Is it bad to be smart?

I started writing this blog post about a year go. At the time, I had just come across a blog that introduced the idea that in business it is bad to be described as smart (In business, it’s actually a bad thing to be called smart). The author differentiated that it wasn’t about just being smart, but “being smart as your primary value.”  His premise was that people who were smart or talented as a primary value tend to get exploited more than anything else. “To call someone smart implies their other skills don’t measure up and, in business, people want solutions that work and productive relationships, neither of which require intelligence. What people usually describe as intelligence is what I call abstract problem solving.”

At first I was a little taken aback by this notion.  In general, I highly regard intelligence.  I have surrounded myself with smart people.  Not all of these people could be considered rocket scientists (although that applies to some), but they have intelligence across many different facets of life and have proven that time and time again. After I thought about it some more, I do get the point the author was trying to make. Being smart is just not enough. If someone is solely smart, they are marginalized to only the tasks that keep him/her in a bubble. Generally, we don’t want to interact with someone who can’t interact with us in return.

A good friend from graduate school coined the term “stupid smart” for people who were too smart for their own good. It describes people with high intelligence, but not enough common sense or other redeeming qualities. We often used this phrase to define personal decisions where we had overthought; missing a fairly simple ,often better solution.

At the end of the day, I want to be seen as someone who gets the job done well. This may mean solely managing it day to day, or getting my hands dirty to delivery. My passion lies in solving complex business problems leveraging different technologies. While that might make me smart, I do think there are adjectives I would rather see used to describe me first.

 

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