HOUSTON — In his 10th book, “Overlooked: Being and Finding That Diamond in The Rough”, author Thomas Fellows talks about times in life when we are overlooked or rejected.
JM: So, what did you want to talk about today, Thomas?
TF: I wanted to talk about my 10th book, “Overlooked: Being and Finding That Diamond in The Rough”
JM: Okay, sounds good. What inspired you to write this book?
TF: I wanted to write this book because at many times in my life I felt overlooked whether it be getting rejected by a girl, family thinking I was going to fail, friends leaving me out, not getting jobs, or once I did get a job, getting fired.
JM: Wow, sounds like you have been overlooked a lot… why do you think that is the case?
TF: Well, I think we look at intelligence the wrong way. Most people focus on raw intelligence instead of practical intelligence. While I never possessed a great deal of raw intelligence (I made in the 82% percentile on the SAT and on the 91% on the ACT), I always had a great deal of practical intelligence. Just so you know, with those scores I would have been denied at SMU, University of Texas, Texas A&M, and Rice. I would have possibly gotten into TCU or Baylor. Raw intelligence consists of doing a calculus problem or physics problem, whereas practical intelligence is known more as social savvy, or in the words of Robert Sternberg, “knowing what to say to whom, when to say it, and to what effect.” Despite the fact that I was a poor student in high school, I did things that would impress any Fortune 500 CEO. The only detention I ever got I got the rule changed by writing a petition and getting over 100 signatures signed on it, and I somehow convinced my psychology teacher to take a class field trip to my favorite Mexican restaurant.
JM: Wow, impressive. Who else in your life is someone who possesses this level of practical intelligence?
TF: It would be none other than Bill McDermott who I have mentioned before. He is the present-day CEO of ServiceNow. McDermott himself would be the first one to admit that he doesn’t have the rawest intellect with the exception of finance because as a CEO of two major software companies he had his fair share of exposure to M&A. McDermott went to a college so nebulous it doesn’t even exist today. In his memoir, “Winners Dream: A Journey From Corner Office to Corner Store,” he credits his business success he has had to owning a deli at the young age of 16 in suburban New York. He tells the reader it was there he learned the value of treating your customers with empathy and learning procurement practices that he used at SAP in the past and currently at ServiceNow. It is important to note that McDermott does hold an MBA from Northwestern, but the reason why he got in wasn’t because of his GMAT score but because of his impressive rise at Xerox. He would be the youngest division officer there at 36. One of my favorite stories from “Winners Dream” is when McDermott was a young twenty-three-year-old selling copying machines for Xerox in the 1980s. One time he entered a prospect’s office and saw that she had a cat with her. McDermott instinctively started to pet the cat because he knew that that was going to be the key to getting the sale. He was right and ended up getting the sale.
JM: So, it sounds like part of practical intelligence is being creative?
TF: Yes, there are two types of thinking: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is generating many different solutions to a problem and convergent thinking are problems that involve just one answer like a physics problem or math problem. We undervalue divergent thinking, and we overvalue convergent thinking in my opinion.
JM: Can you give me an example of when you displayed divergent thinking?
TF: Yes, it is actually similar to something Larry Ellison, who is the Founder of Oracle. When Oracle was first getting going, he marketed his first product as Oracle 2.0 instead of Oracle 1.0
JM: Why did he do that?
TF: He did that because he knew people would be skeptical of buying the product if it was called Oracle 1.0 because anybody who knows technology knows that the first iteration of a product always has bugs. When I was at a Christian Book conference in Nashville, TN, I brought books to pass out to literary agents and publishers. On the books, I wrote in black sharpie “Galley” to denote that I already had books going out to the media and that they were interested in them. (At the time, several media outlets had already reviewed the book.)
JM: Wow, creative! What advice can you give to people to think outside the box like you do?
TF: A quote that comes to mind is a quote from Ted Turner when he said, “Confronted with a problem, I’ve always looked for an unconventional angle and approach. Nothing sneaky, nothing illegal or unethical, just turning the issue on its head and shifting the advantage to our side.”