The Loh Down On Science

Can workplace stupidity be a good thing?

Businesses succeed by hiring smart people . . . or not?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Maybe not, says Mats Alvesson, organization studies professor in Sweden.  He recently examined that commonly held assumption.  Offices packed with critical thinkers! Questioning ideas!  Using smarts to beat competitors!  Sounds great.  But is it true?

Alvesson checked the scientific literature on how organizations function.  He looked at studies exploring how intelligence, or “intellectual assets,” support success.  But then, he looked at studies examining the opposite!

He found that, often, employees turn off their smarts more than they turn them on.  For every instance of critical reflection, there are arguably more instances of NOT critically reflecting. Ignoring facts.  Wishful thinking.

Alvesson calls this “functional stupidity.”  He says constant questioning can slow projects down. Instead, focusing just on the task at hand, and not questioning the rest, can boost productivity.

The trick, of course, is to manage functional stupidity so that its cons don't outweigh its pros.

I feel a brainstorming exercise coming on.  And I'm bringing my red Swingline stapler!

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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