It’s not enough to be just smart! You need to have different types of intelligence

Agne Nainyte
4 min readSep 3, 2020

The fresh graduate concept of maximalism is so fascinating! We graduate from our great universities armed with business case studies on how to successfully manage business. We feel so ready to be the future leaders showing our results and solving the complex problems of our world.

But when we embark on an internship or entry level position in a company, the scene changes. Suddenly we see a different picture of the business world compared to the one we learnt at school.

Why is it so hard to implement this simple idea? Why don’t people behave the way they’re supposed to? Why is this “incapable” person leading a team?

And then the fresh ambitious graduate gets their first coaching lesson: success requires different skills. It’s not just about finding the smartest idea but rather implementing it in real life with real people surrounding you.

Universities don’t teach you soft skills

If you have a certain diploma, it is often considered as a quality credential by employers. They are basically sure that your cognitive skills are up to the mark to join their organization. However, they typically don’t expect fresh graduates to demonstrate high acumen for political savvy or best leadership practices.

Let’s face it. Universities introduce us to various research studies, frameworks and models which can be helpful in business, but they don’t teach us how to apply them in practice — which is the most important thing.

Always eager fresh graduates bring lots of new ideas and energy, but they lack contextual knowledge

We are not prepared in how to motivate our teams to follow our vision or how to deal with employees who resist change. And so we are puzzled when our carefully developed strategy doesn’t bring the desired results and why nobody is proactively improving our customer experience.

Those questions bother us because we don’t have straightaway answers and nobody warned us beforehand. It seems like in order to get to those answers, we are required to apply a different type of intelligence.

Contextual intelligence

I remember the pride and joy when I received my first certification on LEAN methodology. It felt like I knew everything and was going to rock the business with this newly gained knowledge. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as fast as I wished, because I lacked this thing called contextual intelligence.

Even though I knew the concepts, and could do great project planning, I’d never experienced how it worked in practice. I’d never gone through real struggles. Until you experience it, you simply don’t know it.

So, the real “smart-ass” people are the ones who are able to adapt ideas in different contexts. Just because it worked in Europe, doesn’t mean it’s going to work in the USA and vice versa. You probably first need to understand your playing field well before you kick off your ideas.

There is no elevator to gaining contextual intelligence. Everyone needs to take the stairs and go through the grind first by themselves. It’s great that you have your theory and have done your homework, but you need to apply it in real business situations. Experiment, test your hypothesis and learn fast. Nothing can exchange this trial and error method.

Positive intelligence

Remember those coaches who always sing the same song “Mindset is the key”? Even though it sounds a bit old-fashioned, it’s a classic piece which doesn’t lose its value.

By constantly working with your inner self, you can achieve your true potential.

Our true potential can be reached when we learn how to get rid of different mental Saboteurs which are typically developed in our childhood to cope with the perceived threats of life. Once we grow up, the Saboteurs are not needed, but they often stay in our minds as invisible voices hampering us from achieving our true potential.

Your ability to recognize and fight those Saboteurs is what Shirzad Chamine calls Positive Intelligence. You achieve that by activating your Sage powers — Empathy, Exploration, Innovation, Navigation and Decisive action.

If you are interested in working on your positive intelligence, I would firstly recommend taking a quick test. If that triggers you to improve your scores, then read the book “Positive Intelligence.” It is one of my favorite recent finds!

So, my dear ambitious fresh graduate! The next time you sense that it’s been too long since you were given a new challenging project or your last promotion, reflect on yourself and check your contextual and positive intelligence scores. What do you need to further improve to get there? And don’t forget to surround yourself with people who’ve already been through the rounds. Good luck!

Originally published at on September 3, 2020.



Agne Nainyte

Digital Transformation Consultant at Schuberg Philis and blogger at