Sunday, April 06, 2014

Which is higher : Your Charisma or your Intelligence ?

You may need some gaming experience to appreciate this article.

I hypothesize that the modern workplace is a series of Intelligence or Charisma checks to climb up the corporate ladder.

Intelligence is required to solve complicated workplace problems. Workers with higher intelligence produce more work at a better quality. Take for instance, you are given a table of figures by your boss to figure out how your department is doing. If you know how to employ pivot tables or excel macros, you are very likely to solve the problem much quicker without going overtime. I have solved at least one Windows server issue where the solution was to run an executable from a French website. In such a case, my French came in handy to resolve a work related problem.

Charisma is required to persuade other people. Whether you are making a proposal to your boss or your client, high Charisma is required to meet a sales quota or to create the impression that you deserve a raise. Most of the time clients will want to do business with you based not so much on the product you are selling but whether they like you as a person. Charisma determines whether you can establish rapport with others Medical doctors are sued mostly based on their bedside manners rather than the accuracy of their diagnostics.

Here's how you can apply this insight :

a) Know whether you are stronger in Intelligence or Charisma.

No one is perfectly balanced in both. You should be able to figure out whether you are more Intelligent or Charismatic. If you can't figure it out, ask your closer friends.

b) Choose a career which employs more checks in the attribute that you are strong in.

Some IT guys who can talk know nuts about systems administration. They can be very dangerous when they become project managers because they tend to be overconfident and may be unable to deliver on SLAs. If your Charisma is stronger than your Intelligence, you should do much better in IT sales. Similar, if you are smart and very strong in product knowledge but can't close a sale because you can't talk your way to save your life, perhaps you should have been in the R&D department.

Sales is the best career path for folks who are high in Charisma - the higher your charisma, the lower the product sophistication required for your sale to be made. Investing works for folks who have a high intelligence because of the sheer amount of microeconomic and macroeconomic understanding to decide which stocks will outperform others.

Of course, some of you think that you are so awesome you have both high Charisma and Intelligence. In such a case, you should get into a field like management consulting or even politics.

c) Overcome your weak attribute

While I believe in focusing one's strengths and not wallowing on weaknesses, there are some limited ways to deal with an attribute deficit.

Charisma can be improved by spending time doing public speaking. You can also improve your Charisma by reading magazines like Psychology Today or reading textbooks on psychology or rhetoric.

Scientists are still working on a way to consistently improve working memory, so it's not easy to increase your Intelligence. You can read trade journals on your industry or the Economist. Formal study in Philosophy and Economics may also be useful in this regard.

At this stage, D&D players will start to ask me : What about Wisdom ?

I think Wisdom is an attribute which is important over the longer term even though it's not very much respected in the workplace. Intelligent people make mistakes all the time about how to balance work and family. Wise people may not even want to make a decision to optimize their careers, they can choose to walk away. That's just how things are going to be.

If after reading this article, if you continue to work based on your poorer attribute, Wisdom is probably your biggest deficit and unlike D&D, Wisdom comes only with experience.


  1. Hi Christopher, nice post.

    I think we can't ignore KNOWLEDGE in the equation too.

    Reading through your posts and understand that you are "freeman" (i.e. self-employed) now, I guess you are harnessing your intelligence more often then? Hahaha

  2. Technically I am not self-employed as I don't even have a registered business.

    Yeah, I seldom use Charisma checks these days and spend all my time plotting to outsmart the markets.