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GUEST COLUMN – Not the same thing

Dr. Rudi Webster

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MANY YEARS AGO, IQ tests were given to some Australia aboriginal children who were doing poorly in school. As expected, their test scores were quite low and they were labelled stupid and intellectually inferior.
A few days ago, I was shocked and distressed to hear similar comments being made about members of the current West Indies cricket team.
When those aboriginal kids and a group of similar-aged white kids were given another test, the results were very different. The children were shown a rectangle that was divided into small squares with a different object in each square, and they were asked to view the squares and their contents for a couple of minutes.
The objects were then removed and the kids were asked to reassemble the objects in the correct squares. Not surprisingly, the white kids did very poorly and the aboriginal kids did extremely well. Visual cues are more important to the aborigines than they are to the Whites because their very survival and growth in the desert depend on their visual memory and visual intelligence.
Education not all
In the Caribbean, parents rightly push their children to do well at school because success in exams means entry to a university that in turn leads to good jobs. But they wrongly assume that those who do not do well at school or go to university are somehow “stupid”.
Yet, if we look at our most successful businessmen, our greatest cricketers and the members of our most successful cricket team, we find that the majority of them were not academically inclined. That pattern is found in most regions of the world.
The thinking and intelligence needed for success in business and sport are very different from those needed for academic success? If that were not the case, all of our great cricketers and businessmen would be professors, scholars and academics. A few academics do excel at sport, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Today’s education thrives on logical, analytical, linear and descriptive thinking, and is about absorbing, sorting, describing and reviewing existing knowledge.
The thinking needed for business and sport on the other hand is about action and results – creative, perceptual, strategic and design thinking. Strategic and design thinking are not taught well in our schools and universities, and that deficiency accounts for the strategic and operational stupidity that so many academics display when they get into in the competitive world of business and sport.
The French commander Napolean Bonaparte understood the importance of strategic thinking in war. He repeatedly stressed that strategic thinking was to action what three is to one. And, today, sport is like war.
Human performance is the product of skill/knowledge and motivation. Skill without motivation is just as bad as motivation without skill. Both are needed for good performance. In times of crisis, motivation takes on added importance.
Good leadership in today’s complex, highly competitive and rapidly changing world is more important than it has ever been. And yet, around the world, there has never been such a shortage of good leadership.
There are two processes that are essential to good leadership. First is articulating the destination where you want to lead your followers and formulating an intelligent strategy to pave the way. Second is motivating your followers to commit themselves to making that journey.
Motivating staff should be the first important priority of every leader. Telling your people that they are stupid, uneducated and incapable of thinking sensibly is certainly not the way to motivate, build trust and respect or improve team spirit and team performance.
* Rudi Webster, a Barbados Scholar, is a medical doctor. He was a pioneer in performance enhancement in sport in Australia, and he worked with many of that country’s best athletes and sports teams.