We’ve all met people like this. Within ten minutes of meeting them they’ve worked it into the conversation that they belong to Mensa, have you heard of it? Oh, you haven’t, it’s for people that are really smart.
Really? I’m happy for you. Really, I’m being honest. But I don’t care. You see, I don’t care about your intellectual IQ. I care about how you relate to other people and to the problems at hand. Do you listen to me to learn or to put up with me?
(Before I get the hate mail, I have plenty of friends that really belong to Mensa and have never mentioned it until they asked me if I was interested in joining. I’ve always declined, thank you very much.)
I’m being cynical because people like this drive me nuts. If it’s their idea it’s THE PERFECT SOLUTION because, well, they’re the smartest people in the room. Never mind if you have practical real world experience that says that idea, while good, isn’t the ideal solution.
I’m not a farmer, but I grew up in farm country. All of my neighbors were farmers and while most of them never had a college education they were practical people. The old joke was that you give a farmer, baling wire, gum, and a welder, they can fix almost anything. They were practical smart because plants and animals either do well or they don’t and if they don’t they didn’t stay farmers very long. The best part, is that they never went around bragging that they were very good farmers – they didn’t have to nor did they want to. Heck, most of them would admit they weren’t very smart, but they knew how to manage their business with thousands of different tasks, machinery, animals and plants and make a profit (in most years).
The smart people, the smartest people in the room, don’t bother to ask the pertinent questions, or make measurements, or ask for previous results of tweaks because they are, well, the smartest people in the room. They assume they are an expert at everything they put their mind to.
I look back at Apple in the late 90′s and early 2000′s and I think they had a fair amount of the “Not Invented Here” syndrome where if they didn’t make it, or code it, it wasn’t going to make it into their products. We all know that Apple was in dire straights back then. When Jobs came back to Apple he got rid of a lot of projects and now their very focused and they use a ton of ‘open’ standards in their operating system. Why? Because they get to expand upon the ideas of hundreds of thousands of developers rather than a few thousand.
In my engineering days I saw plenty of engineers that would re-engineer a solution because it wasn’t the way they’d do it. It generated a lot of unnecessary work and wasted money. The software industry isn’t any better. They feel that because they have user interface designers they need to tweak the user interface on every release. Every major new version adds a bunch of new ‘features’ that the average person won’t use because they need to keep the developers busy. That’s called software bloat.
If I had one bit of advice for people that own their own business is this: hire people that are smarter than you. I mean it. Hire people that are as close to an expert in their field as you can afford.
Let them challenge your (the boss’) ideas and assumptions. Make an atmosphere where their ideas get a fair hearing without shooting them down right away because they’re not smart enough. If you listen to the smart people you’ve hired to get things done you will probably learn a few things. After all, don’t smart people want to learn new things? Don’t smart people want their ideas to be challenged?
If all you do is hire ‘yes’ people then your product will suffer. Your product won’t have focus. Ideas that should be shelved for another time get put in now because the boss wants it and no one can tell him no. Ideas from customers are ignored because they’re ‘just customers’. When customers quit using the product, ask them why – you might just learn something.
Neither do you want design by committee. What an awful thought that is. It’s the exact opposite of being focused. A good leader or leadership team will pick the good ideas out and let their people run with it. The bad, or not so good ideas, will be stored away and revisited every now and then. What was a bad idea might be a good idea in a year or two.
I’ve rambled enough for now. I’m sure you’ve all had ‘leaders’ in your organizations that were never open to ideas unless it was their idea. They used circular reasoning to shoot good ideas down and to keep their ideas alive. Are you still with that company? Is that company still around? Is it financially stable? My educated guess says that they’re not as smart as they think they are and you’d agree.