Hands-on intelligence

Types of intelligence Linguistic: writing, reading and telling stories. Logical: Mathematical — interested in patterns, arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments. Body-kinesthetic: Gain knowledge through bodily sensations; sense of touch. Often athletic, good at crafts such as woodworking. Spatial: Think in images and pictures; like mazes and puzzles. Musical: Often singing or drumming to themselves; aware of sounds that others miss. Interpersonal: Good at communicating with others; understand others’ feelings and motives. Intrapersonal: Aware of own feelings; self-motivated.

 

Carol Fey | Sep 05, 2014

 

Many of you have had this experience — asked to serve on an advisory board of this or that. It’s a compliment. Geez… they must think I know something important!

 

I was asked to be on an advisory board for a national technical institute. When I got there, I found more fellow members of the HVAC industry that I’d seen since the last free lunch at a wholesale distributor. Sure enough, they fed us, sat us down, congratulated us for being the influencers of a crucially important industry, and they started telling about their school.

Their big selling point was, “It’s hands on! We have lots of thick text books that the students must buy (for thousands of dollars), but the training is hands on!”

 

We hadn’t seen furnaces or boilers or compressors as we toured around the place. So the bravest of us asked, “Where’s the hands-on equipment?”

 

“Oh,” they said, “Our hands-on is computer-based. It’s so advanced that we don’t have to waste space with furnaces or boilers.”

“Thought you said the training is hands-on,” someone else chimed in.

 

“It certainly is! It’s hands on the computer. It’s the same thing. Their hands are busy.”

 

Keyboarding and mousing is hands-on HVAC?  I think not! That’s hands-on keyboarding and mousing.

No kidding, I had one graduate stumble upon my website and he hired me to teach him how to troubleshoot a furnace. I asked him, “Didn’t you learn this in school?”

 

He stumbled, “Well, uh no, not exactly. We had simulation modules about it. But when I got a job and I was looking at all those wires going everywhere, I just didn’t get the connection.” (Pun not intended, I’m sure.)

 

I will give the school the benefit of the doubt that they truly do believe that hands-on the computer is the same as hands-on a furnace or boiler. And I’ll add that they’re wrong, wrong, wrong.

 

Using a computer to learn about something requires abstract thinking — you have to imagine what the real thing is. You have to guess what it feels like, what it smells like, how it sounds. Hands-on as it relates to the HVAC industry, means touching the real stuff, hearing the squeaks, smelling the (oops) smoke.

 

The difference is about types of intelligence. Experts today say that there are many kinds of intelligence. Not all have to do with reading, science and math. In fact, most of them don’t. Take a look at this list. Some folks say there are eight or nice types, but let’s stick with the original list of seven:

 

Types of intelligence

  • Linguistic: writing, reading and telling stories.
  • Logical: Mathematical — interested in patterns, arithmetic problems, strategy games and experiments.
  • Body-kinesthetic: Gain knowledge through bodily sensations; sense of touch. Often athletic, good at crafts such as woodworking.
  • Spatial: Think in images and pictures; like mazes and puzzles.
  • Musical: Often singing or drumming to themselves; aware of sounds that others miss.
  • Interpersonal: Good at communicating with others; understand others’ feelings and motives.
  • Intrapersonal: Aware of own feelings; self-motivated.

 

As we might expect, no one is smart in everything. We’re not surprised when a professor can’t make his own toilet stop running. Sometimes we even give him extra credit for not being able to do simple things. After all, his mind is too busy thinking about important things.

 

Yet as a society we often look down on the guy who has hands-on smarts. So what if he can wire a boiler. Why can’t he read the instruction manual that comes with it?

 

Side note: there are good instructions, and horrendous instructions. Long ago I was a technical writing instructor. Good technical writing tells you everything you need to know, and absolutely nothing that isn’t critical unless it’s somehow marked as nice to know, but not necessary. That’s good stuff for footnotes, or notes in the back of the book, sometimes called appendix or appendices.

Experts who have studied types of intelligence say that we all have an area where we are most intelligent. There’s the traditional reading, writing and ‘rithmetic — the types of intelligence served by our schools. But there are five more: hands-on, or body-kinesthetic, is the intelligence that we in this industry excel in.

 

Back when I sold heating and air conditioning controls, I tried to focus on the strongest intelligence of the person I was talking with. A distributor branch manager wanted to know about who was buying it — interpersonal intelligence. A purchasing agent wanted to talk about how much it cost and whether it qualified for the fall order program to get a discount and dating.

 

A contractor wanted to touch it. I could talk and talk about features, function and benefits, but he was doing everything he could not to snatch it up and see what it did. Though he waited politely for me to finish, his fingers were twitching.

 

When I gave it to him, his hands took over. Only after a long silent examination would he ask questions. “What’s this screw do? This is only half inch by half inch — are there adaptors and bushings? The on-off knob seems a little sticky. Oh, I see, you have to push it down pretty hard — guess that’s good.”

 

How does a contractor get information? Through the hands. And how does he best learn? — Hands-on.

 

This means hands-on the real thing. It doesn’t mean hands on a computer, or eyes on an instruction manual or power point presentation.

 

So let’s as an industry be proud of the type intelligence we have. We can make a boiler heat, and we can make an AC cool. We can hear bearings going out, and we can smell when a control has been shorted out. None of this is “book smart,” but we are really, really hands-on smart.

 

And the next time you just don’t “get it” from the instruction manual or a power point presentation, just tell ‘em, if not out loud, at least in your own head — our smarts are hands-on. And that’s how we learn too. Hands-on!

 

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