You’re in the wrong room

You may be the smartest one in the room for a reason.


A typical “helpful” LinkedIn post

I keep seeing the saying “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” posted on LinkedIn, typically sandwiched between posts from Richard Branson and Tony Robbins. I know that people post this with the best intentions, but this saying and its ilk are starting to make my LinkedIn feed read like an HR blog run by Stuart Smalley.

You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it you can get a great job.

This kind of “pop” business psychology really bothers me. I get it, you’re supposed to always seek out people that you can learn from instead of coasting on what you know. When you get to a certain level, however, it’s not always as easy as it sounds to find people smarter or more capable than you, at least in many companies.

There’s an even dumber variation, “The smartest person in the room is the room”. Again, I understand the message about a group being collectively smarter than the individuals comprising it. I just don’t see that happening in real life too often either. It’s usually more like this:

Sometimes, in fact, you should be the smartest person in the room, at least in your field of knowledge. For example, if you are a surgeon, dentist, or professor it would not be beneficial for you or people who depend on you to find another room.

“You know, I may be the smartest person in this room. What am I even doing here?”

There are some times, however, that you may not be able to find another room, even though you’d like to. You could be in a job (or other situation) from which you cannot easily escape. However, being the smartest person in the room, you should be able to find some alternatives.

Enthrall me with your acumen.

Usually, though, you are not the smartest person in the room. In the best teams, each person has their own unique talents to bring to the table, and there is no “smartest person”. In such teams, if you’re the smartest person in the room, the room must be empty. Therefore, I’ll share my version of the “smartest person” self-improvement quote, which I think is more appropriate.

Thanks to despair.com for the demotivational images.

Originally published here.