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The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work

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Functional stupidity can be catastrophic. It can cause organisational collapse, financial meltdown and technical disaster. And there are countless, more everyday examples of organisations accepting the dubious, the absurd and the downright idiotic, from unsustainable management fads to the cult of leadership or an over-reliance on brand and image. And yet a dose of stupidi Functional stupidity can be catastrophic. It can cause organisational collapse, financial meltdown and technical disaster. And there are countless, more everyday examples of organisations accepting the dubious, the absurd and the downright idiotic, from unsustainable management fads to the cult of leadership or an over-reliance on brand and image. And yet a dose of stupidity can be useful and produce good, short-term results: it can nurture harmony, encourage people to get on with the job and drive success. This is the stupidity paradox. The Stupidity Paradox tackles head-on the pros and cons of functional stupidity. You'll discover what makes a workplace mindless, why being stupid might be a good thing in the short term but a disaster in the longer term, and how to make your workplace a little less stupid by challenging thoughtless conformity. It shows how harmony and action in the workplace can be balanced with a culture of questioning and challenge. The book is a wake-up call for smart organisations and smarter people. It encourages us to use our intelligence fully for the sake of personal satisfaction, organisational success and the flourishing of society as a whole.


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Functional stupidity can be catastrophic. It can cause organisational collapse, financial meltdown and technical disaster. And there are countless, more everyday examples of organisations accepting the dubious, the absurd and the downright idiotic, from unsustainable management fads to the cult of leadership or an over-reliance on brand and image. And yet a dose of stupidi Functional stupidity can be catastrophic. It can cause organisational collapse, financial meltdown and technical disaster. And there are countless, more everyday examples of organisations accepting the dubious, the absurd and the downright idiotic, from unsustainable management fads to the cult of leadership or an over-reliance on brand and image. And yet a dose of stupidity can be useful and produce good, short-term results: it can nurture harmony, encourage people to get on with the job and drive success. This is the stupidity paradox. The Stupidity Paradox tackles head-on the pros and cons of functional stupidity. You'll discover what makes a workplace mindless, why being stupid might be a good thing in the short term but a disaster in the longer term, and how to make your workplace a little less stupid by challenging thoughtless conformity. It shows how harmony and action in the workplace can be balanced with a culture of questioning and challenge. The book is a wake-up call for smart organisations and smarter people. It encourages us to use our intelligence fully for the sake of personal satisfaction, organisational success and the flourishing of society as a whole.

30 review for The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maru Kun

    Quite often at work I've pretended to be more stupid than I am. I don't like to do this as it's intellectually dishonest, but from time to time the alternative - looking clever - was clearly the worse choice. The most obvious reason for pretending to be stupid at work is to make the boss look good and I'm sure anyone who has been in a job for more than a few months has done this. A less obvious but almost equally common reason for strategic stupidity is to keep a low profile. Some people, early in Quite often at work I've pretended to be more stupid than I am. I don't like to do this as it's intellectually dishonest, but from time to time the alternative - looking clever - was clearly the worse choice. The most obvious reason for pretending to be stupid at work is to make the boss look good and I'm sure anyone who has been in a job for more than a few months has done this. A less obvious but almost equally common reason for strategic stupidity is to keep a low profile. Some people, early in their career, naively believe that looking clever and being competent will get them promoted. Very often it will do no more than get them riffed in the next round of layoffs, as what boss wants a smart young rival at his heels? (If your mind is unpolluted by corporate jargon, being riffed means being fired, coming from the Human Resources Dictionary of Platitudes - “Reduction In Force" - your friends who aren't there one morning so we can build a bright future together). Another reason for not wanting to look as clever as you are is that you will be given more work for no additional reward. You are so clever you will be the one in the office until midnight while everyone else has gone home. That's how clever you are. After a few years of this you will be promoted and get paid more, but then you'll be riffed as being more expensive than anyone else. At first glance the modern workplace looks a complicated place. Look too clever, get riffed for embarrassing the boss. Act too clever, get riffed for being a smartass. Use your intelligence and competence to advance up the career ladder, get riffed as being too expensive or too old. Don't be clever at all, get riffed for being stupid. But is it really complicated? Not if you use this simple recipe for career success which I have seen adopted by many top executives. This mnemonic is all you need to know. Corporate success needs BALLS: Bullshit. Arselick. Lie effectively. Lay the blame. Sod off home early. I haven't read this book as I don't have to. I've lived it for years. PS: The article on the above book which I have linked here - "Stupefied: How organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door" - is undoubtedly the most truthful article on the modern business organisation I have ever read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peter Geyer

    I'm not a big fan of books on organisations, and there are several reasons for this. Perhaps the most pertinent is that I'd been in workplaces and/or organisations for nearly 20 years before I read one and a number of thoise years were spent wandering in and out of them as a customs officer where I observed a fair amount of incompetence, hubris and success, sometimes all three in the same visit. So when I studied (and later taught) organisations, my experience (as well as other studies) made me I'm not a big fan of books on organisations, and there are several reasons for this. Perhaps the most pertinent is that I'd been in workplaces and/or organisations for nearly 20 years before I read one and a number of thoise years were spent wandering in and out of them as a customs officer where I observed a fair amount of incompetence, hubris and success, sometimes all three in the same visit. So when I studied (and later taught) organisations, my experience (as well as other studies) made me more critical than what I might otherwise have been of the field itself. There were books and ideas of great interest, but the dross extended to some (still) famous names and there were many half-baked ideas taken from other disciplines, including religions. As an internal organisation consultant, I worked to an agreeable, intelligent boss who devoured books on management and I wondered why he did so because there were other topics much more interesting, and better written; later, as a person teaching a method of self-understanding to individuals, groups and organisations, I found myself caught up in some things and dismissive of others, perhaps even bewildered at the views some people held, or accepted as fact. These days, I'm an unwilling client of a couple of organisations that don't work that well, and of course an observer of public and private managers and institutions in the context of the social polity, if I may call it that. It's in this context that I came across Mats Alvesson, referenced in an online article I was reading, although not this book, but another one which lies within reach waiting for my attention. If you've had my experience, particularly my most recent experience, a book about stupidity at work has immense appeal, partly because of the pleasure gathered from discovering someone else, or at least Alvesson and his co-author Andre Spicer has also noticed this phenomenon and has written about it. Not being au fait with current trends in thi field, I was surprised to find that Alvesson is quite well known and respected. If you read this book, you'll find out why. There's plenty of thought, experience and research by the authors and others is mentioned that covers Europe, the UK and the USA in particular, to bolster their proposition The paradox of stupidity is that it has good and bad points. Ignoring the obvious or not reflecting on what happened, or doing what everyone else is doing or has done are examples of organisational stupidity, but they can be good or bad. Critiquing things can make you unpopular, not identified as a team players and so on, particularly if a new strategy is introduced. Knowing too much can also be a dangerous thing. The authors cast their sights on the idea of the "knowledge worker" and critique the associated jargon, pointing out that whilst a highly educated workforce is claimed as desirable, that many organisation processes are designed to simplify every task, with check-lists to tick and other oversight activities, so that the work available is less than challenging. Educated people may also be narrowly so and the example is given of the financial crisis of the mid 2000s being precipitated by economic and financial models developed by bright people somewhat distanced from other knowledge or reality. These people were never questioned about what they were doing and they never questioned themselves. Some curious ideas about developing creativity and a swingeing critique of thought about leadership are included. The latter topic is of interest to me because I've always seen it as somewhat nebulous and poorly identified, even presumed. The open contempt which people in organisations respond to new fads and fancies, particularly in this area and in teamwork is something I've observed , sometimes as a trainer presenting relevant personality ideas. I don't have a problem with that, actually, as it tells you something. Other topics here are suggestions that bureaucracy hasn't gone away, no matter what some people say; it just looks different. It's an unfairly pejorative term, actually, because it's not a bad idea to be organised; micro-management is another issue, however. One of the examples provided here is that of tertiary education, where administrators outnumber teaching staff and seek to control what is taught. Alvesson and Spicer add that education is now an image industry, with advertising and marketing that makes a school or university look good, partly by making improbable statements about the quality of what will occur there and the success that will inevitably follow, as opposed to unemployment and working as a sales clerk, or barista, or not working at all. The discussion of image continues on to consulting firms and how they operate, which brought back memories 25 years or so ago about a McKinsey intervention in my workplace, and in others, conducted by young, bright people and supported by senior management who didn't know how to evaluate such programs, but did it, like benchmarking I suppose, another target here, because everyone else was doing it. Brands, inevitably, also come in for a serve. Something that continually came to mind when reading this book was consciousness, or the lack of it, however defined, even the desire to not deal with things that were brought to conscious attention. The cost of standing out by disagreeing, to paraphrase Bruno Latour, may be too high; after all, you want to have a job, or get a promotion. There are all sorts of things in this book that are of worth. It's an easy read, sometimes quite amusing, astute and well thought through. I would call it a healthy, informed skepticism, which is something I really enjoy. If you work in organisations, or with people who do, this is an essential book. A subtext is the emptiness of work, which is the topic of the other, earlier, book ("The Triumph of Emptiness: consumption, higher education and work organisation") which got me to this one. A note to the people who are following me and have asked to be friends; thank you, I'm honoured you are doing so. I'm not inclined to open my number of friends at this point. Feel free to email me if you like. Regards Peter

  3. 5 out of 5

    N. N. Santiago

    Though the title implies that there are both benefits and drawbacks to Functional Stupidity (otherwise known as doing what someone tells you to, or obviously wants from you), the book deals almost exclusively with the latter, enumerating the many aggravating, depressing forms of kool-aid foisting and drinking occasioned by a world of interacting with other people, mostly at work. If you are someone for whom swallowing guff about 'core values' or whatever the current passive-aggressive management Though the title implies that there are both benefits and drawbacks to Functional Stupidity (otherwise known as doing what someone tells you to, or obviously wants from you), the book deals almost exclusively with the latter, enumerating the many aggravating, depressing forms of kool-aid foisting and drinking occasioned by a world of interacting with other people, mostly at work. If you are someone for whom swallowing guff about 'core values' or whatever the current passive-aggressive management fad happens to be - "I don't think that behaviour embodies our core values, do you?" - feels like an affront to your intellectual dignity, the really depressing thing is the implication of that positive descriptor in the title. Functional stupidity can have benefits. It can facilitate decision-making, create a good workplace climate, safeguard people's sense of self, and offer a sense of direction. But too much functional stupidity may have drawbacks. It can obstruct clever decision-making and problem-solving, build a conformist workplace, undermine identities, and desensitize people to problems.Organisations cannot function with a bunch of hyper-critical know-it-alls (ie. you and me). A little bit of functional stupidity is necessary to be able to get anything done in a group. Alvesson and Spicer spend too much time on an understandable cri de coeur of the exasperating side (for an underling) of functional stupidity, which means that when they come around to reminding you at the end of its positives, it undermines the direction the book has been taking so far. Going by the title, the book should cover more of how and where the line between too-much and too-little functional stupidity can be drawn, and the implications for, and impact on, the lives of the impotent and inconsequential majority of working minions.

  4. 5 out of 5

    InvestingByTheBooks.com

    How is it possible that organizations filled with the best and brightest so often end up doing stupid things? Professors and organizational theorists Mats Alvesson’s and André Spicer’s explanation is that there are actually short-term benefits to stupidity both to organizations and to employees – although in the longer term the folly will often prove to be detrimental. Absolutely everyone that has been engaged in the inner life of large organizations will – with a sardonic smile – recognize nume How is it possible that organizations filled with the best and brightest so often end up doing stupid things? Professors and organizational theorists Mats Alvesson’s and André Spicer’s explanation is that there are actually short-term benefits to stupidity both to organizations and to employees – although in the longer term the folly will often prove to be detrimental. Absolutely everyone that has been engaged in the inner life of large organizations will – with a sardonic smile – recognize numerous of situations from this book. The key concept presented by the authors is what they call functional stupidity, by which they refer to the inability and unwillingness of organizations to let the staff utilize their cognitive and reflective capacity, apart from in relation to very narrow, technical and often repetitive tasks. But it also refers to the, presumably smart, employees’ willingness to self-stupidify. This results in a lack of reflection on the assumptions behind what is being done, in not asking why things are done to start with and not seeing the wider consequences of actions. It might sound inconceivable that this inanity would be tolerated yet alone often encouraged by companies and public organizations and likewise sought after by the employees. Still, organizations benefit from employees’ stupidity since constant questioning creates doubt, uncertainty and conflict and by this is in the way of productivity. The authors even launch the concept of stupidity management as an organizational process of managing the balance between questioning and efficiency. In my meaning the expression probably gives an illusion of an explicit managerial control that doesn’t really exist. The employees benefit from their stupidity as they by not challenging social norms free up time and energy, they show loyalty and fit in. So stupidity comes with pros and cons. Still over time the process creates alienated and cynical staff with numbed cognitive abilities, it creates loads of non-productive work and worst case sets the company up for disaster. The book has some structural issues. Although functional stupidity is described as also having positive aspects there is an apparent underlying axiom throughout the book that organizations that utilize the cognitive abilities of their staff will yield superior results. Still, with some exception it isn’t until the last chapter this is explicitly stated. The folly has gone too far and has to be combated! I think it would have been better to come clean with this up front. Similarly, the most comprehensive definition of the concept functional stupidity comes in the conclusion of the last chapter. The start of the book is quite repetitive as the authors introduce the key thoughts in the preface, repeat them in the introduction and then again with a few examples throughout part one. Part two of the book, covering different types of stupidities, is more varied but also contains a fairly odd chapter on consumerism. The authors are clearly entitled to their opinions but the subject belongs to a different book and Naomi Klein has already written it. All in all there are 8,5 chapters of description and only 0,5 chapter of prescription – some more practical advice on what to do about the problem wouldn’t have hurt. These issues are however easily forgiven. The authors are in my opinion dead right in their key insights and it isn’t often you bump in to new concepts that frames and explains a lot of what you intuitively know but additionally stimulates and provokes new thoughts. The book also has the extra attraction of making the reader feeling smart, of being one of those select few that have seen through the charade. Not least an intellectual snob like myself is easily seduced by this angle – I did buy the book. There are many texts on the biases of individuals or the madness of crowds in manias but fewer that explain the more mundane day-to-day irrationality of organizational processes. This is an important and thought provoking book that deserves a wide audience among corporate managers and knowledge-workers alike.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Richard Schwindt

    Every now and again a book comes along that makes you sit up and say: “This explains a lot.” As one of the few people to serve on the management team of a Children’s Aid Society, public hospital and a Children’s Mental Health Centre, I feel that way about the Stupidity Paradox. So much in this book rang true. Alvesson and Spicer bring a rare glee and accessible prose to their discussion of how functional stupidity pervades our public and private sector organizations. They note how organizations Every now and again a book comes along that makes you sit up and say: “This explains a lot.” As one of the few people to serve on the management team of a Children’s Aid Society, public hospital and a Children’s Mental Health Centre, I feel that way about the Stupidity Paradox. So much in this book rang true. Alvesson and Spicer bring a rare glee and accessible prose to their discussion of how functional stupidity pervades our public and private sector organizations. They note how organizations promote the idea of knowledge workers, hire the best and the brightest – then shut down criticism and original thinking. They note how branding and rigid group norms can stifle discussion of problems that put profits or safety at risk. They also skewer trend followers and management gurus. As much fun as this is book is for anyone who has winced through an organizational failure, the authors also note occasions where functional stupidity is necessary. Employees need to bond, projects must be executed, and working as a unit may be necessary to ensure a company goes forward rather than being immobilized by self-examination. In the end companies may need to achieve both things – functional stupidity and a capacity for critical self-examination. If nothing else this should give pause to any reader who works for an organization that stifles dissent, critical discussion or diversity at the expense of the larger mission. As a writer on emotional recovery from workplace mobbing, and an EAFP counsellor, I couldn’t help wonder about when the control of diversity of thought and manner becomes workplace mobbing; the price employees paid outside of the workplace for functional stupidity inside; and how people trained to functional stupidity behaved in the political arena (that question may have been answered this week.) This is an important book for managers and employers; CEO’s and stockholders who want to look deeper into the secrets of organizational success and failure.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kristian Norling

    This is a good book, it also aligns well with my grumpy side. I recognise and have experienced a lot of the functional stupidity explained in this book. My favourite quote from the book: "When specialism rules, we get the problem of people who only have a hammer in their toolbox, and as a result are inclined to treat everything as if it were a nail. As a consequence, organisations are full of specialists who work on problems as they know them. However, most problems are not isolated. Having many e This is a good book, it also aligns well with my grumpy side. I recognise and have experienced a lot of the functional stupidity explained in this book. My favourite quote from the book: "When specialism rules, we get the problem of people who only have a hammer in their toolbox, and as a result are inclined to treat everything as if it were a nail. As a consequence, organisations are full of specialists who work on problems as they know them. However, most problems are not isolated. Having many experts each working away on their own little aspect of a wider problem can create many unforeseen problems. For instance, organisations can find themselves expanding because there are more experts employed. Inevitably these experts will start to develop plans, procedures, rules, routines and activities and demand compliance from everybody else. The result is often to multiply bureaucracy, with an organisations core work suffering as people are forced to spend time responding to the experts' demands. As well as being costly in itself, the division of labour and the inclinations of all these people not just to be supportive but also to demand responses to all their initiatives and requests can be very resource-intensive. With specialisation and division of labour we get a lot of boxed-in thinking. Few people have a comprehensive understanding of the situation. They do not make connections. Different groups specialise. Top management seldom has a full overview and doesn't understand what units and people are doing. This is often a breeding ground for functional stupidity."

  7. 4 out of 5

    kk

    Don’t mind its populist and “attention seeker” title, It is a solid and clever book, dedicated for a good cause (which is progression for masses and shaming the mediocrity), decently structured and offering its own solutions in the end against the case that it’s written for. Had troubling time -failing to concentrate- during reading process, facing and reminding in each different paragraph all the stupidity experiences I had during my own career; which proved me that it’s a well written one as we Don’t mind its populist and “attention seeker” title, It is a solid and clever book, dedicated for a good cause (which is progression for masses and shaming the mediocrity), decently structured and offering its own solutions in the end against the case that it’s written for. Had troubling time -failing to concentrate- during reading process, facing and reminding in each different paragraph all the stupidity experiences I had during my own career; which proved me that it’s a well written one as well. I’ll seriously try to hand one to my current and all future CEOs knowing that the title would risk me difficult time. The build-up is made over the “present time” and the rest is full of serious and consecutive argumentation against its powerful vicious circle (at work, at school, at politics etc.) and how to break it: “… As well as being optimistic, many organizations have a strong emphasis on the present. The present (and the near future) counts more than the past. Managers think in the short term because they are evaluated by their superiors and colleagues on their short-term results. Some managers say that ‘Our horizon is today’s lunch’ and like to make quips like ‘I know what you did for me yesterday, but what have you done for me lately?’ …” Only wish to see some real-life cases where such solutions been applied and shown the expected results.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Josep

    I will start recommending it as a good book to start a debate about good and not so good company practices. It has value for been able to create debate, as it has some really interesting insights. "One of us studied manager who claimed to do leadership. They said that having coffee with their subordinates, listening to them or engaging them in small talk had a significant impact on them. They saw this as an exercise of leadership. If another person - say their secretary - had done the small talk I will start recommending it as a good book to start a debate about good and not so good company practices. It has value for been able to create debate, as it has some really interesting insights. "One of us studied manager who claimed to do leadership. They said that having coffee with their subordinates, listening to them or engaging them in small talk had a significant impact on them. They saw this as an exercise of leadership. If another person - say their secretary - had done the small talking, no one would have called it leadership, but the managers followed the scripts of leadership and saw trivial acts as full of impressive influencing activity." is one of the many interesting reflections. But with a style that mixes touches of academic book with that of a cynical blog post it loses appeal. The last part of the book, dedicated to how to improve this situation, falls almost as comical as it lists well intended receipts to be followed by that same leaders that the book was mocking some pages before. Is this humorous ending on purpose or just a failed shot to return to a more academical style? It is hard to tell.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Allys Dierker

    Liked the analyses of why “functional stupidity” works and thrives in some cases. Alvesson and Spicer do a good job articulating some issues I’ve had a hard time articulating: higher-Education inflation, why “knowledge-intensive” firms are often a confidence game, why economies of persuasion feel so empty, why transformational leadership is often neither. They identify some “tricks of the trade” in “stupidity management” and also some suggestions for resisting stupidification. Wisely, though, th Liked the analyses of why “functional stupidity” works and thrives in some cases. Alvesson and Spicer do a good job articulating some issues I’ve had a hard time articulating: higher-Education inflation, why “knowledge-intensive” firms are often a confidence game, why economies of persuasion feel so empty, why transformational leadership is often neither. They identify some “tricks of the trade” in “stupidity management” and also some suggestions for resisting stupidification. Wisely, though, they also caution people that sometimes functional stupidity can be employed to good results (to smooth friction among a group of otherwise very intelligent workers, to help build morale, to increase efficiency) and more importantly, that sometimes it’s not pragmatic or wise to battle functional stupidity. Any adult with a soupçon of smarts and a longer-than-2-year tenure in any single working environment won’t be blown away by any argument Alvesson and Spicer make, but i appreciate their clear argument (and have a few more books on order to read, from their end notes).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sam Ladner

    I'm an old fann of Mats Alvesson, so I was excited to read this book. As usual, he did not disappoint. This book tells you why there's such a thing as corporate stupidity, even though corporations consistently hire people with advanced degrees and high IQs. How and in what ways does this happen? Alvesson describes the social processes whereby we end up making the same mistakes over and over again. It's well read alongside anything by Chris Argyris, who also provides insight into how individuals I'm an old fann of Mats Alvesson, so I was excited to read this book. As usual, he did not disappoint. This book tells you why there's such a thing as corporate stupidity, even though corporations consistently hire people with advanced degrees and high IQs. How and in what ways does this happen? Alvesson describes the social processes whereby we end up making the same mistakes over and over again. It's well read alongside anything by Chris Argyris, who also provides insight into how individuals make these mistakes. Alvesson's work is more sociological in nature, and shows how group dynamics develop, grow, and perpetuate collective stupidity. Sad read, but worth it. The only complaint I had was the "what to do about it" section. Alvesson, like a lot of academics, doesn't know much about the corporate timescape. Yes, absolutely have post-mortems, but in today's 24/7 world, who has time? He should identify time as one of the real enemies (he doesn't seem to know that it is).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Srikanth

    Loved the title of the book, more importantly the contents of the book. The moment is started reading it, felt like it was a ghost written auto-biography of my work life. The best part is, i could see the same pattern being followed in both military as well as civilian organizations that i have worked in. I felt, that these guys heard us and were talking to me. Started the book with lot of happiness at being felt empathetic. Then it ended from the second chapter. What started off as beautiful st Loved the title of the book, more importantly the contents of the book. The moment is started reading it, felt like it was a ghost written auto-biography of my work life. The best part is, i could see the same pattern being followed in both military as well as civilian organizations that i have worked in. I felt, that these guys heard us and were talking to me. Started the book with lot of happiness at being felt empathetic. Then it ended from the second chapter. What started off as beautiful stories that everyone of us could relate to ended up being a business book that is boring and typical. I would highlight the issues with the book as follows A. The authors touched upon an important topic and made it boring. B. Once past the initial chapters, it gets repetitive and boring with dull pace C. It doesn't have any solutions (not that anyone can) but some form of closure would have really helped. You can avoid the book if you can.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This book is not going to give you solutions to your functional stupidity. They show you all the ways in which we actively participate in the stupidity and then they're asking you to think and reflect upon it. Sometimes the stupidity is necessary, but often, it is not. It's up to you to decide in your own unique situation what is appropriate. I loved it because I'm self proclaimed cynic/realist and I was still buying into stupidity. This book really caused me to think hard about so many things t This book is not going to give you solutions to your functional stupidity. They show you all the ways in which we actively participate in the stupidity and then they're asking you to think and reflect upon it. Sometimes the stupidity is necessary, but often, it is not. It's up to you to decide in your own unique situation what is appropriate. I loved it because I'm self proclaimed cynic/realist and I was still buying into stupidity. This book really caused me to think hard about so many things that I celebrate and do and it was a somber experience. But I don't mind it when a book cuts me down a peg or two. Often the best criticism is deep self reflection. But that's just like, my opinion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ramesh Naidu

    A deeply disturbing book. Easily the hardest and one of the most interesting book read this year , need to re read every couple of years

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Doohan

    This was a fun - and at times funny - book to read. Drawing upon their own academic expertise and the studies of companies undertaken by themselves and others, Alvesson and Spicer draw into the stark light of public awareness the phenomenon they name as 'functional stupidity', that propensity for otherwise smart and intelligent people to not "use cognitive and reflective capacities in anything other than narrow and circumspect ways". This functional stupidity that Alvesson and Spicer describe sho This was a fun - and at times funny - book to read. Drawing upon their own academic expertise and the studies of companies undertaken by themselves and others, Alvesson and Spicer draw into the stark light of public awareness the phenomenon they name as 'functional stupidity', that propensity for otherwise smart and intelligent people to not "use cognitive and reflective capacities in anything other than narrow and circumspect ways". This functional stupidity that Alvesson and Spicer describe should bring immediate nods of identification by those who work in the corporate culture of any large organisation - I certainly recognise some of the tendency even with a Church setting among those who, although being very intelligent and experts in their particular field of endeavour, can't see beyond the limits of that field to grasp at the larger questions that arise when talking about the 'culture' of Church in theological terms. As Alvesson and Spicer point out, functional stupidity is a very enticing and seductive approach to working in a large organisation, and one that many will succumb to without even being consciously aware of it. The danger of being captured by functional stupidity, however, is that it essentially turns off one's ability to think critically about the reality being faced by an organisation. The twin-edged blade of functional stupidity is described in wonderful detail in this tome, and is illustrated by numerous examples drawn from real companies, whether they are identified by name or not. This book is a 'must read' for anyone working in an organisation, particularly if they think that the organisation they work for is great, successful, innovative, or an example of best practice. There's every chance that if these characteristics describe the way you think of your organisation, you've been infected and held captive by functional stupidity.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mikael

    This is one of those books you wished you read when you left university but didn't. You then realize that you probably wouldn't have got the message anyway and made all those mistakes that formed you as a manager, leader and human. Now when reading it is painful to watch all that stupidity in retrospective. I'm grateful for all my experience in all my areas of expertise but I'm also sad that we have created a society that is so stupid that we hinder our internal drive for excellence due to our in This is one of those books you wished you read when you left university but didn't. You then realize that you probably wouldn't have got the message anyway and made all those mistakes that formed you as a manager, leader and human. Now when reading it is painful to watch all that stupidity in retrospective. I'm grateful for all my experience in all my areas of expertise but I'm also sad that we have created a society that is so stupid that we hinder our internal drive for excellence due to our instinct to not let anyone lead too far ahead in our groups. This is what makes us stupid and lazy! I would say this is a book for every part of society but most for the people that lead and foster the next generation of thinkers, movers and shakers. The stupidity that makes us weaker and more prone to group thinking needs to be restrained and instead let us be those free spirits that actually looks at the stars and set bold goals, for ourselves and for us all as a species. This is a painful reading experience, not because of the authors, who are excellent and well versed in this field, but the subject is so excruciatingly painful. I have seen every single one of the examples in the book up front and never done anything to fight them. I urge you to read this book and see to that you don't make the same mistakes that I have, but make new bold ones instead! Change the world!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    The authors make many excellent points about how rules and routines, following the lead of other companies, adopting programs without considering fit or customization, branding where nuances just aren’t—and more—lead to individual and organizational stupidity. There are advantages—fast decisions, uniform cultures, and so on. But without critical thinking, problems will arise... But the authors also frequently write in terms of either/or rather than both/and when discussing certain issues. I may b The authors make many excellent points about how rules and routines, following the lead of other companies, adopting programs without considering fit or customization, branding where nuances just aren’t—and more—lead to individual and organizational stupidity. There are advantages—fast decisions, uniform cultures, and so on. But without critical thinking, problems will arise... But the authors also frequently write in terms of either/or rather than both/and when discussing certain issues. I may be a bit sensitive as I deliver what I think are well—facilitated and helpful workshops on communication, collaboration, coaching, conflict resolution...and I’ve certainly seen the kinds of damaging initiatives they were talking about, but the authors showed a few biases as well...all in all though, a worthwhile read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Henrik Warne

    A sceptical look at how modern organizations work. Some of the points I liked the most: - a lot of what is called knowledge work isn't in fact very complicated or knowledge-intensive - fancy titles can make boring jobs bearable - documenting what you do has become more important than the actual doing and the results - having a "positive mindset" can mean that problems are ignored - not questioning what you do, or why, at work can make you feel good about work, and make things run more smoothly (even A sceptical look at how modern organizations work. Some of the points I liked the most: - a lot of what is called knowledge work isn't in fact very complicated or knowledge-intensive - fancy titles can make boring jobs bearable - documenting what you do has become more important than the actual doing and the results - having a "positive mindset" can mean that problems are ignored - not questioning what you do, or why, at work can make you feel good about work, and make things run more smoothly (even if what you do is stupid). Although a bit repetitive, I liked how the others question a lot of established practices in organizations. There are also 285 references to studies illustrating their points.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Dye

    Alvesson and Spicer do an amazing job expounding on all the ways stupidity is enabled and flourishes in the working world. They articulate well why stupid people get ahead, and critical thinkers are frustrated. A smart person might read this and do well to learn to pick their battles and go with the flow to avoid shooting themselves in the foot career-wise, while stupid people--let's face it, those mostly in middle and upper-management--should learn to allow thoughtful people to express their im Alvesson and Spicer do an amazing job expounding on all the ways stupidity is enabled and flourishes in the working world. They articulate well why stupid people get ahead, and critical thinkers are frustrated. A smart person might read this and do well to learn to pick their battles and go with the flow to avoid shooting themselves in the foot career-wise, while stupid people--let's face it, those mostly in middle and upper-management--should learn to allow thoughtful people to express their impressions (and give them promotions!) to avoid the inevitable crash that comes once the correction for stupidity has been delayed too long.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Parvu Andreea

    A great book about paradoxes in organisations. Well documented, great examples from companies but also excellent references to various domains. It changed my perspective on how things happen inside organisations and not always taking “everything” for granted. Question, interpret, reflect and only after start solving the situations. Apparently smart people’s tendency is to jump to conclusions too fast. More than this being used with how things are done, you might just go with the flow, which on t A great book about paradoxes in organisations. Well documented, great examples from companies but also excellent references to various domains. It changed my perspective on how things happen inside organisations and not always taking “everything” for granted. Question, interpret, reflect and only after start solving the situations. Apparently smart people’s tendency is to jump to conclusions too fast. More than this being used with how things are done, you might just go with the flow, which on the short term makes you achieving your tasks and objectives but on the long run, it might have some negative impact. I recommend it if you want to go out of your comfort zone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chuming Ye

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The book started off boring and repetitive because the author emphasized on the same points over an over again. However, as I progressed along the pages, the author starts to share fresh perspectives. This book is overall an interesting read. The author challenges the norm and argued his points on why leadership, corporate culture etc is harmful to individuals as well as the organisation as a whole.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Petter Wolff

    While quite rant-y, this book still provides a good guide on how to "learn to see" functional stupidity, and thereby becoming able to decide on to which degree it's actually functional or not. And, I agree with the authors, it is way more prevalent in today's organizations than it should be (the degree to which people report themselves 'actively disconnected' from their work is a solid indicator). So, I'm going to keep fighting against it, and this book will be part of my field guide library. While quite rant-y, this book still provides a good guide on how to "learn to see" functional stupidity, and thereby becoming able to decide on to which degree it's actually functional or not. And, I agree with the authors, it is way more prevalent in today's organizations than it should be (the degree to which people report themselves 'actively disconnected' from their work is a solid indicator). So, I'm going to keep fighting against it, and this book will be part of my field guide library.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dave Bookshtein

    Great study into the stupidity that plagues the corporate world As a young man navigating his first career steps in the corporate world,I was always puzzled by the stupidity that over run any organization i worked for. I was amazed and how ppl who seems intellgent , navigate situations so poorly. This book manages to articulate and put into words the phenomena called cultural stupidity.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jesper Döpping

    A wake-up call to all of us who have ever worked! This book is well argued provocative, enlightening and constructive. The concept of stupidity management as a double edged sword is well balanced and provide a way of thinking about how we as managers, teachers, employees develop a constructive stance and approach to what we do.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    I wanted to highlight the entire book. So many things jumped off the page about how things are done in corporations and schools. Guaranteed to make you feel vindicated if you've ever endured corporate nonsense. I wanted to highlight the entire book. So many things jumped off the page about how things are done in corporations and schools. Guaranteed to make you feel vindicated if you've ever endured corporate nonsense.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bookwormthings

    Oh how true what is described. One star deducted for being slightly repetitious and not providing solutions. But then that would be an act of rational stupidity, we have to work it out for ourselves!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tomoko

    Interesting and worthwhile argument, but felt like they could have conveyed it in much fewer words. Would have been worth the read if it was the length of an article, but instead they stretched it out into a whole book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dr G Caldwell

    Enjoyable Deconstruction of Management Myths Entertaining romp through Stupidity at Work, but not just a mindless attack. Encouraging to read that thinking should be done at work, but expect resistance!

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

    this was a fun read. It should probably be read along with "Bullshit Jobs" by David Graeber for a full cynical perspective. It does provide some good suggestions to avoid workplace "stupidity". Overall, an enjoyable read. this was a fun read. It should probably be read along with "Bullshit Jobs" by David Graeber for a full cynical perspective. It does provide some good suggestions to avoid workplace "stupidity". Overall, an enjoyable read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul Randles

    Sometimes a little repetitive and negative but ultimately an interesting and balanced study of why it's good and bad to be critical and use cognitive resources in the workplace, and how you can challenge functional stupidity in a constructive manner Sometimes a little repetitive and negative but ultimately an interesting and balanced study of why it's good and bad to be critical and use cognitive resources in the workplace, and how you can challenge functional stupidity in a constructive manner

  30. 5 out of 5

    Wendell Wong

    This book offers an interesting perspective on how the world currently functions and how it works to hinder creativity while promoting uniformity.

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