People are attracted to the idea that they are geniuses, says Gina Amaro Rudan, author of Practical Genius: The Real Smarts You Need to Get Your Passions and Talents Working for You (October 2011). Especially, she tells Profit, when they realize her definition doesn’t depend on a high IQ or top-notch SAT scores.
Here, learn how she defines the word. Plus, find why the world needs your smarts right now and learn about a simple routine that will add bulk to your brain.
Profit: When you talk about "genius," what do you mean?
Rudan: This is where what you love and care about— your values and who you are as a parent or sister or brother — intersects with who you are as the executive, as the strategic leader, as the killer negotiator, as the deal closer. In between both of those people is where the genius resides.
Executives have probably gotten to where they are because of their mind and heart activity. Now the trick is, how do you kick it up a notch and figure out what projects, what efforts, what collaborations, what acquisitions, what mergers, what personal relationships you need to really focus and invest on so that you are able to curate your life, work, day, weekend, month, year and legacy specifically immersed in activities and priorities that leverage that intersection.
Profit: How can managers encourage genius in their organizations?
Rudan: If you want genius to flourish within your organization you have to be open to people reinventing themselves. If you want to retain genius, you have to offer that flexibility to let people re-identify who they are so they don’t cash out their stock options and reinvent outside the organization. You need to create structures and opportunity for flexibility in how they work, such as international assignments when appropriate, or staying local for those who want to travel less. There is technology available to allow people to work flexibly in a brilliant way and to collaborate with other geniuses in other parts of the world. Traditional doesn’t work ever with genius, card-carrying or practical.
Profit: What should executives do every day to sustain their genius?
Rudan: My simplest most attainable recommendation is that every executive needs a morning ritual. So that means they are not allowed to touch email, their Blackberry, television, or consume until they have first fed their genius.
The morning ritual has to be one of three things: Exercise, solid breakfast, or meditation. The executives that do this have a lightness about them, they have a greater balance, and their energy sustains longer throughout the day. You know them when you meet them. These are people who are truly selfish in feeding their genius first. I think it’s OK to be selfish when it’s about your greatest asset.
Profit: What is the difference between a genius and a Fat Brain?
Rudan: A Fat Brain is someone who is half your age. In my book, I define them as folks primarily under 30, folks who are millennials, from Gen Y. You definitely find Fat Brains inside every organization; they tend to be new hires or interns. They are that young, dynamic, high energy, entrepreneurial young innovator within your organization. This person may annoy a lot of people, but really has the potential to unlock huge insights for you that you are missing.
In a down economy, our greatest resources are our relationships, and all executives need a Fat Brain in their lives. And that person should act not as a mentee, which has traditionally been the case, but the Fat Brain — that young GenY-er within your team, that high energy multi-dimensional young person — needs to be perceived as the mentor. I also argue that every single corporate board should have a Fat Brain on that board. It’s like this golden nugget within every team that people just walk over every day. Fat Brains in my life have always been my greatest teachers.
Profit: Why should we be thinking about genius right now?
Rudan: Anytime you are experiencing economic downturn, you have to get creative. You have to lead with curiosity and cultivate the place of wonderment. A lot of executives just look at me like, “What are you talking about? What does that even look like?” And then I send them to a TED conference or TEDx event, and I’ll give them a mountain of books to read. Or I’ll give them 30 days to interview 20 people. It’s that simple.
Fostering innovation with no budget is really about going back to basics and sending people out to do their projects with an open mind of curiosity, to gather and share insight and really exercise that brain muscle. I think people are using both the left and right side of their brain’s today more than ever because of the down economy, and that’s the best blessing.