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Publisher's Summary

An eye-opening examination of the stupid things smart people do - and how to cultivate skills to protect ourselves from error.

"As a rule, I have found that the greater brain a man has, and the better he is educated, the easier it has been to mystify him" (Harry Houdini to Arthur Conan Doyle). 

Smart people are not only just as prone to making mistakes as everyone else - they may be even more susceptible to them. This is the "intelligence trap", the subject of David Robson's fascinating and provocative book. 

The Intelligence Trap explores cutting-edge ideas in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, including "strategic ignorance", "meta-forgetfulness", and "functional stupidity." Robson reveals the surprising ways that even the brightest minds and most talented organizations can go wrong - from some of Thomas Edison's worst ideas to failures at NASA, Nokia, and the FBI. And he offers practical advice to avoid mistakes based on the timeless lessons of Benjamin Franklin, Richard Feynman, and Daniel Kahneman.

©2019 David Robson (P)2019 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

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    4 out of 5 stars

Informative, clear and entertaining

I enjoyed this audiobook. It's an excellent and well-researched overview of the various cognitive biases, emotional pitfalls (some of them could almost be called "old sins", such as pride and anger) and other blind spots intelligent people may be prone to, and which may lead them to making questionable decisions or stupid mistakes. Didn't feel that there was anything new under the sun though. Besides, if the "wildfires of stupidity" (authors analogy) that are continually lighting up and spreading over the internet teach us anything, it's that people who would not generally quality as "intelligent" (intellectually or emotionally) also feel proud of their "knowledge" and are willing to go to great lengths to bring the rest of the world down to their viewpoint. If history counts for something, then "stupid pride" usually leads to far greater tragedies than a plane crash or even an oil spill, as sad and damaging these events are. Please refer to the first 50 years of the 20th century for details.

This book got me thinking about my own biases and assumptions and, for that, I found it challenging in the most positive way. The research presented opens the door to discovering even more biases and cultural assumptions, which we have become so used to that we don't see them anymore. They are our blind spots. For example: I totally understand the need for critical thinking. However, having spent my life working within teams and in a collective environment, I would add that timing is everything. The onset of a project or initiative is the right time to raise issues and possible problems to be solved. But once the group gets moving, my own experience is that continually raising issues can become a project risk, and is often a symptom of lack of self-confidence or of a desire to "express one's pride in being self-assertive".

Not seeing the difficult and TENSE interplay between the need to know as much as possible and the need to act efficiently seems to be a typical blind spot of many intellectuals, especially professional writers. Let's call it the "intellectual-contemplative" bias, which could be characterized as the "belief that the world is something that can be solved through reasoning". As far as I'm concerned, practical experience shows that some decisions can be reflected upon, while others require speed, swiftness and, therefore, rely on the "jam-packed knowledge and experience" we call "intuition". I would add we may be wired to transform slow thinking into fast thinking, and that this process is at the very heart of our "existential requirements" as individual and as a species. But one can work hard on building a resilient and open intuition.

If you're looking for a book that will challenge you, make you think and open doors for future self-improvement, you'll love this one. If you can live with a British accent, you'll enjoy the narration as well.

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  • Rhonda Ressel
  • 2021-05-30

One of the best books I’ve ever listened to or read

This book covers a multitude of topics surrounding intelligence, the mind, curiosity, misinformation, education, team building and even more. Not only does it go deeply into these topics but it also provides clear actionable advise for how you can prevent the negative effects and pitfalls of the intelligence trap, while encouraging a growth mindset. If that wasn’t enough, the narration of Simon Slater is wonderful!

I found this book so good, I bought the physical copy to take notes in.

I can’t recommend it enough.

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  • Incognito
  • 2020-09-11

Learned a ton about learning in context of culture

Loved the book and the narrator. So many useful new concepts how to look at the world around me, our brains, our interactions and the various approaches to learning itself. Wish I had read this as a younger person. Going to recommend it to my nephews.

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  • John
  • 2020-04-04

interesting book I enjoyed it very much.

voice writing this book was pretty good British accent. There's a lot of information here, a good amount of it people will have at least heard of. It goes through several examples and logical explains how they're relevant. The first part of the book revolves around the individual and last part is mostly about organizations and groups of people. Overall I really enjoyed the book, it is one of the few books which I have rated at five stars.

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  • Chico
  • 2020-02-28

Enjoyed the narration...

I really enjoyed the narration and the author lists a history of smart people who were wrong on important issues which impacted their credibility.
The author falls short though, as after he explains how majority opinion is often shown to be incorrect correct over time, he then points to current group think topics and how ignorant those are that have different views. He falls for the same academic bullying he previously called out.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-08-22

Good listen

This book is a good eye opener to remind us about how we get comfortable and make mistakes. Also how crazy some of the best scientists thought outside their field of expertise. I think this is a great book for ceo's and team members in leadership.

1 person found this helpful