The other day my dad and I were talking about entrepreneurs (seriously), mainly because he is one, and he stated how he thought there were way more smart people than creative people in the world. And I agreed. But how do these adjectives (smart and creative) relate to entrepreneurship? What were we getting at?
What we were driving at is a point that has been debated for a long time. As an entrepreneur, is it better to be intensely smart or to be intensely creative? I use the adverb “intensely” before smart and creative because in my opinion all entrepreneurs have some degree of intelligence (obviously Bill Gates is brilliant and Brian Chesky is somewhat smart despite a colossal lapse in judgment), and entrepreneurs inherently are defined by their ability to create something new or different that is simultaneously useful. I’m also removing the option of being both intensely smart and creative because that is a lethal combination, and clearly the greatest entrepreneurs possess those two attributes in spades. But when it comes down to it, do you choose the entrepreneur whose IQ is through the roof and can solve any problem you put before him/her or do you pick the entrepreneur who’s not that bright but has a knack for coming up with ingenious ways to work around problems and can convince you they’re the right answers?
I believe you have to go with the latter for one simple reason: it is much easier to teach intelligence than to teach creativity. Aside from the fact that it is simpler to instruct someone formulas from a textbook than it is to train them how to think in general, the types of people also play a role in the ease of teaching. Intensely smart people are usually quite stubborn and think their way is the only way. However, intensely creative people are by their very nature receptive to new ideas and the possibility of learning something new. Being smart is a way of doing things, being creative is a way of engaging with things. Being smart is provincial, being creative is broad. This point was driven home to me while watching “60 Minutes” last night.
During the show, Anderson Cooper did a piece on Eminem. Even if you hate Eminem (or Anderson Cooper for that matter), I highly recommend watching it. Eminem is by all accounts not that smart – he dropped out of 9th grade in the middle of repeating it for a 3rd time in order to focus on rapping even before he knew there was a future there. But he is intensely creative and frankly obsessively compulsive. During the interview, he took out a box full of notepads, napkins, scraps of paper scrawled with ideas, lyrics, rhymes that he came up with and wanted to save for later. At the drop of a hat, he rhymed “orange” (a word that people say with which nothing rhymes) with “four-inch,” “door hinge,” and “porridge.” Only an intensely creative person could write all of those songs with lyrics that include rhyming “sweaty, heavy, already, spaghetti, ready, forgetting.” Some might say, so what, Eminem isn’t an entrepreneur. He’s just a creative guy. I’d say otherwise and encourage you to look at how Bill Simmons is an entrepreneur and how those traits of Simmons can be applied to Eminem.
At the end of day, you have to take being intensely creative over being intensely smart. A smart solution can be replicated – a truly creative one cannot.