Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Eggheads

Some people are too smart for their own good.

I don't mean this in any mean or derogatory way. I'm a firm believer that it's always better to be more, rather than less smart--even if it causes you some degree of discomfort when attempting to communicate with others.

However. You cannot ignore the oft-quoted "IQ gap"--the theory that a 30-point difference in IQ renders communication difficult--goes both ways. Not only do those of a lower IQ find it hard to follow a conversation lead by the more intelligent agent (or as I prefer the more technical nomenclature "Egghead"), so too does the higher IQ person find it difficult to know what it's like to be lower.

In other words, you don't know what you don't know.

I find this to be the case in certain organizations as well. An organization can actually be too smart for its own good... they can be too Egghead to talk to your average person. If your group is run by ten 160 IQ people, you're probably going to do amazing work. Sadly, most people probably won't ever know it.

Just as the Dunning-Kruger Effect points out, it takes knowledge to recognize genuine knowledge in others. If the average person is 100 IQ (and they always are), your 160 IQ company will have a hard sell. Sure, you'll get a few adopters. They'll sing your praises. But when people ask: "yes, yes... but what do you do?", you might end up like ZeroMQ, and so many other academic curiosities. Something brilliant, amazing, and very, very hard to explain.

I'm not advocating hiring dumber people. Far from it. I just wanted to bring up the point that, oh you rare brilliant companies... pay close attention. Don't discount what the average person thinks about you. Make an effort to help them see your brilliance. In software, this is documentation, tools, and constant communication.

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