Chillin'Competition

Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

A stupid post

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You already know this trick: busy days= attempts at light funny or stupid posts. Today’s post isn’t particularly funny, but it sure is particularly stupid. Even though it’s not prima facie related to competition law, I’m sure that you’ll be able to find it of practical application to your law firm, competition authority, university or psychiatric institution (to name only the four organizations from which we get more readers):

A couple of Swedish professors (M. Alvesson and A. Spicer) have recently published an article titled A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organisations in which they develop the concept of “functional stupidity” and conclude that organizations with too many smart individuals risk being disfunctional.  Their article has been discussed in other places like Fortune or New Scientist, where it was originally published.

The authors posit that stupidity boosts productivity, streamlines things in an effective manner, facilitates consensus, conveys respect for hierarchy, fosters a culture of commitment and effort, and that it can even help you (no offence;  I didn’t mean you, I meant the stupid at issue..) get a promotion faster (the argument supporter the latter being that bosses would not promote their most useful assistants because they couldn’t do without them).

The theory also goes that people who try to make sure that everyone notices how smart they are are likely to do worse than those who hide their intelligence (a troubling thought for many of us show-off  lawyers). Likewise, places where people tend to believe they are clever are, according to this theory, quite inefficient (I wonder whether profit per partner ratios confirm this intuition)

Interestingly, the Fortune piece discussing this article and the benefits of stupidity concludes with a reference to Google’s simple and functional user interface (as already anticipated a few times, whether Google’s UI will be smartened up or made more complex thanks to DG Comp will be discussed in our upcoming comments on Google’s commitments; but don’t take my word for it, a couple of years ago we also committed to hold a Chillin’Competition conference and, well…).

For more on stupidity, check out Cipolla’s masterpice on The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity.

P.S. If you ask me, whereas there may be some logical basis and abundant practical evidence for some of this “functional stupitidy” theory, holding it as true would be a bit stupid, and, as most things stupid, quite dangerous.

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

7 May 2013 at 5:25 pm

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