Differently Smart

When asked to come up with a list of the 100 smartest people in the world to put on your team, it's not likely that you would put many pygmies on the list.

My step-niece spent some time with the pygmies and learned a lot about their culture. One of the things she immediately appreciated was their honesty. One of the things that took a little longer to appreciate was their total lack of tact when delivering this honesty.

For example, they told her that they felt sorry for her since she was so ugly. She's white, tall (even by western standards) and skinny (by pygmy standards). She would never get a man to take care of her. However, that did not stop them from trying to "fix her up." At best she would command a pig and maybe a chicken thrown in with serious negotiation in a region where two pigs is the going rate. She convinced them that her "owner" wasn't interested in selling.

The pygmies also have the general impression that Americans and Europeans are dumb. After all, they can't last a whole day out in the jungle on their own without the pygmies looking after them and keeping them out of trouble.

And they are right.

The pygmies are "differently smart" than westerners. Their values are different, and they see the world entirely different than we do. Yet their point of view is exceptionally intelligent for the environment in which they live. They survive and thrive where we fail. They hold the key to our success in the new environment. I know that I wouldn't want to go out into the African jungle without a pygmy at my side.

How about you? It's a jungle out there in the business world. When you pick teammates for a new project do you look for a few who are "differently smart?"