Summary of The Stupidity Paradox in 15 Tweets

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The book The Stupidity Paradox provides suggestions to counter stupidity and reduce the consequences, exploit it, and benefit from it, by exploring how knowledge-intensive organizations employ smart people and encourage them to do stupid things.

I interviewed the authors Andre Spicer and Mats Alvesson about what “functional stupidity” is and what its main causes are, the possible negative and positive outcomes of functional stupidity, what they learned from investigating leadership, how culture induces stupidity and what can be done to limit the damage, and what can be done to counter stupidity management or dispel stupidity. Read the full interview on InfoQ: Q&A on the Book “The Stupidity Paradox”.

15 quotes from The Stupidity Paradox

Here’s a set of 15 quotes from the book The Stupidity Paradox. I’m tweeting these quotes with #StupidityParadox.

Most apparently knowledge-intensive organisations can be pretty stupid
Functional stupidity is an organised attempt to stop people from thinking seriously about what they do at work
We live in a knowledge economy, dominated by knowledge-intensive firms which employ knowledge workers
Most office work takes little physical prowess, beyond enduring boring meetings
The only way out of doing stupid things is critical thinking and reflection
Overlooking what is blindingly obvious can be a nasty side effect of professional obsessions
Much of corporate life seems to be about manufacturing stupidity
Managers are just as happy to view themselves as leaders as most other employees are unhappy to see themselves as followers
By mindlessly buying into ideas of leadership, organisations can become overcommitted to practices that do not work
When you just have to tick boxes, then you don’t have to think outside the box
All too often companies do things not because they produce the best results, but because everyone else is doing it
The only thing we know about the future is that we don’t know it
Functional stupidity can be accomplished through authority, seduction, naturalisation and opportunism
To start to destupidify our otherwise (technically and operatively) smart firms, we need to drop the myth of relentless optimism
Negative capabilities can enable an organisation to create new and more thoughtful lines of action

Here’s a bonus quote:

Games can be a useful way of rooting out stupidities

This is so true! It’s one of the reasons that I use games a lot in my workshops and why I developed the Agile Self-assessment Game.

How to stop doing stupid things

Creating awareness is a first step to change behavior. If you see stupid things happen, speak up! Not by saying to somebody that (s)he is stupid, that’s a really stupid thing to do. Instead, you could ask why it’s happening, or how we got into the habit of doing it.

If you want to dive deeper into behavior that feels stupid, you can look for the root causes or explore things that are happening with an agile retrospective.

When people come up with a new idea, then other might resist it and say that it’s a stupid thing to do. But trying out something that looks stupid might give you new insights If it fails, then you can learn from it. And it might even work …

What usually doesn’t work is to do the same things and expect different things. That’s insanity.

More books to tweet

Here are some more great books that I summarized with 15 tweets.


I read a lot of books, for me, they are a great way to challenge my thinking, get insights, and learn new stuff. Writing about books supports this, that’s why I do book Q&As on InfoQ where I interview the authors (select “articles” on my InfoQ publications).

Books that I have read and that I like are added to my recommended books. I provide book tips in my workshops and when I work with clients. This is one of the ways in which I share my experience.

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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