Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Too many smart people in a room.

Today I read an article on Google questioning if there were too many smart people in Google for its own good. Google has been known to have a very tough hiring process and is known in the valley for hiring only the very best. This has built as aura around Google and its employees. The halo around the headquarters is for all to see. But the article indirectly asks a very pertinent question. Is there such a thing as having too many good people in an organization?

From my experiences at workplaces I think the author has a very good point. Most people I have met who are blessed with above average intelligence also comes with a certain level of attitude that is not ideal towards managing them. In one of the companies that I was working in there used to be a really sharp guy who was the last word in what he did. But there was not a soul who could control him. The managers basically were at his mercy as far as deliverables was concerned. Don't get me wrong he was good. But he was just not manageable.

So what does an organization need? Is it smart people? Or is it smart people leading drones of worker bees? It’s a hard balance to get. Would you really hire a person that you thought wasn't really good? I feel that you need extremely smart people in every office to lead and give direction to an organization. The key is that everyone should be held to the organizational structure. The chain of command should be crystal clear. No one should be above the law. Once the chain of command is established, there is no need to worry about smart people anywhere in the organization.

I think really smart people walk into an organization thinking that they are above the rest. The usual day to day rules do not apply to them. Managers fearing the nearly cosmic abililities of the employee are reluctant to rein this person in. And here in lies the problem. Slowly each person begins to think that they are a little bit smarter and thus slowly moving out of the grasp of the corporate law. This will finally lead to anarchy.

I don’t think it is a bad thing to have too many smart people in a room. The question is weather each person in the room knows where they should be standing. If they can’t seem to stand in one place then they should be asked to leave the room. After all an unsettled room is the last thing that everyone standing in there wants.


Jas said...
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Jas said...

I had read an article a long time ago on cnn.com. Dating back to the early 60's or even earlier Ford had hired a group of extremely brilliant people and created a successfull prodcut. It was tried again at IBM in the recent times to no luck. Hiring a bunch of brilliant individuals does not necessarily translate into success. I believe most people(maybe i am making a big assumption here) with proper guidance and some push can shine themselves.
I do believe there is something as "too many smart people in a room". Each one an expert in their own right, know they are the best and have their own individual style of operating. Either lead or contribute and be willing to be lead.