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The Most Valuable Trait of Highly Successful CEOs

The most valuable trait among successful CEOs? IBM’s AI supercomputer Watson says it's intellect,, according to job site Paysa. Tell us something we don’t know, Watson, like why the brainiacs at IBM can’t figure out how to stop the company’s five-year revenue, profit and share price slide. Now that would be brilliant. 

For what it’s worth, there is something to Watson’s conclusion. I’ve never known a super-successful executive or business leader who wasn’t super-smart, and that’s going back decades in Silicon Valley, where you can’t walk down the street without bumping into at least two or three bona fide geniuses.

The question is, what does that mean to ordinary people who aren’t born with stratospheric IQs? Forget our hopes and dreams of making it big? Don’t experience, work ethic, motivation and tenacity count for something? And what about intuition -- the much talked-about gut feel that everyone says you should trust?

Related: 10 Traits of Managers Whose Teams Are Happy to Come to Work

Sure, intellect is a pretty big deal when it comes to achieving business success, but so are all those other factors. While genetics do play a role in intelligence, more of it is learned than most people realize. The same is true of most factors that determine the outcome of your career. 

Classical definitions aside, intellect describes your ability to reason objectively and solve problems and your capacity for knowledge. When it comes to intelligence, you are born with a certain potential, but how far you go in realizing that potential is based on a host of other factors, including health, upbringing, experience and behavior.

For example, if you’re particularly hungry for knowledge, that’s a big plus. If your drive is encouraged and facilitated by parents and teachers, all the better. Much of our ability to solve problems and think critically comes from education and experience. If that weren’t the case, your resume wouldn’t count for beans in a job hunt.

You're born with DNA, but 99.5 percent of it is common among all humans. Just a tiny fraction of our genetic programming is responsible for all differences in human traits. In other words, we’re far more alike than different. And we’re all born with clean slates and dynamic neural networks. Everything you experience and learn has the potential to create new neural connections that increase your “intellect.”

A great irony is that smart systems like Watson, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri learn more or less the same way you do, courtesy of a hot new field of AI called "deep learning." They’re designed with neural networks that mimic the human brain, adaptive programming that allows them to learn and access to enormous amounts of data in the cloud. The more they learn and experience, the smarter they become. Just like you.

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