While enjoying some lakeside time I saw a beverage koozie with a great phrase: “Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity”.
I have a very positive outlook on the potential for any person to grow and develop from their current capability. I also have a view of how people as a group have developed our own natural intelligence or lack thereof. Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway provides another useful perspective, “It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”
There are hundreds of other funny yet true quotes that address this same point, but I like these two because they approach the same subject from two sides and use humor to prove the point.
Takeaways for those of us looking to make our teams and companies better:
1. Invest in your people, your team, before you invest in technology.
What have you invested in time and money over the last year to raise your team’s average intelligence? If that number is less than what you’ve invested in technology, rethink your approach. Every team and every company can improve their performance tremendously, and much of that improvement is locked into your current ways of working. Apply your training, experience, and intelligence to improve the way you work before you apply technology to digitize the way you do it now.
2. Smart counterpoints are necessary.
Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett are among the most successful investors of our time. Yet these highly trained, highly intelligent, very wealthy people still put an emphasis on not being stupid and understanding their blind spots. You can obviously work to improve your own intelligence and way of thinking, but a better counterpoint often comes from someone else. Better decisions happen when everyone else on your team has the knowledge and skills to think about decisions and a culture that supports dissent.
3. Intelligence and awareness are a choice.
Your intelligence about how your operation works today and your awareness about how to improve it should be much better now than they were 1, 2, or 5 years in the past. If that’s not the case, what is limiting your growth? If that is the case, would the people on your team say the same thing? Don’t let people get trapped by what their family, friends, school, or past employer said about their “natural intelligence”. Assure them that they can be better, smarter, faster than they are today, and work with them to prove it’s true. Believe you can improve and act on it.
This article started with the phrase “Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity”. The fun is proving that natural learning and intelligence are better than either of them.