Maybe not such a smart idea

I was attracted to Nick Bryant’s Twitter Feed by this Tweet, which someone on my Twitter Feed had flagged up. And that got me looking at other Nick Bryant Tweets.

In one of these, Bryant alludes admiringly to this quote:

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Which Bryant calls “smart”. And it does sound quite smart.

But think about this a bit more. What this says is that in every room with several people in it, one of them shouldn’t be there.

If everyone followed this advice, social life would collapse. The smartest person in each room would keep leaving, and then the second-smartest, and so on. And the leavers would be frantically searching for rooms with smarter people in them. But the smartest people in those rooms would also have to leave, and eventually they’d be the smartest. And so on. Madness.

Here’s my plan. If you like the company you are in, stick around. If you really are the smartest person there, there’s still plenty you can learn if you have a mind to. And if you are actually teaching everyone else, well, what’s so wrong with that?

The truth is that most people are smart about some things and stupid about a lot of other things. Which means that actually, the “smartest person” notion is inherently flawed.

The idea of the above quote is that we should always be learning things from others. But you can usually learn something from anyone, no matter how much smarter you may be compared to them, or think that you are.

Further thought: If you are in a room where you think you are the smartest person, and that everyone else is stupider than you, well, maybe you should get out of there and spare these people your company.

I have in mind the meeting I hosted last night, where everyone was smart, or so it seemed to me. About whatever each of us was smart about.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

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