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The Ten Traits of an Extraordinary Mind #2: Autonomous Thinking

I remember hearing Professor James Flynn being interviewed regarding his incredible work on human intelligence. His research had uncovered that IQ scores had risen on average about three points per decade. In the interview he said that now, however, human IQ seems to be in a holding pattern—neither rising nor dropping. The next bit was interesting…He said that measuring intelligence was not nearly as important to him as teaching people to use the intelligence they’ve got, and he would settle for a 10-point drop in the average IQ if we could develop more autonomous minds!


I have met many leaders who value being perceived as smart. I have also met several leaders who were obviously not the smartest people in the room get so much out of people because of how they thought and interacted. Regardless of your IQ, the way that you use your unique intelligence is what will set you apart. Autonomous thinking is an act of defiance. It is a decision to dull the voices of the masses, requiring you to truly back yourself. It is built on the belief that there is no other human being on the planet who has a brain wired like yours, and that your different way of seeing the world is potentially one of the most valuable things to offer the world. Here are some tips in developing autonomous thinking:


Write a list of five things you ‘geek out on’: These are the topics, hobbies, subjects and skills that you get excited talking to people about, and when you find out others like those things, you feel like they are your people! There are clues in those things about the natural curiosities of your mind, and probably something incredible hidden within them about how you bring that thinking into your work.


Do a mini experiment in ‘group think’: Listen to the conversations around you at work, at lunch and on the TV as to how people are trying to ‘converge’ their thinking and have everyone agree. Hell, listen to yourself say things that you never actually agreed to believing, but have heard so often from the masses, like hating Mondays, the downside of aging or how busy everyone is.


Make a bold decision: What would be a decision you could make today and act on (that would be a bit daring) without getting any buy in or advice from others? Clearly not a decision that you should be involving others in, but something that would be a game changer for you. Like perhaps travel, a treatment, study, moving or changing roles…See if you can do something extraordinary, relying solely on your own extraordinary mind (and backing your decision!).

I like the harsh but accurate quote by Robin Sharma: “To lead is to be yourself in a world of clones.” Many of us have been taught to take comfort in thinking like everyone else; however, what we really need is is to have a mind autonomous enough to create the unique results we are after and for us to be generous with the mind value only we can bring to our work.

The Field runs a leadership development program called ‘The Extraordinary Minds Program’ for organisations who believe that their people will always be their greatest success story!

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