Even if you’re as dumb as a box of rocks, don’t sweat it. You can be just as successful in business as the guy with the 150 IQ – in fact, the odds might even be in your favor. In this post, I’ll point out a few good business reasons to dumb yourself down.
“We’re not ordinary people … we’re morons.”
– Curly Howard, Three Smart Saps
The enduring popularity of The Three Stooges proves that being smart isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In business, brainiacs are plagued by problems that we morons are happily immune to.
For instance, brilliant thinkers often suffer from analysis paralysis. But success in business requires action and lots of it. Superficial thinkers who aren’t held back by the flaws in their plans put everything they have into execution. AND a bad plan well executed outperforms a great plan never executed each and every time.
“Oh yeah. And who are you, Alfred Einstein?” – Woody Harrelson, Kingpin
Another problem for rocket scientists is that nobody likes them. Smarty pantses make the rest of us feel inferior. They intimidate us. On the other hand, folks who struggle to string two thoughts together are fun to be around. They attract prospects and maintain long-lasting business relationships.
Smart people struggle with relationships. Because they are perceptive and find flaws others miss, they can sour quickly. Plus, even if they don’t sour, their tendency to constantly reevaluate relationships makes them seem erratic, which can scare off customers, as well as employees.
“Give me a smart idiot over a stupid genius any day.” – Samuel Goldwyn
A final flaw frequently found in consummate cogitators: a lack of common sense. As Mr. Goldwyn knew, there’s a world of difference between book-smart and street-smart, and street-smarts are a small firm’s most valuable asset. Without practical intelligence, competitors will out maneuver you every time.
Hey, I know what you’re thinking: Yikes! I’m too smart for my own good! How do I become dumb and successful?
Well, I’m no Alfred Einstein, but I do have a couple of suggestions. First, recognize the problem. If excess brainpower is holding your business back in some way, round out your management team or hire salespeople with awesome people skills. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do it all … this is another typical weakness among the brainy.
Second, acquire a sense of humility, because you may not be as smart as you think. The one thing that trumps brains and brawn is a willingness to learn. Being “too smart for your own good” usually means that you’ve missed the most important piece of wisdom of all:
“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.” – Plato
None of this means that brainpower isn’t useful; to be sure, there are highly successful companies built on little more than the strength of a brilliant idea. But more often than not, success is less a function of brilliance than it is a matter of persistence and will.
What do you think?
What is the brains-versus-brawn equation in your business and industry? Are you trying to outthink the competition … or outwork them?
Note: Our agency works with street-smart B2B clients in tough niches like corrugated carton packaging solutions. I myself came out of the packaging industry, where I got a real education about different kinds of intelligence.
Brad Shorr is is Director of B2B Marketing for Straight North, an Internet marketing agency in Chicago. With many years of entrepreneurial experience, he writes frequently on business strategy and content marketing topics.
The title should have been: Geniuses are idiots and writers should do better research!quote: "Well, I’m no Alfred Einstein, but I do....." FYI, Alfred Einstein was a musician. So who is the idiot here?
While you make valid points that can be true of some people, I think that there are plenty of illustrations of success that completely refute what you are saying (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet). You point out genuine pitfalls that those who operate on a more intellectual level fall into; but they are absolutely not true across the board. Humility, I agree, is necessary. However, a personal level of humility has much more to do with attitude, mindset, and spirituality than it does with IQ.
HeatherOwen even guys like Mark Zuckerberg had a partner to help them get through tier socially awkward phase of business. Steve Jobs was Apple's less geeky, media friendly partner. Woz just wanted to build circuits - and he was hella good at it, too. But without Woz, there was no Apple. It was HIS technology ideas that Jobs capitalized on in those early days.
I grew up in one of those 'academically gifted' programs, and we ALL were socially awkward and building relationships outside our peer group was a challenge. Many of us went on to do some pretty amazing things, but it took relationships outside that peer group to really stir the pot and get things boiling in our careers. It's hard to make friends when people feel inferior to you - and humility isn't a course they teach in school, sadly.
We were taught that we're different, special, and smarter than the bulk of the kids in school. I'm not saying we lorded that over people (okay, some kids did). Mostly, we just knew there was something different about us, we carried ourselves differently, and we were perceived differently. As you get older, you insulate yourself from the criticism, and hang out with folks that increase your average, as Jim Rohn said. It becomes a self preservation technique.
But in the world of business, it's a behavior that hamstrings companies before they get out of the gate. I've learned that for as "smart" as I am, the best way for me to attract better clients and colleagues is to NOT deny that I'm smart, to not tout the fact that I'm smart, and instead, let them figure out that I'm smart. Along the way, I reveal my faux pas, foibles, and oopses, as relevant, so that they know I'm human, too.
That has been the best way for me and most of the kids from my gifted classes have found success. Robert Herrick's poem "Delight in Disorder" comes to mind. He talks about how perfection isn't nearly as fun as that thing or two that's slightly out of place. We want and strive for perfection, but knowing that someone is human makes them more endearing. I think it's part of the reason we see the brilliance in someone like Steve Jobs, Dr. M.L. King or Madonna, and tend to ignore their other behavior problems.
lisarobbinyoung Thank you for sharing your insights. I really like what you said about letting people figure out that you're smart. That suggests an emphasis on action, which seems like very good business to me.