Thursday, May 20, 2021

He Thinks He's The Smartest Guy In The Room

No one has ever delivered this insult about me in my hearing, but I have to think people have said it behind my back for years.  Yet is it only half true. Sometimes I am the smartest guy in the room, but I never think I'm the only one with good information.  Anyone jumping in, if they have something valuable, I am all in.  Setting myself up as the arbitrator of what is valuable or not?  Okay, that's where I likely step all over people.

Yet there is a deeper reason why this just isn't correct.  Whenever I am the smartest guy in the room, I go looking for another room.  I draw good information out of people who didn't know they had it, and I have assembled some very good rooms in my day.  This site is an example. The average IQ here is Mensa level, maybe better. Trust me on this. And that is what has happened to me all my life. I have even made it happen at work in terms of the teams I have been part of. It was always deeply satisfying to have a visitor or covering shrink or a student say at the end "This has been a tremendous experience. I have never worked with a more stimulating team" and feel good that it it hasn't been me, but I have been a part of all this coming together. I don't consciously map it out, trying to eliminate Schuyler and inveigling Constance, but over time, I find I am just surrounded by exceptional people.  Some are brilliant, some are wise, some are clever, some are experienced, but given enough time, I am not the smartest person in the room. 

It is likely not a virtue, just another version of one of the ants wanting to make sure there is a continuing supply of mash, as I mentioned a few posts ago.  Information in and information out is a physical need.


stevo said...

Reminds me of a question I once heard: would you rather be the dumbest person in a smart society or the smartest person in a stupid society?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That is so easy and so revealing.

Why does Barack Obama keep coming to mind as I think about these things?

Texan99 said...

As Heinlein said, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is in for one heck of a rough ride.

Sam L. said...

I didn't spot Leslie Neilsen in that group. But then, he was playing it straight, loooong before he became funny.

Texan99, rah, Rah, RAH!

David Foster said...

AVI..."Why does Barack Obama keep coming to mind as I think about these things?"

Maybe because of this quote:

“I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

A very clear statement as to how a manager/leader should NOT think.

james said...

Wrt the Heinlein quote, H.G. Wells got there first.

RichardJohnson said...

A childhood friend of mine was bright- she got admitted to a Big 10 school as an out of state student- but she was quite aware she wasn't the brightest person in the room. If there is such a thing as a social IQ, she had a very high one. In high school she became friends with the brightest person in the class. Some bright people are uncomfortable being the second fiddle- a friend in junior high terminated our friendship for that very reason- but that didn't faze her.

Her comfort with being with people brighter than she was- and being able to pick their brains- undoubtedly assisted her career. She ended up in management at the headquarters of a Fortune 500 corporation. Picking the brains of brighter people didn't mean she had no ideas of her own. Her initial corporate rise came from noticing that newly hired college graduates didn't write well, so she initiated a training program to teach writing skills.

I approve of AVI's deleting a snarky comment from someone who will go unnamed.

Donna B. said...

Dang it, I missed the snarky comment. I thought checking here 5 or 6 times a day was enough! And if I'm to be the dumbest (or most naive and not in the innocent sense) person in the room, I'm thrilled it's this one.

Zachriel said...

Assistant Village Idiot: just another version of one of the ants wanting to make sure there is a continuing supply of mash

Don't forget the importance of mastication.

Grim said...

Whenever I am the smartest guy in the room, I go looking for another room...

I've met lots of smart and useless people. Being smart is just having a kind of higher processing capacity, a little faster and maybe deeper eventually (though remember Gandalf's remarks about Butterbur, 'who can see through a brick wall in time'). If it's just a capacity, it's a potential; and if it remains just a potential, it's useless.

At our local volunteer fire department meetings on Monday nights, I think I'm the only one in the room who is college educated, let alone grad-school-educated. I don't know what anybody's IQ is, and I doubt they've been tested for it anyway. But every one of those guys (and two ladies) knows more than I do about diesel engines, and several are EMTs in their day jobs, and others know many other things that I don't know. They're the proper leaders, and I'm just there to help -- help them fight fires and save lives, for no pay, because they decided long before I did that it was the right thing to do.

Are they smarter than me? Am I smarter than them? Who knows: who cares? The smart guy sitting at home when the call goes out is no use at all to anybody. Now useless things can be valuable -- Aristotle says that metaphysics is useless, because 'to be useful' means to be good for something else, and the highest things are and ought to be good for themselves. But if he's not sitting home studying metaphysics or something like that, whatever bright light he thinks he has isn't illuminating anyone.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Volunteer Fire and EMTs are a great example. They are much on my mind as my son that just finished his six years in the Army Reserve has gone on to get EMT training and is in the middle of passing practicums and clinicals. Also, that was my career for many years, living between the often brilliant clinicians of national prominence and the bootstrappers who displayed unexpected talent. I had to manage both - never officially, as they had other supervisors and thought they were in charge of me, but in the reality of seeing the work get done and making sure people weren't destroying each other. Different skills for stroking each. The bootstrappers are amazed and thrilled that you, a person of high vocabulary and referencing a wide range of subjects, are at all respectful of what they know. Which of course I am, because I came up through the ranks myself and am appreciative of the fact that uh, more people are still alive because of you. Go figure, huh? Though they can't see that at first. I just look like another over-educated fool until they get to know me better. For the others, the exquisitely-trained specialists who are stunningly useful as long as you keep them in their lane, rather than letting them pontificate about Bush, Catholicism, fine art, Eastern Europe, or a hundred other topics that they just assume they know more about that everyone else, it takes a while, jovially patting them on the back "Hail, fellow, well met" about Native American history, Goren System bidding, Absurdist theater and whatever else comes up - as if they are in the know and know as much as I do, not like those others - so that after about six weeks they are thoroughly intimidated and ready to listen to me, and then the practical app people I am treating with such respect.

You have to rinse and repeat on this, because the personnel keeps turning over.

My younger brother does the same thing, working in technical theater. He lives in the world "between the berets and the Bass Pro hats," as he once described it.