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Wisdom Versus Intelligence

by M.P.Tyagi

Children born today seem far more intelligent than their counterparts 30-40 years ago. Sometimes one wonders whether the newborns have already played with smart mobile touch phones in mother’s womb. The intelligence of young generation makes them highly inquisitive, logical, fast decision makers, sometimes rash and always trying to operate everything at close to jet speed. If you test their IQ, the average scores would be very high. But… there is another side of the coin. The other side of the coin is called WISDOM.

In fact the extra intelligence that this generation possesses takes its toll on the wisdom front. I think it’s important here to point out that there is a big difference between wisdom and intelligence. Through Wisdom, one can perform the actions with the highest degree of adequacy under any given circumstances. This involves an understanding of people, things, events and situations and willingness and the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions keeping with an understanding of what is the right course of action.

I’ve always found it interesting that some of the smartest people I know are not necessarily wise. Personally I believe that wisdom seems to come much more from experience, v/s so called “intelligence”.

When discussing the difference between wisdom and intelligence, one needs to understand the definition of each. First, one can be wise but not intelligent and one can be intelligent but not wise. The definition of being wise is having or showing experience or knowledge. The definition of intelligent is to show mental keenness, to be smart.

Now a person can be smart and a person can be wise. But the same person is not necessary both at the same time. In many cases you will find that a person that is greatly intelligent will not have much in the way of being wise. In addition those who are very intelligent tend to also be secluded and withdrawn. A wise person will be more open and anxious to try different things.

The two traits do not usually exist together simply because a person who is wise has learned through experience while a person who is intelligent usually will have great book knowledge. This is usually referred to as book smart or street smart. A person who is wise has learned through experiencing the fact whereas a person who is more intelligent has only studied the possibilities.

It is easy to ascertain a person who is wise from one who is intelligent. An intelligent person will be the one who normally takes over a conversation and make sure that their knowledge is heard and absorbed by those around them. They are more likely to be instructors to people by sharing the intelligent things they have learned over the years.

However an individual that is wise will advise another about the dangers, problems and so on of a plan and then move on. For many years there has been a debate that being intelligent is more important than being wise. It is a matter of ability. Being a wise person does not necessarily require the ability to learn. Many things are learned through doing them and being successful or unsuccessful. When an individual is unsuccessful they wisely choose another route the next time.

Not everyone has the ability to absorb the necessary information to be either wise or intelligent. Some will learn things quickly while others will require many hours of instruction to understand the simplest part of a task. It is not necessarily a matter of being incapable mentally to absorb the information but more a matter of learning styles.

Being a wise person also requires integration. Having the ability to look at the whole picture creates a more well rounded view which leads to a better understanding of the entire subject. An individual that might be intelligent will generally focus on one key part about which they have great knowledge through scholarly study and stick to that one area rather than taking a look at the entire project as a whole.

But I think it's important to understand the relationship between intelligence and wisdom, and particularly what seems to be the growing gap between them. That way we can avoid applying rules and standards to intelligence that are really meant for wisdom. These two senses of "knowing what to do" are more different than most people realize. The path to wisdom is through discipline, and the path to intelligence through carefully selected self-indulgence. Wisdom is universal, and intelligence idiosyncratic. And while wisdom yields calmness, intelligence much of the time leads to discontentment.

There's no shortcut to wisdom; you can download the entire encyclopaedia to have it at your fingertips, but there are no quick and easy ways to get wisdom. It's something you have to accumulate.

There’s no Wisdom Quotient test you can take to judge how wise you have become. There’s nowhere to go to gain wisdom— you can’t take classes to improve your wisdom. Even reading a book written by a wise person, or listening to the advice of some sage, does not guarantee that the wisdom will rub off on you. What exactly is this wisdom? And just how do you achieve it?

Ø Listen to wise people. Believe it or not, it can rub off. You'd be surprised how reading a book or listening to someone speak can spark instant brightness.

Ø Be honest with yourself; brutally honest. The only way to truly learn from your experiences and apply that understanding in the future is if you accept responsibility for yourself and are willing to face your own mistakes.

Ø Don't just strive to know; strive to understand. A toddler can know that he's not supposed to stick his finger in the light socket; an adult understands why he's not supposed to do it. Just having knowledge of things and people and situations is not enough-- out of true understanding, wisdom is born. In other words, always think deeper; don't take things at face value.

Ø Listen to your inner voice. No, not the inner voice that says 'I want'. Listen to the inner voice that says 'I should'... even if you don't like what it has to say.

Ø That's usually your higher self-communicating to you, and your higher self is where you store that wisdom you've gained but have not yet processed. Remember that wisdom is cumulative. Make it a life-long pursuit.

Finally one of the points that I want to hit is that while selecting candidates especially for senior positions in the modern day organisations, we do undertake a number of written or oral tests to ascertain one’s capabilities in different situations including IQ tests. I wish to propose here that on the lines of IQ (Intelligence Quotient), organisations should develop their own WQ (Wisdom Quotient) tests. One such test sample is annexed to this article as an example.


Answer all of the questions below before looking at any of the answers in the next sheet. Take as absolutely true any assumption you are given. Choose only one answer. Write down your answer, with the question number, and follow the score instructions in the next sheet.

1. When considering a life choice, you should:

(a) Consider the immediate consequences, in terms of pleasure and pain, and always choose the alternative that gives the highest level of immediate pleasure;

(b) Consider the long term consequences, in terms of pleasure and pain, and always choose the alternative that gives the highest level of pleasure over the long run;

(c) Consider the impact of the choice on your family and friends, and choose the alternative that brings them the greatest level of pleasure;

(d) Consider both the short term and long-term consequences, in terms of pleasure and pain, and try to strike a balance insuring some pleasure now with good chances for pleasure in the long run;

(e) Consider the instructions in your chosen religion and follow them strictly.

2. Regarding your legal affairs, which of the following is good advice?

(a) Avoid hiring lawyers to do minor legal tasks like evictions, small suits, and differences with neighbours. Try to read up and do these yourself (unless very large sums of money are involved).

(b) Don’t break the law unless you are certain that your violation will go undetected and unpunished.

(c) If you are charged with a crime, and are innocent, waive your right to remain silent, and answer all questions posed by law enforcement officers;

(d) When hiring a lawyer search for someone who is older and already famous

(e) Do not resolve (settle) civil actions (suits) out of Court for less money than you want or deserve.

3. Which of the following is a critical life decision?

(a) What major subjects you declare during your first two years of college;

(b) The choice of your life partner;

(c) What make and model car you will buy when you buy your first new car;

(d) How to invest in your investment portfolio (i.e., what stocks, bonds, cash accounts, etc.), prior to age 35.

4. The best time to make your final and committed choice about your occupation is:

(a) In your final year of school;

(b) After two years of college, or age 21 if you do not attend college;

(c) At age 30;

(d) At age 35;

5. . Assume you are considering getting one of three of tattoos. One tattoo says: “Make Love Not War”. Another tattoo says: “I Love [name of your current lover].” The third tattoo says: “Legalize Gay Marriages” All three tattoos equally and correctly reflect your true sentiments. Which tattoo should you choose?

(a) “Make Love Not War”;

(b) “I L ove XX”;

(c) “Legalize Gay Marriages”

6. Assume that you have the raw talent to perform the duties of the occupations listed below better than 90% of the general population. Which occupation should you train for, or prepare for, during your lifetime:

(a) professional athlete

(b) rock star

(c) ballet dancer

(d) actor

(e) sculpture

(f) plastic surgeon

7. Assume that you are working at a job where you have been employed for several years. The job is boring, you do not seem to be advancing, and your immediate supervisor is abusive. What should you do?

(a) Tell your supervisor that if the abuse does not stop, you will quit;

(b) Quietly find another job and then quit;

(c) Quit immediately and seek another job;

(d) Wait until you have worked for three years and then re-assess;

(e) Tolerate the boredom and seek counselling about the job stress;

(f) Sabotage your supervisor with an aim to getting him fired, and denigrate him to your fellow employees and other supervisors.

8. Assume that you are fully qualified electronics technician (repairing PLCs and complicated electronic equipments), and are making a good living. Your employer has a program for senior employees that will allow you to take fully paid classes one day every two weeks, or a day off, at your choice. What should you do?

(a) Take a course in retail sales, skills and techniques;

(b) Take the time off;

(c) Take a course in advanced electronic techniques;

(d) Take a course in art appreciation;

(e) Ask your employer to pay higher and not give any off.

9. Assume you are in good financial shape and you are offered two different jobs, both in your line of work, and both very interesting. One job requires that you work a late-shift, such that, you will not leave work until 2:00 a.m. several days a week. This job pays 15% more than the second job, which has regular work hours. What would you do?

(a) Attempt to bargain for higher wages in the more regular hourly employment;

(b) Seek legal representation on the issue of the emotionally destructive work environment;

(c) Take the better paying job with difficult hours and train yourself to adapt;

(d) Take the more regular employment and live with lower compensation.

10. . Which of the following is false, or bad advice?

(a) If you are a victim of a crime; report the crime and cooperate with the investigation and prosecution. Women, this especially goes for rape and other sex crimes.

(b) When hiring a lawyer to do a complex task, make sure you hire someone who is a partner at a prestigious law firm with a national reputation.

(c) Don’t take the law into your own hands and try to personally produce justice. Solve your problems with people by using the legal process rather than through your own action.

(d) Calmly threatening to file a lawsuit, or better, having an attorney send a letter to this effect, often produces wonders for very little money

(e) One of the most frequent mistakes people make in their legal affairs is failing to create written agreements when dealing in business and personal financial transactions.

11. Which of the following will make the largest contribution to a long and healthy life span?

(a) Avoiding occupations and hobbies where you’ll be exposed to chemical fumes;

(b) Avoiding the regular use of laxatives and non-prescription drugs;

(c) Having regular physical exams and health maintenance screenings after age 40;

(d) Avoiding ever smoking cannabis (marijuana);

(e) Taking a general vitamin every day.

12. Which approach to eating, below, is the best:

(a) Only eat when you are very hungry.

(b) Adopt a vegetarian diet.

(c) Eat four to five small meals a day rather than two or three larger meals.

(d) Don’t drink tea or coffee.

13. In a situation on a shop floor problem, if it becomes totally confusing what to do, which of the following alternatives would you prefer:

(a) See what we did in the past.

(b) Choose what can be implemented quickly.

(c) Go down to the actual problem area on shop floor and critically examine as well as discuss with persons affected and evolve a solution.

(d) Discuss the problem in a meeting and go as per majority advice

14. When is the best time to gauge the seriousness & compatibility of a new job:

(a) Immediately after joining;

(b) After two months;

(c) After the sixth month;

(d) After one year;

15. When I agree to a Consensus decision, it means:

a) Agreeing to a decision taken by the Chairman in the meeting.

b) When other members agree to my decision.

c) Whether or not I agree to their point of view, I am willing to agree to the decision as it has been arrived at after discussion and in a fair manner.

d) When I agree to majority members decision.

16. In a meeting when I disagree with somebody’s idea:

a) I tell him on his face that you always act against my idea.

b) I criticize the idea and not the person.

c) I explain in detail why all should agree to my point of view.

d) I keep quiet.

17. Which of the following is true:

(a) Borrowing money from relatives is the safest and wisest way to fund a new business;

(b) Entering into partnerships with relatives is the safest and wisest way to start a new business;

(c) Loans relating to a new business should always be clear and written;

(d) Partnership agreements should be oral because they must be based on trust.

18. Which of the following is an important skill that should be learned even if not required in school?

(a) As early as possible in your education, learn how to touch type on a computer keyboard.

(b) As early as possible in your education, learn all of the basic functions and tools in a word processing program.

(c) As early as possible, learn basic cooking skills;

(d) Learn how to take a photograph with your phone if it has that function.

(e) Take a course in public speaking.

19. Assume you are 53 years old and hold investments as follows: 60% of your cash is invested in a new pharmaceutical company that is applying for FDA approval of a promising new anti-cancer drug and you are already in the black based on the current stock price; 20% of your cash is invested in rental property that runs a positive cash flow; 10% of your cash is invested evenly in several blue chip companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange; and 10% of your money is in cash and cash equivalents (like treasury certificates). What should you do now?

(a) Increase your investment in the pharmaceutical company, using your cash, and then sell the pharmaceutical stock after FDA approval;

(b) Decrease the pharmaceutical investment and use the proceeds to increase your allotment to Blue Chips and cash equivalents;

(c) Decrease the Blue Chip investments and invest more in rental property;

(d) Liquidate the real estate investment and buy the pharmaceutical stock;

(e) Keep these investment as-is, without any changes

20. Which of the following is bad advice?

(a) Expect that you and your spouse will differ at times about cooking & housekeeping decisions. Attempt to resolve these inevitable disputes by slow, calm, non- criticizing conversation. Do not quote relatives to support your beliefs.

(b) Cooking & housekeeping should be divided between two working spouses in proportion to the spouses’ incomes.

(c) Treat all advice from relatives (especially grandmothers) and friends as mere recommendations. Do not let anyone give you orders about how to manage your domestic affairs.

(e) Don’t give your children severe punishments in the heat of anger. Likewise don’t threaten punishments you won’t or can’t carry out. Rather, have a calm, fair, reliable set of punishments that you’ve set in your mind in advance.

(f) None of the above. They are all good advice and life directives.


The correct answers are given below. Each correct answer scores 2 points. Add all points and see the table below to know your WQ:


40 POINTS Wisdom IQ = 130

35-39 POINTS Wisdom IQ = 115

30-34 POINTS Wisdom IQ = 100

25-29 POINTS Wisdom IQ = 90

20-24 POINTS Wisdom IQ = 70

Below 20 Wisdom IQ = 50


1. (d) 2. (a) 3. (b) 4. (b)

5. (a) 6. (f) 7. (b) 8. (a)

9. (a) 10. (b) 11. (c) 12. (c)

13. (c) 14. (b) 15. (c) 16. (b)

17. (c) 18. (c) 19. (b) 20. (b)

(Each correct answer scores 2 points)

The author M.P.Tyagi is a distinguished management and industrial engineering expert and has spent 41 years in the corporate world. He has shown sparks of his wisdom throughout his career. He did his degree in Mechanical Engineering from Delhi College of Engineering. He did his M.Tech from IIT, Delhi having topped in the class.

He started his career with DCM in Delhi. He has worked in top reputed companies of India in very senior positions like Modi Rubber, Reliance and Jaypee. He has worked as Executive Director of Modi Rubber Limited for a number of years.

His notable achievements include restarting operations of a large tire plant after a closure of eight years and then negotiating with Continental, Germany and finally making it an MNC company and then spearheading its operations for two years.

He has always been a very high ranker & achieved academic excellence. He was awarded by Rotary club of Meerut for his managerial excellence. He has been associated with Meerut Management Association since 1977 and has been its President.

He has written papers for reputed Indian journals. One of his papers won the best case study award of the year from the journal of Indian Institute of Industrial Engineering.

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