The Stupidity Paradox argues that the modern knowledge intensive workplace is actually prone to systemic functional stupidity where talented and intelligent people are encouraged to think inside the box with bounded creativity, rationality and passion.
The Stupidity Paradox Summary
The Stupidity Paradox discusses the pros and cons of functionality stupidity at work.
Exposing the lie that we work in a knowledge economy, Alvesson and Spicer argues that we place intelligent people into systems that encourage systemic stupidity in order to ensure harmony, narrative and brand. On the flipside, this situation ensures that smart people will always make stupid mistakes and distorts the true importance of our labour.
Below are some of the key insights from the book.
- The knowledge economy is a myth. Most careers are actually highly routine and can be completed by anyone with high school level training.
- Human rationality and intelligence is always bounded by cognitive biases, groupthink, anchoring, framing, mindlessness and generalised ignorance.
- Functionality stupidity exists in the workplace in various guises including economies of persuasive, self stupidification, narrative certainty preference and a lack of reflectivity and consciousness about the true value of work (e.g. Pepsi – Marines)
- Leadership bias is a form of functional stupidity as people overestimate the value of leadership and willingly endorse stupid positions based on authority.
- Structures create stupidity by encoding routine, normalcy and natural process ensuring that work will always fill the time allotted to do it.
- Imitation invites stupidity as organisations role model success stories and attempt to copycat their secret sauce in a different setting.
- Branding induced stupidity reflects the rise of the persuasion industry to deal with our material surplus society.
- Cultural stupidity helps to smooth over workplace relations but inhibits obvious counter-narratives and true questioning of workplace values.
- Functional stupidity management uses the tricks of authority, seduction and naturalisation to win the argument and should be actively countered by pre-mortems, humour, devil’s avocation and black box thinking to ensure that the advantages of stupidity are balanced against the risks of group-think.