Feb 11, 2016
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and inﬂuential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: Career-wise, is it better to be book smart or street smart? is written by Amit Srivastav, president of Inﬁnite.
In the technology industry, there is a time and a place for both book and street smarts, but it is heavily dependent on where you are in a business lifecycle. Many of the necessary leadership skills that drive a successful tech start-up include personal finesse, the right timing, and out-of-the-box ideas. These are best served with street smarts, where entrepreneurs use their vision to develop the products and services that define what users will rely on in the future. This must be paired with the right time-to-market, when the user base is at a critical size to support a business, and before the market is saturated with competition.
These are not necessarily components that necessitate — or can even wait — for book smarts. You don’t need the “right credentials” or even the “right” degree to be at the right place at the right time. Microsoft ( MSFT 1.29% ), Apple( AAPL 0.22% ), and even Facebook ( FB 0.16% ) succeeded not from what history or numbers said customers wanted but from new ideas that transformed how customers could relate to and use technology. Bill Gates saw his opportunity and dropped out of Harvard; Mark Zuckerberg followed a similar path to form Facebook.
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