Street Smart over Book Smart

Adding a feather to your cap

These days we hear many crying out loud- ‘get things done’,’ no-nonsense’, ‘move fast’, ‘work smart’, be Street Smart. After all, what is this street smartness?

I call it being educated beyond one’s intelligence. Survival skills cannot be taught in books. Unlike book smarts, who have just experience of words, the real world needs real street smarts. I have seen it in every situation they win hands down. I guess it’s clearly because the street smarts have learnt how to deal with every situation even from their failures and bounce back stronger. Whereas book smarts, on the other hand, have never tested their limits, forget about failing in them.

Now, why Street smart over book smart? 

See being book smart, acing in school, and more precisely in school examination is generally a piece of cake, as the environment is structured and relatively insulated. But the real world out there is a totally different ball game. It is uncertain, complex, volatile and ambiguous. On the streets out there you are either predatory or prey. Real intelligence is nothing without a strategy and ruthless ambition. Because let’s face it, we cannot make the next great invention and discovery by just colouring within the lines. We need to come out of that structured environment and do a little more than what is taught in the books to rule the real world. Like all street smarts, we need to know what had worked, what didn’t work, what could work better by acquiring additional skills and knowledge, to make life better, faster and smarter.

Though very subjective, for me that additional skill, which brings us out of our insulated environment is our communication skill. So for me, street smarts are folks who have strong command over their communication. It’s their communication that makes them rule the world. They may not know the fancy theories, may not do well in exams or may not be holding degrees of renowned universities but still, when they get out there in the real world they know how to respond and react, to interact with others.

Communication- the human connection- is the key to our personal and professional success.

This is not to imply that book smart folks cannot become street smarts. Like it is said, “communication works for those who work for it”. Having great interpersonal skills is like a feather on your cap. All of us should take advantage of every opportunity to practice our communication skills so that we are ready for every situation in life. Good communication is not just conveying what you feel but also understanding others point of view. Failure to communicate effectively can lead you to failures- yours, teams and your organisation’s. You may have brilliant ideas, but due to lack of good communication skills, if you cannot get them across, your ideas won’t go anywhere.

So for me, it is the combination of book “smartness” and that additional skill of strong communication that can make you conquer the world.

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