How can I identify the smartest person in the room?
In business and social settings it is pretty easy to identify who the most powerful or influential person in the room is. They have the fanciest title, everyone around them is seeking their approval, and when they make a statement the group falls into agreement. It’s very easy to identify the most powerful person in the room, but the most powerful person is very rarely the smartest person.
So how do you identify the brains of the operation? The man/woman behind the curtain so to speak. In my experience there is a little trick that can be helpful in picking this person out of the crowd.
Watch who the most powerful person looks at after they answer a question.
When we make statements or answer questions we instinctually check to make sure the others around us approve. Humans are social creatures and the approval of our peers is important. More important than peer approval however is receiving validation from someone who we view as a thought leader or an expert in a given topic.
This is why you see so many people on media sites like Twitter and the likes, get excited when a Top writer retweets or comments on their posts . That Top Writer is seen as an expert so gaining their approval must mean that what you had to say was important and correct. Sure each Retweet or comment counts as one, but that specific one carries the weight of an industry leader behind it.
So that’s a little habit I have gotten in to. When I’m in a meeting or at a conference, I always watch who the most senior person in the room looks to for approval after answering a question. Who do they loop in to provide additional insight?
So my advice to you is this. When you find yourself in a room full of people and you are wondering who the most intelligent person is, just let the most powerful person in the room tell you. You don’t have to ask them to tell you, just watch who they seek out approval from when they make statements and give an answer to a question.