The Number 1 Sign Of High Intelligence, According To Jeff Bezos

The Number 1 Sign Of High Intelligence, According To Jeff Bezos
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Now that Jeff Bezos presides over one of the most valuable companies in the world and has amassed a personal fortune of around $150 billion, folks are turning to him for advice on how he became successful. And while there’s no doubt he’s a very smart guy, he didn’t make Amazon into the company it is today singlehandedly. He surrounded himself with highly intelligent people. Which begs the question – how does Jeff Bezos decide someone is smart?

Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”. But identifying smart people isn’t that easy.

In a recent article, Jeff Bezos was asked how he identified smart people. Surprisingly, it wasn’t their knowledge that he focussed on. Rather, it was their ability to change what they think based on new information.

Bezos “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”.

If you think about that, it’s a critical skill often lacking in many people. Experts can be heavily invested emotionally or in some other way and aren’t able to update their opinions easily. They struggle to adapt when new data changes the assumptions upon which they’ve based their knowledge.

That’s not to say fitting in with the culture of an organisation or having the requisite hard and soft skills aren’t important. But the ability to adapt and change opinions based on new information is a critical skill and one that Bezos values highly.

The article Bezos is quoted in goes into some of the science behind this and why “intellectual humility” is an important and valuable trait. And it notes that a good question to ask people isn’t how often they’re right or wrong but when they last changed their opinion.

[Via INC]


  • That’s rich coming from a man who’s no doubt aware of countless employees working under inhumane conditions on a wage so low that many still require government assistance and/or are homeless, yet he has done nothing to remedy this.

  • butchfish, i don’t think that’s what Amazon does, i think they sell stuff for people and manufacturers and it’s his job to make as much money for the shareholders as possible. Like a runner runs as fast as he can or a weight lifter lifts the heaviest weight. Poor people and homeless people aren’t his responsibility, he has to stay focused and make profits so that he can employ people and they can pay taxes so the government can help the homeless. What have you done for the homeless? i’m guessing he pays more dollars in tax each year than you could earn in a lifetime. I hate people who attack successful people to make themselves feel better for failing. Cheap shot, not acceptable and probably absolutely wrong.

    • In an ethical and moral vacuum, ‘selling stuff to make as much money for shareholders as possible’ because it’s someone’s job is a completely cool and fine thing to do. But we don’t.

      Workers at the lower end of the scale aren’t being paid a living wage. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s essentially the wage a worker would require to meet their basic needs; effectively a few steps above the homeostatic or depreciating effect of subsistence. Foremost among the obvious problems with this is that employing people becomes null and void – insofar as claiming increased employment is of net benefit – if the wage you pay them for their labour is insufficient for living. It is an incredibly nasty tactic.

      Considering that we’re talking about Amazon here, we really shouldn’t be entertaining the compounding idea that a) the company pays anywhere near a sufficient amount of tax on the pre-tax income, b) the amount of tax paid has any material impact on government revenue, and c) legislation in the USA isn’t geared at all towards helping people in financial distress, or people living in poverty, or people who are homeless. Amazon does not pay anywhere near enough tax, based off its pre-tax income. How much is near enough? Magnitudes larger.

      On a similar subject. Comparing the amount of tax paid by Jeff Bezos to that of an average or, more suitably, median person is an exercise in outright stating “I haven’t thought amount about the proportionality of taxable income to actual tax paid”. I’m sure Bezos does pay more absolute tax than most workers at Amazon and I’m sure as a relative proportion of his taxable income he pays less. The latter is the salient factor if we’re discussing tax.

      But back to that earlier point about workers and their pay. Unionisation is the primary historical route by which worker’s rights, and therefore wages, have been secured. Legislation follows behind and simply ratifies those gains. Amazon recently produced and disseminated a union busting video to their managers to dissuade workers from being able to position themselves, in your words, to be successful. Workers attempting to unionise – trying to empower themselves, impart agency to their fellows, and push for a higher standard of pay – are seen as a threat to the company. Because, as should be clear by now, the company only cares about workers insofar as their labour can be exploited to maximise capital.

      That’s what ‘selling stuff to make as much money for shareholders as possible’ means. Not really the kind of thing we should model success after.

    • That’s some nice bootlicking there bro. I bet you’re on a menial salary yourself, which makes it even more laughable that you’re standing in to bat for this garbage person. Good job defending the poor, defenseless megabillionaires of this world, you brave crusader. How else would they cope!

  • It’s a pretty good statement, apart from going with a superlative instead of just qualifying that the trait can be incredibly useful, and apart from Bezos being a hideous nutsack of a human.

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