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Originally, I wanted to title this post “Stupid Doesn’t Win”, except that sometimes it really, really, really does. It wins far more than it ever should, and as my updated title says, it should simply never, ever win. Not even once. Not at all.
There seems to be an issue with defeating stupidity – to not allow it to exist in even the smallest of quantities. People are always eager to point out that stupidity and ignorance are “found everywhere” and cite it as “inescapable”, which is apparently reason enough for them to not try and fight against it. If anything has to stop, that sort of thinking should be top of the list. Allowing even an iota of unintelligent thought to cloud the judgment of any decision is almost worse than even allowing its voice to be heard in the first place.
Think about it: If I want something to work properly, especially something that involves a team, I am going to train the heck out of everything and everyone until the only way a mistake should likely happen is by sheer bad luck or at least something that is completely out of the control of me or my team. If someone on the team is not able to understand exactly what is going on, why they have to do what is being asked of them, and how their completion of the task helps out not only everyone else on the team but maybe even the rest of the company – then they should not be in that spot. Fire them, replace them, relocate them – whatever needs to be done to make sure that they are not the thing that causes failure. Granted, I hate failure that is not in my control, but when it is in my control it is a billion times worse. If I am just a cog in a corporate machine, and the gear I crank helps crank fifteen other gears that eventually helps get something important done, then I am just going to crank until I can’t crank anymore. If I am not sure if I am cranking it correctly, then I will figure out if I am doing it wrong and change my work if I am. If I think I have found a better way to crank it, then I damn sure do not want to hear my superiors tell me that doing it a better way would be bad because the other people around me cranking the same gear would not be able to crank it the better way because they are stupid.
You never hear machines complain that what they have to do is too hard, or if you reprogram to do their job differently they don’t suddenly give up because they don’t understand what it is you are telling them. They just do it, that is unless the program has tons of bugs in it or the machine isn’t capable of actually replicating the needs of the new program. If either of those things happen, you either rewrite the program to suit the machine or you replace the machine – usually without a second thought. Human workers are obviously not machines, but the same rules should nevertheless apply. If you tell them to do something, and they can’t, either figure out a better way to teach them (rewrite the program) or find someone new to take over (replace the machine). It is hard to accept that, as far as business is concerned, we are just little machines that combine to help power a big machine to success. Stupidity only exists in machines because the people that built them screwed up, that doesn’t mean the designers and engineers just leave it there because, hey, it is inescapable and everywhere. No, they fix it, because stupidity should never, ever win.
Stop letting it.
There exists the old adage that stupidity is everywhere. One might talk about some sort of stupidity at their job, in their classes, or just out in the world around them. One might then express the desire to change their job, classroom, or general habits to avoid those specific forms of stupidity. The answer will come down as if heralded by trumpets and streamers that it matters not where you go or what you do that stupidity in some form will be wherever they go, no matter what.
I have never understood why this is considered acceptable.
Granted, a good portion of these instances might just be bad luck or petty annoyances that have been psychologically inflated to mean more than they actually do. Everyone has bad days, or just bad moments, myself included. However, the general idea of these annoyances has stirred up a sort of stereotype, or at least an incredible generalization, that can rear its ugly head at a moment’s notice. It is not an uncommon occurrence to hear someone else say that they do not wish to deal with someone else because they are “stupid” or any similar descriptor one can invent.
For purposes of this post, let’s imagine that in a given scenario featuring ten people that eight of them would tend to agree that the other two would fall into the category of “stupid.” What exactly does this mean? In terms of completing projects, asking for assistance, or even being interacted with at all those two people would find themselves shuttered away from everyone else, either by ignorance or force (or both). The fact is: no one wants to deal with stupid.
But let’s take another look at this scenario. What if, instead of stupidity as the issue, it was one of trust. Yes, trust can waiver due to repeated moments of declared “stupid behavior”, but trust is still the overlying theme. You would rather do something yourself, or with less overall input from your group of peers, than open it up to everyone and take the chance of someone else’s stupidity either not helping or even hurting your progress toward a goal. This leads into another potential unit of measure – ease. The faster, or easier, one can get a job done is all the better for the worker. Adding in unstable elements that could cause the amount of ease to vanish, or turn into even harder work, is a negative no one should or would want to deal with.
If you can not work with stupid, work around it.
You might think that the above is the absolute simplest answer to the problem of what to do when surrounded by perceived stupidity. But there is actually a much easier (but not necessarily better) way that people take all of the time when confronted with this problem. They simply do nothing at all. They see no reason to even bother trying to change what is around them and instead continue to float surrounded by what they feel is complete incompetence with no safe haven in sight. As I said, nothing about this is better, it’s just easier. Putting yourself in a position to fail (and possibly be made to look stupid yourself) is not a risk worth taking, especially in education and business matters.
The problem that flows out of all of this is the idea that confrontation is the worst thing you can do to deal with the perception of stupidity. No one wants to be the one that sits down with a classmate or fellow employee and tells them that you think they are stupid or worthless at their current position, be it as the member of a work team or a group project. Even still, no one wants to be the one to seek out help from above, be it a teacher or manager, lest unknown backlash be levied against them by other parties (perhaps the people who you have labeled, justly or unjustly, in the first place).
Giving someone that label is not always inaccurate, but it does not get any closer to changing the outcome you are trying to prevent. In some situations, the idea of doing nothing at all is not an option, though there are some that may shoehorn it into their list of choices just to give themselves an escape hatch. That said, there are times when that label is given not as an accurate description of someone else’s abilities, but as an excuse to take that easy way out of simply not doing anything at all. If that team of ten people are tasked with cleaning a specific area with brooms and ten hours to do so, that is fine. But if then eight of them are told to create something to help the other two clean faster (like, say, a vacuum…which may take an hour to build to take away two hours of overall work), the eight might scoff at making the job more difficult for the stupid people by giving them more advanced equipment that they may not know how to use properly. Remember, this is just a quick example.
The mentality is that while, yes, building the vacuum may take that single hour to build it could very well cause the two people forced to use it multiple hours of confusion, or at least enough for them to forget about it and go back to the broom. Thus, that is time wasted. Time that businesses can not afford to just have floating off into space. This mentality is really only partially plausible. While the prior scenario may be the one that plays out, with careful planning from the eight builders and a good use of time and training, they might not save the total of two hours, but they could still come out ahead in the long run (and if asked to clean an even larger area in a similar fashion they will already have the equipment necessary without having to rebuild it new from scratch). This psychological tug of war between work that needs to be done, work that is actually done, and work that is extraneous due to issues converting the needs into the haves is precisely what causes people to take the easy road of nothing far more than the path of actual labor. Now imagine if everyone did this all the time, and visions of economic (or at least capitalist and corporate) collapse will start filling your heads.
I will always agree (and state time and time again here and elsewhere) that work is hard, especially at first. But if no one would have decided to make that first vacuum, instead deciding that the consumers set to use it were too stupid to understand it, then we would still be wasting quite a lot of time with brooms in our hands rather than experiencing a much greater abundance of free time than innovation and (gasp) hard work as afforded us. We just can not let thoughts of stupidity keep us from continuing to do a little more work now en route to reaping benefits later.
Doing that would be, well, pretty darn stupid.