Are You The Smartest Person In The Room?
Knowing When To Get The Fuck Out
“Knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn.”
– Burt Bacharach
You’re sitting at the end of the table. Everyone’s eyes are fixed on you. They’re hanging on your every word. Once you’re finished they give you a standing ovation.
It’s a good feeling, isn’t it?
Let’s play that scene again and make some adjustments.
You’re sitting at the end of the table. Everyone’s eyes are staring blankly into space. They can’t wait for it to be over. Once you’re finished the room erupts into a shouting match explaining all the ways in which you are mistaken.
How does that feel?
Like a gentle breeze. That smells of onion rings.
Here we’ve got two extremes, neither of which is optimal. But in which room do you think you would thrive?
Would the positive reinforcement teach you to believe more in your ideas? Would the negative response teach you to think more critically?
What’s cool is that you carry around this board of advisors in your mind. The key is to strike the proper balance.
If you’re overly critical you might want to imagine them acting more like cheerleaders. If you’re too optimistic then you should bring on the grey suits and blue ties.
Alright, but what about when this happens in real life? You’re in a room and get one of these extremely lopsided reactions.
Get the fuck out.
Perhaps not literally, but figuratively. The reason is that it’s easy to join in and drink the Kool Aid.
Here’s what I mean.
Collectively we’re stupid. We want to fit in. So, as soon as someone takes the lead we find reasons to agree.
Individually we’re stupid. We don’t take into consideration everything we perhaps should. We all have blind spots.
But something interesting happens once we switch approach.
I said switch, not… Oh, jeez, you got Jack involved too…
When we consider individual choices and take the average we get pretty damn good results for the collective.
If we ask a bunch of people to guess the amount of almonds in a jar we’ll get wildly different answers. Put them in a room together and they’ll collectively grow more “stupid”. Often opting to follow the loudest voice.
However, if we allow them to guess individually the average of the guesses is usually pretty close to the correct answer. They grow smarter.
If we on the other hand outsource an individual’s choices to a large and varied collective we also yield good results for the individual. Apparently we’re pretty good at knowing what’s best for others, despite our apparent lack of acting that way ourselves.
How good do you feel you are at recognizing when you need to step out of the room?
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!