The Smartest Man in the Room
January 9, 2015
I’m a big fan of the BBC show ‘Sherlock’ partly because of the writing and acting, but largely because it’s driven by his singular genius and the friction he creates between himself and every other character. In my line of work, I often collaborate with very smart, albeit quirky, people. It seems to come with the territory. And just as it is with Sherlock, the dynamics can lead to some interesting and challenging adventures.
The other day, I read a thought-provoking post titled, “Why I’m Kind of Tired of the ‘Smartest Man In The Room.” One of the big take-aways was that in pop culture, most of the Smartest Men in the Room are really awful to work with. They’re jerks. And somehow, it’s okay to be a jerk if you’re really smart. But in the real world, it doesn’t translate. Experience has taught me that “smart” and “successful” aren’t the same thing, and even if it were true (it rarely is), folks are rarely the kind of save-the-day genius portrayed in Sherlock.
I know that New Year Eve is behind us, and Thanksgiving is soooo last year, but I’m thankful that my development team is smart and nice. That makes a difference not just in our personal interactions, but in those with our clients. And, it directly influences our success. Moreover, we cherish good process rather than save-the-day fixes.
Watch an episode of Sherlock and you’ll see everything going downhill: things in peril and interpersonal relationships strained. In the last minute, the hero saves the day. It’s great TV, but terrible for project management. Who wants to work for months at a time, filled with dread and foreboding, yet hoping against hope the some genius will rescue them? Not me. I don’t want to be that genius-hero either.
If a project needs saving, it means the team and process isn’t working properly. Rather than focusing on the heros, focus on how things get done (or don’t) and iron out the path to success. That way, everyone wins, not just the smartest guy in the room.
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