Friday, September 30, 2016

The Art of Stupid


BRT has talked often about the art of stupid, where government and corporate entities do mind numbingly dumb things that truly boggle the mind. Toons like Dilbert illustrate this all too human trait with absurdist humor of the highest order as does Douglas Adams and his notion that the number 42 truly is the answer to the multiverse and beyond but I digress as the gist of this blurb is a clever piece written by Andre Spicer titled Stupefied, which proves that the art of stupid is universally practiced & enncouraged by nearly every company and government agency in the good ole USA. :)

Each summer, thousands of the best and brightest graduates join the workforce. Their well-above-average raw intelligence will have been carefully crafted through years at the world’s best universities. After emerging from their selective undergraduate programmes and competitive graduate schools, these new recruits hope that their jobs will give them ample opportunity to put their intellectual gifts to work. But they are in for an unpleasant surprise.

Smart young things joining the workforce soon discover that, although they have been selected for their intelligence, they are not expected to use it. They will be assigned routine tasks that they will consider stupid. If they happen to make the mistake of actually using their intelligence, they will be met with pained groans from colleagues and polite warnings from their bosses. After a few years of experience, they will find that the people who get ahead are the stellar practitioners of corporate mindlessness.

It gets better.

We found many ways that all kinds of organisations positively encouraged intelligent people not to fully use their intelligence. There were rules and routines that prompted them to focus energies on complying with bureaucracy instead of doing their jobs. There were doctors who spent more time ‘playing the tick-box game’ than actually caring for patients; teachers who spent more time negotiating new bureaucratic procedures than teaching children. We met Hans, a manager in a local government agency: after a visit from a regulator, his office received a list of 25 issues in need of improvement. So Hans’s agency developed 25 new policies and procedures. The result: the regulator was happy, but there was no change in actual practice. 

Another significant source of stupidity in firms we came across was a deep faith in leadership. In most organisations today, senior executives are not content with just being managers. They want to be leaders. They see their role as not just running their business but also transforming their followers. They talk about ‘vision’, ‘belief’ and ‘authenticity’ with great verve. All this sounds like our office buildings are brimming with would-be Nelson Mandelas. However, when you take a closer look at what these self-declared leaders spend their days doing, the story is quite different.

The march of the lemmings continues. :)


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