By Isabel Soria del Río
Fortunately, in the midst of my musings, I have "stumbled across" a magnificent scientific article entitled: "A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations", written by Mats Alvesson, professor of the School of Economics and Management (Lund University, Sweden), and by Andre Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at Cass Business School (City University of London) In the article the authors develop a super interesting concept called: The Theory of Functional Stupidity .
What is functional stupidity?
Functional stupidity is a form of management promoted by organizations that consists of eliminating critical reflection from workers. It consists of making workers focus on their tasks with some enthusiasm and do not question or reflect on anything beyond.
For the authors, functional stupidity arises from the interaction between:
- Lack of will and
- The inability to engage with reflexivity, that is, a partial closure of the mind, the freezing of intellectual effort, a reduced focus, and the absence of requests for justification.
Is Functional Stupidity beneficial for companies?
Curiously, this form of management allows companies (at least in the short term) to function better and be more operational. It seems, according to the authors of the study, that companies could be promoting this type of "Stupidity Management" that in the short term seems to be very productive. Acting in this way allows those who exercise power not to stop to give explanations and usually get companies to function on a day-to-day basis.
In the article, the authors argue at length how functional stupidity not only coexists with good organizational practice, but is also capable of presenting short-term benefits for both organizations and individuals.
Of course, this form of efficient management in the short term is very detrimental in the medium and long term. The authors describe it as aberrant, since the companies that apply this form of management are playing with a double-edged sword: by making workers concentrate only on their respective tasks they run the risk that these professionals do not identify internal problems of the company or, despite knowing them, do not get involved in correcting them, because they do not feel them as their own.
Functional Stupidity, according to Alvesson and Spicer, is exercised in companies based, among other things, on the economy of persuasion, which implies manipulation, control and blocking of communication, exercises of power, management from stupidity, self-limitation of reflection and a long etcetera.
The authors explain that company leaders don't want workers to think too deeply and critically about things, because this takes time, can create conflict, threaten established hierarchies, and often lead to divergent points of view. . All of this is seen as very inefficient in the short term. So for the job to be done well and for them to stop shaking power structures, they block communicative action.
As the authors themselves acknowledge, a dangerous paradox occurs with this form of management, since critical reflection is essential to overcome and prevent crises. The non-reflection and exclusion of this very healthy practice, which fosters frictionless relationships and provides a feeling of uncertain confidence and security, kills knowledge, creativity and provides narrow-mindedness in the long run, but how it achieves results in the short ... Well, nothing further arises. The interesting thing about hiring "functional stupid" With respect to the interest of hiring or promoting "stupid" in organizations, it is interesting what Ovidio Peñalver says, managing partner of Isavia and author of the book: Collective Emotions. Peñalver assures that there is a type of stupid who can be kept in any organization if deep down you do not want anything to change in it, because "their presence assures you that nothing will change. A talented professional can be annoying.
Generate changes, ask for more, propose ideas ... When someone is not exactly brilliant, the truth is that they do not bother. He has no initiative, no good ideas. These professionals are good maintainers and in this sense they can play a useful role in an organization. "
Well, seeing the above, I can better explain why sheep exists and is encouraged in organizations. It's sad, but as unfortunately it seems that shortly it works, well all lined up and walking ...!
As we have talked about stupidity and to conclude this article, I would like to refer to an essay by Carlos M. Cipolla, emeritus professor of Economic History at Berkeley, on The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. The author quotes us Five Laws of Stupidity, which are just great:
1st Law. We always underestimate the number of stupid people.
a) People we had thought to be rational and intelligent suddenly turn out to be stupid without a doubt.
b) Every day we are affected in whatever we do by stupid people who invariably show up in the least appropriate places.
2nd Law. The probability that a person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic of the person.
3rd Law. "The Golden Law". A stupid person is someone who causes harm to another person, or to a group of people, without obtaining advantages for himself, or even being harmed.
4th Law. Not stupid people always underestimate the power to cause harm of stupid people. They constantly forget that at any time, and under any circumstance, associating with stupid people invariably constitutes a costly mistake.
5th Law. A stupid person is the most dangerous person that can exist. It is common knowledge that smart people, no matter how hostile they may be, are predictable, while stupid people are not.