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Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense

Karl Albrecht

ISBN: 978-0-470-44432-0 February 2009 Pfeiffer 416 Pages


Karl Albrecht’s bestselling book Social Intelligence showed us how dealing with people and social situations can determine success both at work and in life. Now, in this groundbreaking book Practical Intelligence, Albrecht takes the next step and explains how practical intelligence (PI) qualifies as one of the key life skills and offers a conceptual structure for defining and describing common sense.

Throughout Practical Intelligence, Albrecht explains that people with practical intelligence can employ language skills, make better decisions, think in terms of options and possibilities, embrace ambiguity and complexity, articulate problems clearly and work through to solutions, have original ideas, and influence the ideas of others. Albrecht shows that everyone’s PI skills can be improved with proper education and training and challenges all of us—from parents and teachers to executives and managers—to upgrade our own skills and help others develop their own PI abilities.

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1. A Problem and an Opportunity.

Accidental Intelligence: The Terminal Assumption.

The Widening "Smart Gap".

The Dumbing of America and the Culture of Amusement.

Knows and Know-Nots: The New Social Divide.

Who Cares? Who Needs to Care?

2. Multiple Intelligences: The Possible Human.

IQ Doesn't Tell the Whole Story.

There Are at Least Six Kinds of "Smart".

Building Out: Applying Theory to Everyday Life.

Build-Out 1: Emotional Intelligence.

Build-Out 2: Social Intelligence.

The Next Build-Out: Practical Intelligence.

3. What Is Practical Intelligence?

Thinking Is a Bodily Function.

Meet Your Biocomputer.

Brain Cycles, Brainwaves, Brain States, and the Daily Trance.

Mind-Modules: You Have Many "Minds".

Mind-Models: Your Portable Reality.

Four Habits That Unlock Your Mental Capacity.

Four Dimensions of PI: Your Mega-Skills.

Getting Started: Upgrading Your Mental "Software".

4. Mental Software Upgrade 1: Developing Mental Flexibility.

Are You a Finished Product?

Dynamic Thinking and Archaic Thinking.

You Might Be a Mental Redneck . . .

The Creative Paradox.

The "Beginner's Mind&": Innocence and Humility.

The "Plexity" Scale.

There Is No Truth--Only Your Truth, His Truth, Her Truth, Their Truth . . .

How I Learned to Stop Arguing with People.

A New Way to Think About Opinions.

Three Phrases That Can Keep Your Mind Open.

5. Mental Software Upgrade 2: Adopting Affirmative Thinking.

Cleaning Out the Attic: Mental Decontamination.

"Sensorship": Choosing What You Will Allow into Your Mind.

Resistance to Enculturation, a.k.a. "Crap Detecting".

Cleanse Your Mind with a "Media Fast".

Re-Engineering Your Attitudes.

The Attitude of Gratitude.

The Attitude of Abundance.

Practical Altruism.

Meditation, Mindmovies, and Affirmations.

6. Mental Software Upgrade 3: Adopting Sane Language Habits.

Language as Mental Software: What You Say Is What You Think.

The "Cookie Cutter" Effect of Language.

Jumping to Confusions: Inferential Thinking.

"Clean" and "Dirty" Language: Strategies for Semantic Sanity.

Expressions You Can Remove from Your Vocabulary.

The Self-Conversation: Cleaning Up Your Internal Dialog.

Snappy Comebacks: The Language of Funny.

7. Mental Software Upgrade 4: Valuing Ideas.

Do You Have Lots of Good Ideas? (Almost Everyone Does).

"It Slipped My Mind . . ." (Almost Everything Does).

The Greatest Thinking Tool Ever Invented.

Thinking in Pictures.

Are You a Yes-Person or a No-Person?

The P.I.N. Formula: Protecting Ideas.

Using Your Magical Incubator.

"Metaboxical" Thinking: Breaking the Boundaries.

8. Mega-Skill 1: "Bivergent" Thinking.

The Divergent-Convergent Polarity: The D-C Axis.

Process Consciousness: Managing the "Pivot Point".

Groupthink: The Collusion to Fail.

Brainstorming: More Often Talked About Than Done.

Systematic Creativity: The Balancing Act.

9. Mega-Skill 2: "Helicopter" Thinking.

The Abstract-Concrete Polarity: The A-C Axis.

Visionaries and Actionaries: We Need Both.

Connecting the Dots: You Have to See Them to Connect Them.

Painting the Big Picture: Mindmapping.

Explaining the Big Picture: Using the Language of Ideas.

10. Mega-Skill 3: "Intulogical" Thinking.

The Logical-Intuitive Polarity: The L-I Axis.

Thinking Styles: Yours and Others?

Sequential Thinking: Re-Owning Your Logical Abilities.

Trusting Your Hunches: Re-Owning Your Intuitive Abilities.

The "Zen Mind": Flow and Mindfulness.

11. Mega-Skill 4: "Viscerational" Thinking.

The Rational-Emotive Polarity: The R-E Axis.

First We Decide--Then We Justify: Irrational Thinking Explained.

We'e All Neurotic, and That's OK.

The Five Primal Fears We Live By: The Psychology of Risk.

Signal Reactions: Disconnecting Your Hot Buttons.

Emotions and Health: If It's on Your Mind, It's on Your Body.

Can You Motivate Yourself? The "Popeye Point".

12. How to Become an Expert Problem Solver.

Forget Those "Five Steps" They Taught You.

Using Heuristic (a.k.a. Natural) Problem Solving.

Your Five Key Mindzones.

The High-Speed Problem-Solving Process.

13. Success Programming: Causing the Outcomes You Want.

Using What We've Learned.

Mindmovies: Who's Producing Your Life's Story?

Alpha Programming: Making the Movies You Want.

Your Life Wheel: Taking Stock, Setting Priorities, and Making Changes.


A. Answers to Thinking Exercises.

B. Fifty Tips for Better Thinking.

C. A Vocabulary for Practical Intelligence.

D. A Code of Intelligent Discourse.

E. Learn to Meditate in "One" Lesson: The Harvard Mantra.


About the Author.

"Albrecht’s practical intelligence builds on the ideas of multiple intelligence, outlining a series of guidelines and exercises to promote better approaches to problem solving" (Financial Times, Thursday 19th July 2007)