Wise Up

We hire smart people and turn them stupid, writes Margaret Heffernan, author of The Naked Truth: A Working Woman's Manifesto on Business and What Really Matters and Talent & Careers Fast Company Resource Center Columnist. In order to combat Thinking Deficiency Disorder — writes Heffernan in her latest installment ""Wise Up" — companies have to invest in their people.

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  • Vanessa Horwell

    This conversation/argument has so many facets, I don't really know where to start. Maybe I will start with Vic Napier's suggestion to ask a HR director or prospective employer what he/she likes about the company.I have tried to imagine doing that... sitting in the interview chair and asking. Wouldn't this encroach on personal territory? Wouldn't I come across as arrogant? Unless a company has an overtly inside-out branding culture (e.g., Southwest airlines), I think it would be a dumb move. Now, about Meirs Briggs testing... Should a test that tells me what I am good at determine my career choice/move? Suppose I took the test tomorrow and Meirs Briggs told me that my future was in trucking, er, driving a truck. Should I do it, as Fulton suggests, or should I stick with what excites me and what I'm passionate about? I say screw the tests and go for your heart/gut.I don't need a piece of paper to tell me what I want to do, or what makes me happy.

    Now, turning to Heffernan's posting. It is disturbing to know that employees bring only 5-10% of their skill sets to work. If that is the case, how on earth did/does anyone get hired? Shouldn't we be questioning the ability/skill sets of the hirers?

    I guess Heffernan is right though that we have created a corporate culture that does not encourage, to use a bastardized expression, "thinking outside the box". Department managers can rest easy when no-one, especially some young, new upstart, questions their authority. And therein lies the problem. So how do we change this corporate culture? To use the gender issue at this point does nothing but exasperat the problem. As a working professional for over 15 years, and a female, I have never been denied my right to contribute, influence or make decisions at work. Some of my decisions have been wrong, and my ego and reputation has suffered as a consequence. But I have never felt the need to create a separate persona to for my working life, to my home life. So my question is maybe it's not a corporate culture we have created, but our own wanting to "fit in" to a culture that we have created. And only "we", can change that. What do you think?

  • Peter

    There is another question. How many smart people does it take to make a profit?

    Is the emphasis on intellect and capital overstated ?

    Maybe smart people are best suited to activities that don't involve working in/managing/running organisatiuons that sell stuff.

  • Vic Napier

    While I agree that some of Ms. Heffernan’s comments left me feeling a little slighted because of my gender I have to applaud her for emphasizing the idea of matching employee values to organizational culture. Job seekers need to be doing more of this – the interview process is a two way street after all. Asking questions at the interview – “So what do YOU like about working here?”-- is something very few people do, yet incredibly revealing. Interview panels are usually taken aback when questions are asked, and answers, (or the lack of them), are very revealing.

    If more applicants asked questions of the interviewers it wouldn’t take long for the message to reach companies that they are being screen and evaluated in the same way that they screen and evaluate potential employees. Only then will we start to see changes in the way employees are treated.

  • Chris

    Wow, another article bashing men. How enlightening.

    If Ms. Heffernan would use a few more percent of her abilities, she would discover that Solomon was writing about some of this 2800 years ago.

    She would realize that the men/women divide existed long before the industrial revolution, and persists among virtually every culture in the world.

    Congrats to you Mr. Fulton, for finding the ideal job. My frustration is that while I have a title/position that matches my MBTI, the actual duties are far different. But, I continue to strive to find a job that matches my abilities and type(and vociferously encourage others to do the same).

  • roger fulton

    ok, I got the point, great article when I tripped on over on the link, BUT...I think the proper question is..what skills 'was I asked to use' when I went to work?
    My point, we bring all our skill sets to work when we first hire on, bright, sharp, filled with enthusiasm, pistols loaded, gunbelts on, we're ready for bear -- then, we get stuffed into a corner, told what to do and...ta da: FOLLOW THE PROGRAM AND SHUT UP.
    Sure, I agree with Heffernan, corporations make smart people dumb, you turn all the new hires into automatons, because you take in the best and the brightest then stuff them into cubicles, give them the playbook, and tell them to read off the pages, and shut up.
    "We've never done it that way before" THE SEVEN HOLY WORDS. Or, run it by.........
    And what's worse, taking off to "greener pastures usually doesn't help unless it falls into three areas: small companies - shirtsleeve outfits.
    Your own start ups, but you better have the bread to carry yourself for at least a year. And/or take a Meirs Briggs test to find out what you ARE really good at -- then go do it.
    I did, SCHOOL TEACHER. So, I went from hotel sales director to school teacher and loving it.
    Do it.