The Two Sides of the Brain… Book Smart vs. Street Smart

Growing up, we learned about the two sides of the brain, how one side was logical and the other was creative. I was good at art so that meant my brain is favoring the creative half right? Not quite. My interpretation today is summarized by this question: are you book smart or street smart?

The two sides of the brain:

  1. One is logical, rational, and methodical.
  2. The other is emotional, creative, and uninhibited.

Book smart people tend to load up on IQ or known knowledge. They are logical, rational, and methodical. Each decision is based on critical analysis and evaluation. We try to reason and rationalize events and activities for why they occur and sometimes fall into the pit of analysis paralysis. We try to logically understand a situation first before we can make a decision.

Ever wondered why the engineering students seem more socially awkward than your average student? (Just to be frank – I am an engineer and fall into this camp) Or why there seems to be a correlation as you move up the engineering disciplines from civil, mechanical, electrical, and finally to computer science, the courses becomes more theoretical and the people tend to be less socially calibrated?

This is not because they are studying more, it’s because social skills require LESS logic and more uninhibited thinking. People who are book smart tend to be strong at the opposite.

These engineering degrees require a high level of logical processing power to pass all of the math and engineering coursework required. As a result, it is not common to find a sharp computer programmer who is also extremely social. The few that are, probably already work for Google and Facebook.

On the contrary, people who are street smart are saavy at understanding human interactions and emotions. They have social intelligence as well as EQ, or emotional intelligence (I know they are different, but I am lumping them together as a generalization). They know how to manipulate other people to get the results they are looking for. And this isn’t necessarily in a bad way.

The difference is this: Street smart people base their decisions off of human interaction and experience, not logic.

Street smart people have a better understanding of the big “gray area” of human interaction. Whereas book smart people excel at establishing black and white, or a well reasoned a step-by-step method to produce x, y, z result.

Street smarts are more about nuances and awareness of different people’s needs, desires, and personalities. Both have it’s positives and both are important.

To be a good businessman, you need to be street smart. To lead an efficient operation, you need to be book smart. But to become a great CEO, you need both, so start cultivating the other side.

Which side of the camp do you most identify with?


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