The World Is Not Out to Get You

Hanlon’s razor: never ascribe to malice what can be explained by stupidity.

Gustavo Razzetti
Jul 8, 2019 · 5 min read

The Power of Hanlon’s Razor

Hanlon’s Razor is a practical mental model. Its basic formulation is:

“Never attribute to malice which can be adequately explained by stupidity”

Like Occam’s razor, this heuristic is a useful tool for rapid decision-making and smart cognition.

Assume the Best, Not the Worst in People

“I prefer rogues to imbeciles, because rogues sometimes rest.” — Alexandre Dumas

The term ‘Hanlon’s razor’ was coined by Robert J. Hanlon. It has a corollary in Clark’s law, which states that “any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.”

“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

Once again, this doesn’t mean that no one will ever act out of malice. But to avoid judging people with a self-centered lens.

  • You’ll be less judgmental
  • You’ll develop deeper relationships
  • You’ll be less self-centered
  • You’ll reflect before you react

Apply Hanlon’s Razor

Implementing Hanlon’s razor in your everyday life is straightforward. Any time you are upset about something others did, avoid assuming that malice is the reason.

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Gustavo Razzetti is a change instigator who builds cultures that push your organization forward — not backward. He advises, writes, and speaks on team development and culture transformation.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Gustavo Razzetti

Written by

I help teams and organizations build fearless cultures. Creator of the Culture Design Canvas. Insights → www.fearlessculture.design/blog

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Gustavo Razzetti

Written by

I help teams and organizations build fearless cultures. Creator of the Culture Design Canvas. Insights → www.fearlessculture.design/blog

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

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