Four-Day Work Week: A Bane or a Boon?

An idea that’s been around for a while, but has gained traction in the last few years, the four-day workweek is an arrangement where a workplace or place of education has its employees or students work or attend school, college, or university over four days per week rather than the more customary five. This arrangement can be a part of flexible working hours and is sometimes used to cut costs. Typically, employees work longer hours during those four days to compensate for the lost day.

The idea behind the four-day workweek is to provide employees with more time for personal pursuits, such as family, hobbies, or other interests, while still completing the same amount of work. It is believed that a shorter workweek can increase productivity, reduce stress, and improve work-life balance.

The five-day workweek is a cultural norm; the result of early 1900s union advocacy to reduce the six-day workweek, which led to the invention of the weekend. In the early 20th century, when the average work week in developed nations was reduced from around 60 to 40 hours, it was expected that further decreases would occur over time. In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes estimated that technological change and productivity improvements would make a 15-hour work week possible within a couple of generations. Other In 1956, then US Vice President Richard Nixon promised Americans they would only have to work four days in the not-too-distant future.

While the idea of a four-day workweek has been around for many years, it has gained more attention in recent years as some companies and governments have experimented with it as a way to increase employee well-being and productivity. Some companies have reported positive results, such as reduced absenteeism, improved employee morale, and even increased profits. However, it is important to note that the implementation and success of a four-day workweek can vary depending on the company, industry, and specific circumstances.

Most advocates for a four-day working week argue for a fixed work schedule, resulting in shorter weeks like four 8-hour workdays for a total of 32 hours. This follows the 100-80-100 model: 100% pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintaining at least 100% productivity. However, some companies have introduced a four-day week based on a compressed work schedule: in the so-called 4/10 work week, the widely-used 40 weekly work hours are distributed across four days instead of five, resulting in 10-hour-long workdays, hence four-ten.

The resulting schedule may look different depending on the way the four-day week is implemented: in some variants Friday becomes the permanent non-working day, giving employees three consecutive days off over the weekend; some workplaces split the day off among the staff, with half taking Monday off and the other half taking Friday off; sometimes the day off is added in the middle of the week such as a Wednesday, allowing for a mid-week break; and, in some cases, the day off changes from week to week, depending on the company’s current goals and workload.

The push towards implementing the four-day week has remained loosely relevant within the contemporary workplace due to the various possible benefits it may yield. Although mostly untested, these benefits mainly lie within increased cost-cutting, productivity, and work-life balance. The theory behind this is, employees or students who work or attend school one less day a week will have additional time to pursue hobbies, spend time with family, get more sleep, and increase overall morale. Consequently, these employees or students will be more productive and refreshed for working or learning, which will make up for the lost day when they would otherwise be overworked and/or overtired. In addition, by having the workplace or school open one less day a week, the operating costs and environmental costs will decrease for businesses and society alike.

Where four-day weeks have been instituted so far, workers gain a better work-life balance that enables them to live happier and more fulfilled lives, and employers can recruit and retain high-quality and well-rested workers who deliver greater productivity and creativity. More broadly, a four-day week provides opportunities to rebalance employment, decreasing the number of overworked and unemployed or underemployed people and allows for greater gender equality through a more equal share of paid and unpaid work, too, including the caring roles that disproportionately fall on women, and better health and wellbeing for workers and their loved ones.

The four-day week movement has grown considerably in recent years, with increasing numbers of businesses and organisations around the world trialling and moving permanently to a four-day working week of around 32 hours, with no less pay for workers. Most of these businesses and organisations have found that a four-day week is a win-win for employees and employers, as trials have indicated that it leads to a better work-life balance, lower stress levels, and increased productivity. An overwhelming majority of studies report that a four-day week leads to increased productivity and decreased stress.

Other benefits include improved work-life balance as with an additional day off, employees can use the extra time to pursue personal interests, spend time with family and friends, or simply relax and recharge. This can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Research has shown that shorter workweeks can increase productivity, as employees may feel more motivated and focused during their work hours. Additionally, having longer weekends can provide employees with more time to rest and recharge, leading to better performance during the workweek. A four-day workweek can result in cost savings for both employees and employers. Employees may save money on transportation, meals, and other work-related expenses. For employers, there may be cost savings on utilities, rent, and other overhead expenses. A four-day workweek can help reduce absenteeism and turnover rates, as employees are often more satisfied with their work-life balance and feel more valued by their employer. Providing employees with a more flexible and balanced work schedule can lead to increased morale and engagement, as employees feel that their employer cares about their well-being and work-life balance. Evidence shows that cutting working hours isn’t only good for people: it’s good for the planet. It lowers energy use, meaning less pollution and an opportunity for us to live more sustainably and tackle the climate crisis. A four-day workweek can lead to a more satisfied, productive, and engaged workforce, which can ultimately benefit both employees and employers. An increase in remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in the desire for flexible work arrangements.

While a four-day workweek can have many benefits, there are also potential disadvantages to consider. Some of the possible drawbacks include longer workdays because to accommodate a four-day workweek, employees may have to work longer hours during those four days. This can lead to fatigue, burnout, and reduced productivity, especially if the work is physically or mentally demanding. Implementing a four-day workweek may reduce the number of days that employees are available to clients, customers, or colleagues. This can lead to delays in communication or project completion, which could be frustrating for stakeholders. With employees working different schedules, it can be more challenging to coordinate meetings, training sessions, or other group activities. This can lead to decreased collaboration and teamwork, which could impact productivity and morale. If employees are working fewer hours, they may receive reduced pay or benefits. This could be a disadvantage for employees who rely on a full-time salary to meet their financial needs. For some businesses, a four-day workweek may result in a loss of income, especially if they are not able to maintain the same level of productivity or customer service during the shorter workweek.

The first large-scale study of a four-day workweek ended recently and not one of the 33 participating companies is returning to a standard five-day schedule. Data released showed that the organisations involved registered gains in revenue and employee productivity, as well as drops in absenteeism and turnover. Workers on a four-day schedule were also more inclined to work from the office than home. The study is the first from a series of pilots coordinated by the New Zealand-based non-profit advocacy group 4 Day Week Global and involving dozens of companies in ongoing six-month pilots. A US and Canadian trial began in October, and a pilot of mostly European and South African organisations begins in February. With each iteration, researchers will adjust their data collection, including long-term tracking of how organisations fare with lighter schedules.

Dozens of indicators, ranging from productivity to well-being and fatigue, all improved as the companies transitioned. One weakness of the study is that all of the participating organisations opted in, meaning leadership was already biased toward four-day weeks. But employees, who did not necessarily opt-in, were won over. Ninety-seven per cent wanted to continue with four-day schedules, with workers reporting less work stress, burnout, anxiety, and fatigue, along with fewer sleep problems. Exercise also increased by 24 minutes a week, putting workers in line with World Health Organisation-recommended exercise targets. Employees also reported fewer conflicts between work and family, and fewer instances of coming home from work too tired to do necessary household tasks. Notably, the extra time off was not used for secondary employment, but for hobbies, housework, and self-care instead.

The four-day workweek is a big step today, especially when the majority of work can be done anywhere. What do you think, is this something you would be willing to do while working full-time? Please let me know in the comments.

Are you a Fox or a Hedgehog?

The ancient Greek poet Archilochus wrote a now-lost parable with the following moral: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The general gist of the line is this: Some people see the details in everything they do, like the fox, while others are great at having one singular vision, like the hedgehog. This animal-centric adage is at the heart of a lesson in “On Grand Strategy,” an instruction manual for would-be leaders based on popular seminars by Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis. Taking a cue from a 1953 essay by British-American philosopher Isaiah Berlin, Gaddis discusses how great leaders and thinkers can be categorized as either hedgehogs or foxes. Berlin went so far as to say that this split is “one of the deepest differences [that] divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general.”


Typically, a generalist is someone who has a broad range of knowledge and skills across multiple fields, while a specialist is someone who has deep knowledge and expertise in a specific field or area. Generalists tend to have a wider range of job opportunities and can adapt to new situations and changing circumstances more easily than specialists. They also tend to have a better understanding of how different fields and disciplines are interconnected and can often see connections and opportunities that specialists might miss. Specialists, on the other hand, tend to have a more in-depth understanding of their field of expertise and can contribute more to projects and teams that require specialized knowledge and skills. They also tend to be more sought after and command higher salaries in their field of expertise. Generalists can understand and see connections between different subjects, while specialists can focus on and solve complex problems within their area of expertise. Generalists are often more adaptable and can work on a wider range of tasks, while specialists have a deeper understanding of their field and can contribute significantly to its advancement.

While a specialist systematically hones skills related to their domain, a generalist seeks to sharpen a wide range of related skills that will prove useful in multiple domains. The proliferation of startups and small businesses has surged the demand for generalists who come with a vast spectrum of knowledge and experience. However, when the requirement is for deep technical knowledge in critical fields, the skills of a specialist are much more marketable. When a company is looking at upscaling operations within its domain, the specialist is more progressive when it comes to creative ideas. Generalists are progressive when it comes to accepting a varied number of clients with different needs and expectations. Owing to their interpersonal skills and a broad-based learning curve, generalists can handle uncertainties efficiently. In terms of transferability, generalists fare better than specialists as their wide range of specialities is easily transferable to different domains. Specialists aren’t able to transfer their domain-related expertise to another field or even to another discipline within the same domain.

Both generalists and specialists have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the particular situation and the needs of the employer or organization. It’s also worth mentioning that, while some people may naturally lean towards being a generalist or a specialist, it is also possible to develop skills in both areas through continuous learning and development.

Specialists have expertise in their area of specialisation because they are focused on one domain, which attracts high-paying clients since subject-specific expertise gaps are more difficult to fill. The ability to undertake extensive targeted research and a quality understanding of the domain earn specialists attractive remuneration. Specialists are also more equipped to handle any new technological complexity in the field as they dedicate years to exploring the different facets of the domain. On the other hand, because they are focused on one area of expertise, the lack of diversity within the job profile hinders growth. A specialized portfolio has limited scope for independent expansion. With rapid technological advancements, specialists risk falling behind if they don’t update their skill sets frequently. Specialists usually perform within a narrower domain than generalists. As they dive deeper into their domain, the relevant working fields surrounding them gradually shrink.

Generalists cover several domains and envision the bigger picture as they combine multiple perspectives from different departments. A direct result of being open to a lot of unique challenges is acquiring strong critical thinking skills and this enables generalists to offer actionable insights into their areas of expertise. Their ability to explore various domains and a high multitasking quotient make generalists excel in leadership roles. A large number of skills arm generalists with the capacity to diversify their services which helps them swap career paths easily and give their clients a lot of alternatives to work with. But a lack of specific expertise in any domain puts them on a back foot as they aren’t that competent in niche projects. A high percentage of generalists work across multiple teams and tackle a host of responsibilities, especially if they are in leadership roles. This often leads to psychological burnout. Generalists are also easier to replace owing to their overlapping or vaguely defined work responsibilities and so these positions are prone to lower pay scales as compared to a specialist.

Whether it is better to be a generalist or a specialist depends on the individual’s goals, interests, and circumstances. For some careers, such as medicine or law, specialisation is required to achieve a high level of expertise and be successful in the field. In other fields, a generalist approach can be beneficial, as it allows individuals to have a wider range of skills and knowledge, making them more versatile and adaptable in the face of changing circumstances. In many cases, a combination of both generalist and specialist skills can be advantageous, allowing individuals to understand the broader context of their area of expertise and effectively communicate and apply their knowledge. Ultimately, the choice between being a generalist or a specialist is a personal one and should be based on individual strengths, interests, and career goals.

Some of the questions one needs to ask themselves are if one seeks a diverse breadth of knowledge or if one prefers deep research on any specific topic. Do they change their career perspective often and prefer taking time to find the niche they are interested in? Or have they already determined their career trajectory? One also needs to work out what kind of work ignites their interests and passions and if it requires them to hone different skills or demands specific subject-matter expertise. The ideal workforce of today is a carefully balanced group of specialised generalists who recognise their varied strengths but rely on others’ domain-specific expertise, and generalised specialists who are people with core competencies who also delve into other related areas.

So would you rather be a fox or a hedgehog? I am going to ask BB and GG this question after making them read this article.

A VUCA World and how it impacts us

The past few years have shown us in no uncertain words how volatile our world is. Every week brings new changes and most of us are unable to make any plans because we don’t know what next week will bring us.

This is encapsulated very well in the acronym VUCA which stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous which stands for what our world is today. First used in 1987, the acronym draws on the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, to describe or to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The U.S. Army War College introduced the concept of VUCA to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world perceived as resulting from the end of the Cold War and more frequent use and discussion of the term VUCA began from 2002. It has subsequently taken root in emerging ideas in strategic leadership that apply in a wide range of organizations, from for-profit corporations to education.

The deeper meaning of each element of VUCA serves to enhance the strategic significance of the VUCA foresight and insight as well as the behaviour of groups and individuals in organisations. It discusses systemic failures and behavioural failures, which are characteristic of organisational failure.

V stands for Volatility which is the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts. It refers to the speed of change in an industry, market or the world in general. It is associated with fluctuations in demand, turbulence and short time to markets and it is well-documented in the literature on industry dynamism. The more volatile the world is, the more and faster things change.

U is Uncertainty or the lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events. Uncertainty refers to the extent to which we can confidently predict the future. Part of the uncertainty is perceived and associated with people’s inability to understand what is going on. Uncertainty, though, is also a more objective characteristic of an environment. Truly uncertain environments are those that don’t allow any prediction, also not on a statistical basis. The more uncertain the world is, the harder it is to predict.

C means Complexity which is the multiplex of forces, the confounding of issues, no cause-and-effect chain and confusion that surrounds organisations. It refers to the number of factors that we need to take into account, their variety and the relationships between them. The more factors, the greater their variety and the more they are interconnected, the more complex an environment is. Under high complexity, it is impossible to fully analyse the environment and come to rational conclusions. The more complex the world is, the harder it is to analyse.

And lastly, A stands for Ambiguity which encompasses the haziness of reality, the potential for misreads, and the mixed meanings of conditions and the cause-and-effect confusion. These elements present the context in which organizations view their current and future state, present boundaries for planning and policy management and come together in ways that either confound decisions or sharpen the capacity to look, plan and move ahead. It points to a lack of clarity about how to interpret something. A situation is ambiguous, for example, when information is incomplete, contradicting or too inaccurate to draw clear conclusions. More generally it refers to fuzziness and vagueness in ideas and terminology. The more ambiguous the world is, the harder it is to interpret.

The particular meaning and relevance of VUCA often relate to how people view the conditions under which they make decisions, plan forward, manage risks, foster change and solve problems. In general, the premises of VUCA tend to shape an organisation’s capacity to anticipate the issues that shape, understand the consequences of issues and actions, appreciate the interdependence of variables, prepare for alternative realities and challenges and interpret and address relevant opportunities. For most organisations, VUCA is a practical code for awareness and readiness.

So how can we try and navigate a VUCA World? Though it may seem inescapable in certain situations and industries, one can use it to advantage. The key to managing is to break VUCA down into its parts and to identify volatile, uncertain, complex, or ambiguous situations. Each type of situation has its causes and resolutions, so one should aim to deal with one at a time.

  • Counter volatility with vision. Accept and embrace change as a constant and don’t resist it.
  • Create a strong, compelling statement of objectives and values, and develop a clear, shared vision of the future. Have flexible goals which can be amended quickly.
  • Meet uncertainty with understanding which can help understand and develop new ways of thinking and acting in response to VUCA’s elements.
  • Make investing in, analysing and interpreting business and competitive intelligence a priority, so that one doesn’t fall behind. Stay up to date with industry news, and listen carefully to find out what others want.
  • Review and evaluate performance. Consider what one did well, what came as a surprise, and what one could do differently next time.
  • Simulate and experiment with situations, so that one can explore how they might play out, and how one might react to them in the future. Aim to anticipate possible future threats and devise likely responses. Gaming, scenario planning, crisis planning and role-playing are useful tools for generating foresight and preparing responses.
  • Communicate clearly because in complex situations, clearly expressed communication help to understand direction.
  • Develop and promote collaboration. VUCA situations are often too complicated for one person to handle, so strong teams that can work effectively in a fast-paced, unpredictable environment is essential.
  • Fight ambiguity with agility by promoting flexibility, adaptability and agility. Plan, but build in contingency time and be prepared to alter plans as events unfold.
  • Hire, develop and promote people who thrive in VUCA environments as these people are likely to be collaborative, comfortable with ambiguity and change, and have complex thinking skills.
  • Encourage people to think and work outside of their usual functional areas, to increase their knowledge and experience. Job rotation and cross-training can be excellent ways to improve agility.
  • Lead teams, but don’t dictate to or control them, instead develop collaborative environments and work hard to build a consensus. Encourage debate, dissent and participation from everyone.
  • Embrace an ideas culture. Reward team members who demonstrate vision, understanding, clarity, and agility.

When one is affected by VUCA, one has a choice. Either one allows VUCA to manage, overload and overwhelm them, or they accept and manage it so that they can mitigate its effects. When one decides to accept VUCA, they choose to make themselves and others less vulnerable and empower everyone to deal with uncontrollable, unpredictable forces.

The Tiara Syndrome: Something that will never happen unless you ask for it

A term coined by Carol Frohlinger and Deborah Kolb, the founders of Negotiating Women, Inc, the Tiara Syndrome or the Tiara Effect is used to describe how many women approach salary and raise negotiations.

As Carol Frohlinger says, “Women expect that if they keep doing their job well someone will notice them and place a tiara on their head. That never happens.”

The fact is, most women don’t negotiate. That tiara is the recognition in the form of increased salary or pay. Women believe that they will be recognised for their value and automatically be paid what they are worth but the reality is, you have to ask for what you want. And if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

In her bestselling book, Lean-In, Sheryl Sandberg says, “Women are also more reluctant to apply for promotions even when deserved, often believing that good job performance will naturally lead to rewards.”

Many women feel that working hard and doing a good job will be enough and the reality is that women are often extremely conscientious at delivering against their objectives. Just as at school where girls’ conscientiousness often leads to higher academic results than achieved by boys, many women believe that this same strategy will lead to success at work. However, sometimes this very diligence gets in the way of fast-tracking their careers. Many women are so so focused on doing the operational aspects of their job well that they don’t have time to step back and focus on strategic priorities and they often feel they do not have space in their busy working weeks to fit in networking which is seen as an unnecessary, and often uncomfortable, use of their precious time. In the same vein, they do not seek mentors to guide them or get the support of sponsors to give them the invaluable exposure and opportunities needed to step up to senior leadership positions.

Academic psychologist Cordelia Fine says such behaviour stems from socialisation, not innate differences between the sexes. And, of course, some men are sufferers, just as many women aren’t. But how do those who have been schooled not to boast learn to champion their cause and get over tiara syndrome?

A 2003 study of thirty-eight business students conducted University of California at Irvine discovered that 85% of the men believed that it was up to them to make sure their company paid them what they were worth. Only 17% of the women in the study believed this to be the case. The remaining 15% of the men and 83% of women assumed their worth would be determined by what their company paid them. The Tiara Syndrome only adds to the pay disparity between men and women. If we don’t ask for more pay based on our contributions, the answer is always no.

As women, we don’t negotiate. Most of us don’t negotiate our first job offer, which has been calculated to equal $500,000 over the length of her career. And all because we don’t speak up for ourselves and our worth.

So why do we women avoid negotiating? This is to a large extent because of the social conditioning females are brought up in where we are always told to be polite and quiet. Asking for money seems, greedy and rude and it is also uncomfortable. Frohlinger advises women to keep a work journal by month detailing the projects and accomplishments achieved, client kudos, amounts in new business created, or savings generated. This compelling evidence of their value to the company can be persuasively presented during a salary negotiation. Even if one gets an automatic raise annually, this substantiation of the corporate value could pay off in a larger increase. If you are stepping into a new role or moving to a new organization, don’t settle for the first offer.

Tory Johnson, the CEO of Women for Hire and Good Morning America’s career expert recommends the following for negotiating that initial offer. Start positive and get the whole compensation package in writing if it has been verbal so far. Be firm. If you have been offered a package lower than your expectations, then let them know politely with an emphasis on the skills and experience you bring to the role and ask them how much wriggle room is available. Every organisation will have a wriggle room, especially for someone they deem the best fit. Follow up especially if the hiring manager is firm on their offer. Work towards reaching an agreement, on paper, for a salary negotiation or review within a pre-determined period. Also try and negotiate on non-money aspects like vacation time, flexible working arrangements, medical benefits, etc.

What are the blocks that don’t allow extremely able women from progressing? These include insufficient impact and presence and lack of a strong personal brand, a lowered productivity and overwhelm through being pulled in too many directions at once as well as poor work-life balance, a belief that doing a good job will be enough and not seeking sponsors, discomfort with networking both internally and externally, being insufficiently strategic and too stuck in the detail, a lack of strategic career planning and reduced confidence and lack of self-belief as a leader.

If you suffer from this syndrome, here’s what you can do to overcome it:

Own your career, acknowledge that you suffer from the syndrome and come up with an action plan. If you don’t like talking about it, use technology instead. Copy your boss into relevant emails and share them on your professional social media accounts. Keep a career journal to keep a record of your accomplishments. This is great for building evidence required for negotiations, it can be confidence boosting and be useful for CVs, appraisals, and other career development opportunities. Stop comparing yourself to others and plan for and maximise the formal opportunities for negotiation, whether for a pay rise or a promotion. Build your brand and internal network. Your brand also includes managing your energetic presence, personal image and communication, including body language. Harness Your Potential which includes identifying and capitalising on strengths as well as being clear about which weaker areas are mission-critical and maximising time and energy. Creating a balance between work and other aspects of life is also vital for sustainable career success. Cultivate supportive relationships within your current work setting as well as the wider professional network, including sponsors and mentors. It is important to be able to initiate these relationships, enhance your influence and also handle difficult relationships. Focus on strategy and volunteer for strategic or extra credit projects so that you can develop an idea of the big picture. Thinking like a leader is necessary to develop a leadership mindset and this includes handling the little voice of doubt that we all have in our heads and also learning to let go of some of what we have excelled at to take on even higher level leadership tasks.

It’s naive to think that delivering excellent results is all that it takes to succeed in the workplace. The playing field is not yet equal for women; the fact is that women have to negotiate for things their male colleagues can often take for granted. In addition to the obvious issue regarding compensation, women should negotiate for high visibility assignments, the resources they need to get the job done, support from those senior in the organization and buy-in from colleagues. They should also negotiate in their personal lives for the things that will enable them to be successful in the workplace. Effective negotiation is a prerequisite to “leaning in”. As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Do not wait for power to be offered. Like that tiara, it might never materialise.” So to all the women reading this post, if you have the Tiara Syndrome, shrug it off and know that you too are worth it!

Book Smart or Street Smart


A topic that has been in my mind for a while now, is the eternal debate between being book smart and street smart and which is better. Book smart is an adjective that refers to the learning or education one gets and describes a person whose knowledge greatly derives from book-learning, as opposed to practical experience, or street smarts. Book smart is knowledge derived from facts, science and communication and is explicit knowledge. Street smart, on the other hand, is procedural or practical knowledge on how to accomplish something. It is often tacit knowledge, which means that it can be difficult to transfer to another person through writing it down or verbalising it.

Someone who is known as being book smart people is usually well-read and often have read the classics, know facts and information that many other people don’t and are usually good at things like trivia games and crossword puzzles. The stereotype of a book-smart person is someone who deals with ordinary but challenging situations, especially bad or difficult ones, only from an intellectual point of view by basing their decisions strictly on available facts, accumulated knowledge, or personal insights primarily obtained from an educational environment. Book smart people are good with exams and academically inclined and enjoy the structure of the learning environment. They believe value lies in knowing things and reading things and are sometimes described as smart dumb people. In fact, in Tamil, there is a term for such people known as Padicha Muttal which means an educated fool

On the other hand, people who are good at dealing with practical life problems have lots of street-smarts. They may not be as educated or read as much as those with book smarts, but they have something just as valuable – the ability to use their experiences in many different situations. They are very aware of their surroundings. The stereotype of a street-smart person is someone who knows how to handle practical situations in everyday life necessary to get things done but is not as inherently educated or gifted academically.

In their most extreme and negative stereotypes, book-smart people are essentially naive, easily manipulated, unfeeling, and display bad judgment in ordinary situations while street-smart people are unintelligent and incapable of achieving higher education, but are more passionate and can usually find an answer to a problem through trial and error.

In my opinion, neither alone is good and a combination of book smarts with a dash of street smartness is what differentiates the wheat from the chaff. A highly educated person should not be derided for the advantages they may have and at the same time, just having a certificate does not prove that they know. Conversely, street-smart people are often demeaned simply because they are classified as those who didn’t have the grades to study at an institute of higher learning. Sometimes they are much smarter than those who are highly qualified.

Politics, power, social dynamics, leadership abilities, professional networks, and social status play a big part in an individual’s ability to succeed in life. To succeed in this environment, a person needs to navigate successfully in an opaque world and make the right decisions. In many situations and, in most industries, with the possible exception of teaching and academia, being book smart but not street smart is a distinct disadvantage. Being street smart doesn’t mean one is uneducated, undereducated or unintelligent and dumb. Being street smart means one is more aware of what is happening around them. They have environmental and situational awareness and can judge a situation so they can react to it accordingly. Street smartness comes from life’s experiences and situations that one would have encountered.

Someone who is only book smart, with low to no street smartness will only have the theoretical aspects of what he or she has learnt, but will not know if the theory works in real life. But, without the foundation of that theory, maybe the practical applications can only go so far. So a combination of both is where you hit that sweet spot. The key to success in the workplace and, in all aspects of life, is to have some, actually quite a bit of street smartness. With only book knowledge, when an individual enters the real world, the going is get tough. In these situations, those with street smarts are ready to fight and defend themselves because they have prepared themselves for these moments. This is where their expertise comes into play. They have the world experience, which trumps the book smarts word experience every single time. They have life skills, which trumps the abstract learning of those with bookish knowledge and they know and understand their environment and who is in it.

For someone who is not very street smart, and I count myself in this, here are some good tips to increase your confidence levels.

Recognise your faults and use setbacks to learn and grow. Get in there, the environment you want to succeed in and immerse yourself in it. Get involved with all the nitty-gritty of the work you are doing and be completely hands-on. Learn from mistakes and make sure every experience, whether positive or negative, teaches you something, even if it is what not to do. Doing so will make you more accustomed, more comfortable, and more aware of your world. Also, learn to look for opportunities that are everywhere, but need a keen eye to spot. Acknowledge that people are different and so keep track of their biases, consciously put them aside and judge each person on their merit. That will make you more effective at evaluating people. Choose what feels most certain rather than what’s most logical. And this is something I struggle with, I feel some decisions, and then my logical brain takes over and I change my decision which more often than not backfires. If something is too perfect, too simple, then it’s probably not right, you need to prod and find out more. Everything you do, keep an eye on the future and not just be in the present. A street-smart person puts aside the primal pull of scarcity and assesses value based on utility. In some cases, they may even profit off of other people’s obsession with scarcity.

Become more aware, detach yourself from your emotions because emotions lead to poor decision-making skills, slow down your thinking and become more deliberate using logic which allows seeing through manipulative efforts to choose what’s best for you rather than what feels emotionally satisfying will make you more street smart, even if you are not one now.