Why Being the Smartest Person in the Room Is Not So Smart

Editors Features August 19 / August 19, 2019

— Errol St.Clair Smith —

Marilyn vos Savant earned a listing in the Guinness Book of Records as the smartest woman in the world. At age 10 her Olympic-sized IQ score was larger than people twice her age. But in September of 1990, Savant answered a question posed by one of the readers of her Ask Marilyn column. Her response lit the academic world on fire. She reportedly received over 10,000 letters — all of which contended that she was entirely incompetent — a hare-brained idiot. For months she was persecuted by academics with impressive letters following their names. What was going on here?

After years of chasing the highest possible GPA, pushing our IQs to the redline, and envying the smartest people in the room, it turns out that not being “the smartest” is the new smart.

Wait, what the flip? When did the rules change? Is this some sort of a Jedi mind trick? There is only one source to turn to when new information rattles our reality, and we need an opinion you can trust.

“Hey Siri, what can you tell me about the smartest person in the room?” As always, she quickly replies: “I found this on the web. Check it out:”

      • “You never want to be the smartest person in the room, quit trying.”
      • “Why being the smartest person in the room is the dumbest thing you can be.”
      • “Never be the smartest person in the room, If you are… Invite smarter people or find a different room.”
      • “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re probably not a good leader.”

Who’d a thunk it? This thinking contradicts everything we learned from decades of schooling: the honor roll, valedictorian, summa cum laude — being the smartest is the part of the education game, isn’t it? That’s why we have grades right? Perhaps, but these articles from the top 10 search results suggest that relying on one person’s genius was never smart. And if it was at one time, it’s not so smart now.

The genius in the room is the room

It’s been seven years since David Weinberger’s book Too Big to Know stripped naked the idea of relying on the knowledge of any single person. He described a world that “contains far more knowledge than any single leader could contain, tap, or manage.” Increasingly, we’re all discovering that no matter who is the smartest person in the room, the best ideas come from building on the genius of everyone in the room. So the genius in the room is the room. Which is why this issue of FLR is so special.

We’re calling it the smart issue. We started by reaching out to the people in the room and asked for their best back-to-school advice. When the dust settled the columnists, editors and guest contributors turned in more than 23 bright, practical, and red- hot-relevant ideas. We enjoyed putting this issue together, and we hope you get as much out of it as we did. But there’s more…

Taking ‘smart’ to the next level

Last year we witnessed the benefits of inviting smarter people into the room on a global scale. One hundred Flipped Learning practitioners from 49 countries collaborated for 12 months to collect, peer review, and identify the best practices for Flipped Learning. The result was eyeopening. Even the earliest pioneers of Flipped Learning acknowledged that their understanding got a boost from the collective insights that the group shared. The project turned our thinking upside down and triggered a crowdsourcing binge.



The Master Class Level-I

If you’ve taken the Flipped Learning Level-I Certification you spent 7-10 engaging hours learning how to flip your classroom from one of the earliest pioneers of Flipped Learning — Jon Bergmann. The keyword is one. This month the new Flipped Learning Level-1 Master Class Certification goes live. The completely redesigned program taps the experience of 40 Flipped Learning master practitioners from around the world. During a conference call after the course was completed, Jon said, “I think this is the best work I’ve ever created.” Those of us who have previewed the course agreed.

If you are already doing the Level -I Certification, you’ll get automatic free access to the new Master Class in the next few days. And if you are a first-year teacher or a school considering Flipped Learning, we’re offering 100 free scholarships to the Flipped Level-I Master Class Certification. Apply here.

We look forward to hearing what you think.

The Master Class facilitator

Last year we ended the original train the trainer certification. This month a new trainer certification comes online — the Master Class Facilitator Certification. This facilitator certification is part of the new Master Class Professional Learning System that replaces the “single-expert” model of teaching Flipped Learning to others. In this course, you will learn how to use the Master Class system to bring 20 to 30 of the world’s most experienced Flipped Learning masters into every workshop you facilitate. Are you starting to see a pattern here?

The 3.0 Exchange

Finally, we’ve started work on a biggest, hardest, Flipped learning crowdsourcing project yet. The 3.0 Exchange is the place where Flipped Learning educators can find and share certified lesson plans, group-space activities, and useful resources, which meet AALAS global best practices. All resources on The Exchange are provided by FLGI certified educators — from pre-k to higher education. The 3.0 exchange will make the best ideas and best practices of thousands of Flipped Learning Certified educators available to every teacher, and every professor in every flipped classroom in the world. To learn more join the 3.0 Exchange mailing list here.

The new smart

It’s easier than ever before to surround ourselves with the smartest thinking, best ideas, and access the most innovative Flipped Learning lesson plans, Group Space activities, and useful resources. We’ve found that the first step is to wholeheartedly embrace the idea that not being “the smartest person in the room” is the smartest thing we can do to make a greater difference.  

Errol St.Clair Smith
I am the Director of Global Development at the Flipped Learning Global Initiative. I joined the education community in 2005, working closely with national education organizations on community outreach and professional development. Over the last decade, I’ve led the development of community platforms for The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE); the Association of Curriculum Developers (ASCD); the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Associations for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA), and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO). I'm honored to have received four Emmy nominations and an Emmy Award for public affairs programming. In 2017 I co-authored Flipped Learning 3.0 with Jon Bergmann. The book was updated based on the AALAS Global Elements of Effective Flipped Learning in 2019.

Previous Post

I'm Heading Back to the Classroom After Seven Years

Next Post

What's the Best Way to Find and Share Flipped Learning Resources?

0 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *