When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stopped by the Basecamp offices a few years back, someone asked him a question just about every entrepreneur would like to know the answer to: What’s the most important quality you look for when trying to hire superstars?
You might think Bezos would talk about amazing accomplishments, stellar credentials, or undeniable leadership ability. But you’d be wrong. What the sometimes world’s richest person actually stressed was that he likes to hire people who are wrong a lot.
Intellectual humility makes you smarter and more successful.
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,” Basecamp founder Jason Fried reported.
Being open to new ideas implies being willing to discard old ones and question your established beliefs in light of new evidence. Getting smarter means admitting you were dumber before. That quality is called intellectual humility and it’s not just Bezos who believes it’s the bedrock of high intelligence and quality thought.
Research shows intellectual humility helps you learn faster, weigh evidence more fairly, be more curious, converse with others with opposing viewpoints, and ultimately understand yourself and the world better. Being open to being wrong, ironically, makes you right a whole lot more often.
How intellectually humble are you?
All of which suggests that intellectual humility isn’t just an important trait for billionaires (and those hoping to work for them). Basically, whatever you’re aiming to do in life, you’re more likely to succeed at it if you have an open mind when it comes to fresh viewpoints, contradictory evidence, and your own intellectual errors.
There are actions you can take to develop a more intellectually humble outlook, but the first step to developing this or any other trait is understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. How intellectually humble are you already, and how might you go about developing a more open attitude to new ideas?
Handily, science can help answer these questions. Researchers have developed a number of scientifically validated scales to test for intellectual humility, and the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center recently combined them into a quick quiz for the general public. To take it you simply mark how much you agree or disagree with a handful of statements like, “Even when I disagree with others, I can recognize that they have sound points” and, “I’m careful to calibrate the strength of my opinions to the strength of the evidence I have.”
The point, Greater Good notes, isn’t to either congratulate yourself or beat yourself up for your level of intellectual humility. Instead, it’s to use the quiz as a tool to suggest ways you might cultivate a little more of the quality. You can take it here.