Too Smart For Your Own Good

A few days ago Andy Hagans sent me a link to a 1924 article titled Why I Never Hire Brilliant Men, which has a couple killer quotes in it. The first is how to succeed in business:
That criticism may be justifiable, fo I am mediocre. But the point I have in mind is this: Business and life are built upon successful mediocrity; and victory comes to companies, not through the employment of brilliant men, but through knowing how to get the most out of ordinary folks.
And the second killer quote covers how some people fail to live in reality:
You conceive a big idea, get the whole organization on tiptoes to carry it out, and then you lose interest and go off on a new tangent. You think everybody else's mind ought to function as swiftly as your own, so you are alternately overenthusiastic and over-depressed. One day you carry some poor devil up into a high mountain and make him think he has a chance to become general manager. The next day you blow him up for not doing something which you think you told him, but which you actually forgot. You are always living, in imagination, about six jumps ahead.

That second quote applies to anyone in publishing. Businesses may not need many employees to have reach, but as marketing gets more insidious you need your customers to do your selling for you.

Without clearly communicating ideas designed to spread, few common people will talk about a business, and that business will stay stuck in a niche. That is unfortunate for those business owners, because in many fields the perceived topical authority (and person getting paid well) is determined outside of the niche. Creating value is not about writing knowledge on a page. Value is determined by the actual transfer of knowledge to others.

The web is speeding up communications. As companies and politicians continue to get caught lying and abusing language, we will be more willing to forgive those who make small errors while clarifying topics and making them more accessible to us.

Even if you are a doctor or scientist you can still communicate clearly using small words. Fields dominated by complex words and prose are full of opportunity for common folks to learn them, simplify them, and share them with other common folk. Most people are common in most ways.

Published: November 3, 2007 by Aaron Wall in business


November 3, 2007 - 4:43pm

Thank you Aaron for sharing this nice find :)
Bookmarked it for Sunday read.

November 3, 2007 - 5:28pm

Have you seen Bullfighter from writers of "Why Business People Speak Like Idiots"

I've played around with it a bit.

It tells you how much bullshit is in your writing (Cost-effective, scalable best practices for cutting edge information highway communications). It also gives you a Flesch readability score.


BTW: The last 3 paragraphs of your post scored 100 for Bull and 56 on the Flesch score. Higher is better. Here is what it said:

Bull Diagnosis: Diagnosis: Congratulations - you rely upon standard words to explain concepts. Most concepts will be clear and understood. Keep clean.

Flesch Diagnosis: Diagnosis: Mostly clear, with some unnecessarily long words and sentences. You get to the point, although with an occasional detour. Most educated readers will navigate the text with no difficulty. Longer words and sentences appear occasionally.

November 3, 2007 - 7:19pm

I can "clarify topics and make them more accessible to us", and "transfer knowledge to others", and "communicate clearly", unfortunately it's in a wholly unprofitable, barely commercial area.

November 3, 2007 - 7:36pm

Every topic that has passion in it has commercial ties.

November 3, 2007 - 8:52pm

"Get rich quick selling tools for the modern anarchist"

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