A recent study says that you can. Check out the story here (with WSJ subscription).
The article mentions that there is two types of intelligence, fluid and crystallized intelligence. Crystallized intelligence is stuff that we learn, whereas fluid intelligence allow us to solve new problems. My thought is that there is some crossover between the two – i.e. you can teach yourself how to learn, thus increasing both.
Although intelligence is mostly determined by genetics, this study seems to agree…in a way. The results say that fluid intelligence can be increased through exercise. Kids were asked to do an exercise that basically required them to separate what was important from that which was not.
All of that sounds oddly familiar to me…successful people are able to sort out what is important and what is not, and focus on the important stuff. The less intelligent go running from minor task to minor task, distracting themselves from making progress at a strategic level.
The authors of Agile Development James Shore and Shane Warden talk about a similar phenomenon in the world of software and web development. If you try to match all the features of an established program, you’ll spend years, all your cash, and won’t ever differentiate yourself. However, if you match only what is barely acceptable, then focus on what your differentiating factors are, you’re in good shape. Learning to say no, and sorting through the noise, is a necessary thing whether it involves web development or improving the functioning of your brain.