My talk on genius

I have been invited to give a talk on the topic of genius on Friday, August 18th. The talk is part of a series of monthly events organized by a group known as the Cleveland chapter of Creative Mornings. It is a global program with chapters in cities all over the world and each month all chapters feature programs on a single theme and this month it is genius. You can learn more about the event here and on Facebook and on this month’s theme here.

The Cleveland chapter programs use a different location each month and my talk will be in the lovely Eastman Reading Garden of the Cleveland Public Library, a magnificent institution in downtown Cleveland. It is free and open to all. Breakfast is provided at 8:30am, my interactive talk and Q/A begins at around 9:00am, and the program wraps up at 9:50am.

I was surprised to learn that they usually get a crowd of over a hundred people for these weekday morning events. And these are not retired people either, the majority of them being in the 30-45 age group.

I can share the punch line of my talk here and that is that I do not think that ‘genius’ is a useful concept since it is so hard to pin down. It may even be harmful since it gives undue credence to the idea that cognitive abilities are largely genetic and thus it makes people far too quickly decide that there are some things that are not even worth attempting because they were not born with that ability.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    I recently read this in Otto Eisenschiml’s The Hidden Face of the Civil War, quoting an Ohio Congressmember cited only as Rep. Riddle describing an informal advisor to Lincoln named Anna Ella Carroll:

    She had made such valuable suggestions to the President, showing such an aptitude (genius we should call it in a man) for affairs, and for schemes and plans of campaign, that at the suggestion of Thomas A. Scott, Assistant Secretary of War, the President sent her to St. Louis to advise as to an expedition down the Mississippi. She went, held counsel with the most experienced river pilots, and advised against it. . . . She returned to Washington with the matured plan of the Tennessee campaign. . . . She was a woman, and that fact would have discredited all the generals and professionals in the army. . .

    Genius, or aptitude, is where you find it.

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