Naval Ravikant has a saying: “Clear thinker” is a better compliment than “smart“. He doesn’t define exactly what he means by this, but if you’ve ever observed smart people acting stupidly (or done so yourself), then it’s clear they are not exactly the same.
To me, clear thinking seems to imply two things:
- An ability to think logically and rationally.
- An ability to be able to articulate or explain your reasoning.
Professors Keith Stanovich and Richard West have also proposed that there are actually two types of rationality: epistemic rationality (the ability to see reality accurately) and instrumental rationality (the ability to pursue one’s goals in a rational manner). Importantly, they also posit that someone’s “RQ” (rationality quotient) is only loosely correlated with someone’s IQ.
It has been my experience that many people – and particularly folks who have been in a field for a long time – have very powerful intuitions. However, their ability to articulate their intuitions and the rational basis behind them is often much weaker.
This is one of the reasons why I think the practice of writing can be helpful, as it forces you to slow down and verbalize your intuitions.