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Continued: 'Functional stupidity': Is it smart to play dumb on the job?

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 31, 2013 - 7:36 PM

There are some occupations that depend on independent thinking, and the more independent the better. Advertising is one of them, said Lynn Franz, director of strategic planning for Campbell Mithun.

“I think functional stupidity is an interesting premise in a risk-avoidance world that tends to overthink everything,” she said, before adding with a laugh: “But it wouldn’t work very well in our business.”

Nonetheless, the Swedish professors, who called their report “A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations,” are convinced that stupidity has its place in the corporate world.

“We have shown that stupidity should not be rooted out of the organization completely,” they wrote. “It can be an important resource that organizations should cultivate, maintain and engineer.”

They did add a caveat: Functional stupidity can be disastrous when carried to extremes. As an example, they cite the banking crisis, after which many analysts said they knew that their companies were making risky investments but didn’t say anything.

This creates a conundrum of its own. If you see stupidity getting out of hand and raise the issue with your bosses (and thus disrupting workflow), aren’t you doing exactly what the premise behind functional stupidity says is counterproductive?

Well, duh.


Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392

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