The Smartest Man in the Room

I’m a big fan of the BBC show Sherlock, in part because of writing and acting, but largely because the whole thing is driven by his singular genius and the friction he creates between himself and every other character.  In the tech world, we work with a lot of very smart, yet oh-so-prickly people.  It seems to come with the territory.

But I was reading a post a few weeks ago titled, “Why I’m Kind Of Tired Of The ‘Smartest Man In The Room’” and it got me thinking.  Sometimes I fancy myself the smartest person on the team, but experience has demonstrated that “smart” and “successful” aren’t the same thing, and even if it were true (it rarely is), I’m not the sort of save-the-day genius portrayed in Sherlock.

The truth is, no one is that smart.

One of the big take-aways of reading that article was that most of the protagonists are really smart, and 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’s never okay to be a jerk.

I know that New Year Eve is a week behind us, and Thankgiving is soooo last year, but I’m thankful that my software development team is nice as well as smart.  That makes a difference not just in our personal interactions, but our interactions with our clients, and even our success rate.  Moreover, we cherish good process rather than save-the-day fixes.

Watch an episode of Sherlock and you’ll see everything going down hill all episode, things in peril, and all the interpersonal relationships strained, until the last minute when the hero saves the day.  It’s great TV, but terrible project management.  Who wants to go 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 isn’t working right.  So rather than focusing on finding a hero, focus on how things get done (or don’t) and iron out the path to success.  That way everyone can walk it, not just the smartest guy in the room.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *