this worker would continue to remain in this situation (unless he is happy with his professional life in this way), it would be a sign of stupidity.
    So: emotional intelligence is in demand!

    Best regards,

  23. Simone Janson

    Dear Ms Zils,
    thank you for your comment. They are, of course, right in principle and that is what women, in particular, are always recommended to us in various advisers: to adapt their own behavior.
    However, with my somewhat striking title, I also wanted to encourage people to think about the fact that the situation will not change as a result of constant adjustment, and that Rick, as Rick said, is in danger of adapting too much.
    Simone Janson

  24. Simone Janson

    Hello christina
    i am dacord with you as far as creative work is concerned. But, as you say correctly, it depends on the nature of the work. Not all work requires creativity, even if this is so. Also and not just in so-called creative professions.
    Sometimes it's just a matter of doing stupid, routine tasks - search engine optimization is a good example for a blog. And that's why companies need people who adapt to existing work routines without questioning every step of the way - this is also related to the (technical) complexity with which such things take place today: one can not just do something different even though it may seem better at first, because it involves lengthy changes. I notice that with such simple things as my blog :-)
    I can understand that you prefer to write to me privately, but then, unfortunately, because of time constraints, I can not help you. Sorry, just limited resources.
    Simone Janson

  25. Cristina

    Hello Mrs. Janson,

    this time I would like to thank you for your prompt and detailed response (also I would like to go to your offer in the end, but I would like to write you in this regard possibly, if possible, more private).

    You say yes, you would also have an employee who would make things as much as you would like, just to save time ... Your argument I can understand very well, but it is not rather that this would also depend on the nature of the activity? I find it frankly quite problematic (and also risky) to put on old-fashioned creativity or critical (self) reflexive thinking, on reproduction of one's own, unless you have no interest but as much as possible in the current state. Of course, such activities are always necessary and dependent on the area of ​​employment, which is why they can not be formulated in a general manner. I also find that many of the responsible persons are already working on the most efficient work where different personalities come together.
    By the way, I have the impression that it is not really about the dichotomy of stupidity / intelligence ... but rather about the right self-awareness as well as the willingness or ability to deal with itself, about its goals as well as limits, but also Principles and values ​​(you call it courage to go your own way and I see the same way) ... or the deficiency. Because rightly "stupid", those who can not use specific situations or abilities to their professional advantage can not be, or? ... my feeling is that the success already depends very much on the individual strategies with which each one for itself the best , whether through adaptation and compromise, or through good, convincing arguments and performance. Just as I said, depending on the activity profile and area, but also depend on the employer. And in relation to the honesty of the companies you are missing: I guess, the companies themselves are subject to specific requirements and it must be economic rationamente, which is why they propagate something different than they do (honesty to themselves will not always be the profits increase)
    My conclusion is that it may be a long time to find your own way, and then to go ... but it is definitely, for me at least, more promising

  26. humancaps altmann

    Interesting - RT @SimoneJanson: Frisch Reblogged: The lie of the career factor Intelligence: success from stupidity?

  27. Cristina

    Hello Mrs. Janson,

    First of all a big thank you for this, I think, excellent article! You are saying exactly what I was concerned with today, because I found that of all my friends and acquaintances, of all those who, in my opinion, are extremely intelligent, "are not doing so well professionally", in the usual sense of the word Words are not exactly "successful" (I'm looking for a job myself and, it seems, I think too much and analyze and reflect so much that I apparently build obstacles for myself in the interviews ... because I just can't do it 1: 1 implement what I find in all the application guides (now apart from all the contradictions that can be found in such different "works"); it seems to me that most of you require exactly this adaptability, which you also mention ... a kind of puppet existence, in my opinion; it seems to me that somehow it is missing that authenticity and reflexivity are really not so high on track ( however, it is my whole personal opinion); a friend of mine, on the other hand, put everything into practice that she found in the only advisor she was leafing through, and got a job the very first interview. So much for the aspect of “questioning”, so I can only agree with you.

    On the other hand, it may also depend on the very personal understanding of success: it may be that intelligent people in a critical attitude just distance themselves from the conventional concept of success ... so that they place much more emphasis on the meaning of their employment, that In fact, they perform activities that personally fulfill them and are also well-aligned with their life goals ... even though they are not materially remunerated so well ... that is, working out of intrinsically motivated motivation, and not necessarily for status and attending status.

    But in principle, I agree with you ... even if a critic could also answer to the point 1 also that with a healthy dose self-esteem and self-confidence can be repressed even the self-criticism, which may hinder you on the success path ... I understand quite well, of what You talk here.

    • Simone Janson

      Hello christina
      thank you for your experience report and for the praise :-)
      With the adjustment was also my problem, and I had quite a job quickly thanks to prior experience in the study - it just just did not fit human.
      Therefore, I do not think much of bending in the interview, unless you keep it up in the long run ... I have made myself out of experience, but also not a panacea. You always have to think about what your own goal is and what kind of stress / compromise you are willing to accept. Adaptation is probably the easier way to go your own way requires courage, because you can actually and should not orientate on anyone else. Therefore, all the advice and donors that some people so incredibly like to give, should be understood only as a guide. Unfortunately, humans are happy to be a herd animal :-)
      As you say rightly, it depends on self-awareness. On the one hand, in order not to let themselves be beaten by failures and to continue until one has found the suitable employer (I know unfortunately also a few examples, which are more and more on the frustrieren Rummotzen, which is naturally contraproduktiv) and on the other hand around itself also for sale. Because with good arguments and corresponding experiences / achievements one can perhaps also score with something. As a career star, there is the real cracking point - besides the fact that it sometimes does not fit humanly.
      I have to confess, if I were looking for an employee now, I would also take someone who would make things as much as I do, to save time alone.

      What also annoys me is that companies, on the other hand, propagate creative, innovative minds - in practice, then often rely on tried and tested patterns, which is also related to the fact that no person would like to make a mistake ... precisely on the subject of fit and authenticity I've found here an honest post ...
      I would find a little more honesty to yourself and also to the applicants!

      A second problem, however, is what Rick mentioned above. Most of them arrange themselves somehow with the conditions, which may be the best solution for the individual. Only: Adjusting sometimes works faster than you think. And probably nothing will change.

      By the way: Christina, if you like, you can send me a report / profile including photo, link and job application for publication - as Mr. Lenz on - maybe that brings something ...
      Simone Janson

  28. Simone Janson

    Rick: Not a bad attitude. Think, to heed the last tip is the hardest ... the borders blur unfortunately fast :-)

  29. Rick

    Everyone knows of course a pipe that has a lot to say, that uses elbow effectively, can delegate well (very important!), (...), but actually just can count to 3.

    The question "What are you doing here?" or "What's the nonsense?" many people face up to it, at least initially in a job.
    But since there is no reasonable answer or solution,
    it is better not to think about it anymore.
    Because pondering brings nothing and spoils the mood.

    Whoever has pondered too much has lost.
    What can go wrong with the project X, oh.
    This is different with the dumb-dreiste;
    if what goes wrong, the others have to blame,
    at least the predominant.
    (woe contradicts one)

    So a bit of a hole will help.
    The art is not to become a big one.

  30. CristinaSeidensticke

  31. CristinaSeidensticke

    RT @SimoneJanson: Are smart people actually less successful? The lie of the career factor intelligence:

  32. Simone Janson

    Frisch reblogged: The lie of the career factor intelligence: success from stupidity?

  33. Competencepartner

    The Lie of the Career Factor Intelligence: Success from Stupidity ?:

  34. Simone Janson

    4 Theses for discussion: The lie of the career factor Intelligence - success from stupidity?

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