We live in a world laced with smartism, i.e., a universal presumption that being smart is better than being stupid. But in the modern work world, at least in management, it is better to be stupid than smart.
Realizing that this goes against everything you have ever been taught, here are just a few of the ways that stupidity and ignorance are superior approaches to management tasks:
1) The Dumber You Look, The More Stuff People Tell You.
If people think you are smarter than they are, they won’t tell you anything, because they will assume that you already know everything. This may include such items as your car is being towed, the company is being bought by Google, or the building is on fire. People love to feel smart, and if you let them feel intellectually superior, they will repeatedly indulge in that delicious feeling by telling you everything they know. Information is power.
2) Ignorance Is Opportunity.
When we attach shame to ignorance, we block the primary path to personal growth. Every journey of discovery begins with calm acceptance of the statement “I don’t know.”
3) The Slowest Thinker Is Always In Charge.
When a project needs a lot of folks to sign off on it, the last holdout always gets the fanciest dinner out to persuade them to get on board. When a team climbs a mountain, the slowest person tied on the rope line determines the pace, and thus becomes the de facto boss. And when people apply for a plum job, the last application sent in always lands on the top of the pile.
4) The Less Thinking A Manager Does, The More Thinking The Managees Have To Do, And Vice Versa.
Nature always requires balance, and the more managing that goes on, the less working gets done. The next time you curse your boss for being so stupid and lazy and disorganized, and thus making you work so much harder, take a moment and ask, “Is he doing this on purpose?” Your smartist need to indulge in feeling intellectually superior to the people in charge may be leading you down the garden path to unpaid overtime.
This article has taken an admittedly somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone, but this was done for a reason.
Talent, leadership ability, creativity — these abilities are easy to find. What is hard to find is someone who is not afraid of “looking stupid” by openly engaging in them. Most of us live in a world where we are constantly shamed for being different and imperfect. True leaders and innovators are people who are willing to expose their vulnerability in spite of this. They are willing to be seen making mistakes. They are willing to risk being shamed for “being a failure.” When it comes to paying for “top talent,” this rare ability to disregard the stifling power of shame is what you are actually paying for.
By countering shaming words with humor and humility, you gain power over them, and they lose their power over you. With a little study and practice, you too can become a superior performer, simply by “getting in touch with your inner idiot.”
About the Author: Justin Locke is a former bass player turned management philosopher. He is the author of the heretical management book “Principles of Applied Stupidity (How to Get and Do More by Thinking and Knowing Less); visit his website at www.justinlocke.com.