Monday, August 31, 2015

“They’re Stupid!”

Where have you heard that lately? People are saying that Mr. Trump’s “they’re stupid” mantra has turned political correctness on its head. But, he may be on to something. A friend of mine reminded me of Carlo Maria Cipolla’s study of human stupidity which he reported in an essay titled The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. Cipolla identified five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably each of us underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a given person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic possessed by that person.
  3. A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the harmful potential of stupid people; they constantly forget that at any time anywhere, and in any circumstance, dealing with or associating themselves with stupid individuals invariably constitutes a costly error.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person there is.

You ignore Cipolla’s five laws at your peril, especially #5.

As a business owner and executive, I didn’t use the word stupid, but like any good executive or manager, I understood the dangers stupid people presented.

My team at Juris, Inc. called them “unconscious incompetents.” They are people who are not yet competent for the position they are in and do not know they are incompetent. Few people, including the President of the United States, go into a position fully competent on day one. Conscious incompetent people know their limitations and compensate. They seek advice, take advantage of training opportunities, they self study, etc. — all in an effort to learn and gain experience that increases their level of competency. The process from incompetent to competent is explained by the authority triangle in my book The Language of Excellence.

The unconscious incompetent without hesitation makes decisions for which they are not qualified. As employees they expose an organization to undue risk and thus when identified they are driven out—terminated. The risk to society of unconscious incompetent political figures and bureaucrats is even greater, and unfortunately, they are seldom driven out, and prior to Mr. Trump, there was often no attempt to identify them. Who are unconscious incompetents: “They are the dangerous people—Trump’s “STUPID!” people.”

Now....consider this. Do you think Mr. Trump is ready, fully competent, for the job of President of the United States? If not, do you think he knows that? ...And if he doesn’t, wouldn’t that make him, I don’t know... “STUPID!”

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