Why it’s smart to be the dumb one

When you read the heading of this article, there’s every chance that your mind went somewhere calculated. There’s a great benefit to being perceived as simple, people underestimate you. In doing so, they become more willing to help you and become more carefree about their own actions as no warning system or alert is activated in their mind painting you as a threat. This means that they’re also far more likely to be open to your suggestions (even mores if they think they came up with the ideas themselves), making it far more likely that you’ll get a desirable outcome for yourself.

And yet, calculated and beneficial as the above may sound, that isn’t actually what this article is about!

Rather, the intention of this piece is to ACTUALLY be the dumbest person in the room. This is a piece of advice that many of the greats (ie Warren buffet, Richard Branson) follow. There are countless studies that span many centuries showing just how effectively ideas developed or improved when bounced around a group of people. From boys clubs to coffee houses, creating an environment that brings together people from different backgrounds from whom the others could learn was incredibly beneficial.

Why is it beneficial to be the dumbest person?

  1. It grants you the opportunity to learn other points of view that you may not have previously considered as each person has differing expertise and life experiences (and limiting narratives).
  2. It allows you to pool the wisdom that surrounds you and to actually make better decisions as a collective.
  3. It improves collaboration (provided you’re humble enough to recognise that you alone can’t know everything).
  4. It can help fast-track how quickly you learn and progress as knowledge gets compounded (similar to Moore’s law for technological developments).

What if you’re not the dumbest person in the room?

Even if you don’t think you’re the dumbest person in the room, you can still learn from other people! For example, resist the temptation to jump in and be heard first and instead do your best to speak last. Practicing active listening provides opportunity to learn from the other opinions and gives you the opportunity to incorporate their views when forming your own. This then gives you the opportunity to offer a more well-rounded, valuable opinion. The benefits of this approach include leaving your points more salient, building trust and alignment with others and helping portray you as a desirable leader.

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