Hacking Business and Finance (was: Funding for SIAI)

From: James Rogers (jamesr@best.com)
Date: Sat May 03 2003 - 13:03:45 MDT

On 5/3/03 9:56 AM, "Ben Goertzel" <ben@goertzel.org> wrote:
> The abstract/logical/intellectual sort of intelligence, which is most
> commonly meant by the word "intelligence", is not necessarily all that
> useful toward the goal of getting rich. It can be deployed that way, but
> the majority of fortunes are made without the use of too much of this sort
> of intelligence.
> Social intelligence -- people skills -- is at least as important for getting
> rich, probably more so.

I would agree that social savvy is a very significant factor, but I would
say that this is the same basic kind of intelligence that a bright engineer
has. The difference is in the set of patterns that people apply their
innate intelligence to. Most of the really savvy business people I know
have a remarkably good grasp of human behavior in all its detail and nuance,
and can manipulate social situations in the same way a computer geek can
manipulate a computer.

> Not to mention a whole bunch of non-intelligence-related traits like
> persistence and stamina... and ruthlessness...

I think that one could argue that persistence and stamina will get you more
with merely average intelligence than a very bright person will get without
it. I think the biggest problem in this regard is that people only have
persistence and stamina for things they are interested in, which may not be
things that are actually useful for business success. I know many people
with nearly perfect social business savvy who have never had the attention
span to fully exploit this ability either.

I think the hardest thing for me business-wise has always been maintaining
focus and effort on important things I really don't give a damn about.
Finally recognizing that this was a significant issue several years ago
helped quite a bit though, such that I now consciously expend a lot of
effort on things I despise but know are important.

> Now, getting back to the point of this thread -- it may be that this list
> has a lot of people with geeky intellectual smarts and not that many people
> with social smarts. If so, this group is gonna be better at idea-generation
> and technical problem solving than at raising money. And the answer to "if
> you're so smart why aren't you rich" may be, "we're smart in a different way
> than what it takes to get rich."

Absolutely. But I would also add that lack of social business skills is not
a terminal condition, and they can be developed in even the most geeky
engineer types if they are willing to put in a lot of effort. It *is* a
problem smart people can solve. :-)

I've actually been working on a geek-to-executive transformation for a
number of years, recognizing the clear value of this transition. Beside
which, it doesn't really degrade your technical competence in doing so
(really!), though you may have to spend less time on non-essential geeky
activity. You don't have to sell your technical soul to the business devil.

Pragmatically speaking though, it helps to have someone around who already
has the social business savvy to lead the way, because it is easy to be
blind to your own clueless-ness. To give credit where credit is due, my
girlfriend of a few years is one of these super-savvy ladder-climbing senior
sales executive types at a major multi-national. She has whipped me into
proper business executive shape over the last couple years *way* faster than
I could ever manage on my own. This has been an immeasurably useful in
transitioning from technical circles to business circles.

> James Rogers and I are among list members who are in the business world and
> hence are trying to get rich, along with advancing our R&D goals. However,
> if my goal were *purely* to get rich, I think I might choose a different
> approach that had less to do with R&D... I actually suspect that deploying
> analytical intelligence and technical-invention ability is one of the HARDER
> ways to get rich...

I agree; if I wanted to merely be wealthy, I would have applied my
intelligence solely in something like finance. Technological innovation
requires both excellent engineering/analytical talent *AND* the usual
business competencies every businessman needs. As the old saying goes,
mediocre technology with superior marketing will beat superior technology
with mediocre marketing every time. I'm not particularly fond of the whole
social business side of things, but the result of engaging in this type of
activity for a couple years has been profoundly beneficial to the long-term
technical side of things.

On many levels people who are purely business and finance types have only
limited trust in people who do not also swim in the same waters of business
and finance (probably because they don't really understand those other
people on some level). It is largely a shell game of manipulated
perceptions and somewhat different types of meetings, but from the viewpoint
of the business/finance community I've switched teams. And maybe I have,
sort of. I would point out that this has made my technical judgment and
competence substantially trustworthy from their standpoint than when I was
merely an engineer, as contradictory as that may seem at first.

Social perception is very hackable, and you can extract a lot value hacking
this space. It is also a very interesting experience regardless, and pays
quite a few dividends in numerous areas.

-James Rogers

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:42 MDT