Just Because You Are Smart Doesn’t Mean Your Opinion Matters

Just because you are smart doesn’t mean your opinion matters. Yup, you got lottsa gray matter up there, plenty of neurons firing at will, but perhaps the best course of action is to acknowledge you and ignore you. Or me.

Here’s the point. Being smart is, you know, pedantic. Narrow. Baseline. Easy. It’s like selecting a date with a criteria of “must have a pulse“. OK, great, you are alive. But don’t ask me to be impressed by your baseline. Have you done your homework?

This sounds simple enough. Brilliant guy walks up and tells us how to do web design but has never seen the Internet. Easy enough to ignore. Because you have no ties. Ties that bind.

The most common example of this in our industry is Doctors who have never studied psychology or marketing or design and then want to art direct. At the end of the day you say yes, but this isn’t really in their best interests, is it? No, you have to push back. Doctors are smart. And you have to be pretty self confident to cut another human open and assume you can reassemble the bits. But they are out of their element and need to do their homework when it comes to marketing.

What about a programmer with 1 year experience out of college. Lets say they have more “snap” and raw IQ points. In a conversation with a programmer with 10 years of experience they come to a disagreement. The programmer with 10 years of experience keeps saying “that won’t work” and the new-programmer says “why not?” and “prove it.”

Why not? Well, the person with 10 years of experience has seen this pattern before. Our brains are hella-good at picking up on patterns. But that doesn’t mean we can articulate them. Working with a Millennial, frequently you just give in and say “ok, you figure it out”. And eventually they get back to the correct path. But at what cost and what lost-opportunity costs for the months lost?

Another example is you have a friend and your interests overlap 80%. But you are an artist and they are not. In fact they have never so much studied or read a book on art. This is like expecting a 2 year old to savor a fine wine. So they ARE smart. They ARE your equal on so many subjects, but on this one subject you pretty much have to ignore them because they are unqualified. Following their advice would be an expensive mistake in this one instance.

Yet they are your friend and suddenly you think they are full of it. Do they differentiate that this is one topic? You aren’t questioning their brilliant mind. Just observing that in this one area they are woefully unqualified and expecting you to take their advice (say dropping oil painting for making balloon animals because they see a future in that) is a BAD idea. But you treasure their advice in other areas.

So again, what do we do? We sometimes give in to the smart yet unqualified friend or let things progress at their speed until they figure it out. At what cost to you and society?

There should be a word for it. A “hey, you’re awesome and I respect you. But you lack the discipline or interest to study this area and you are way out of your element here.” Like in the Big Lebowski, but with fewer F-bombs. And in a way they understood without being offended.

So yes, just because you are smart does not mean your opinion matters. On many many levels. Ease up a bit folks. Humility and do your homework before you demand the stage. Society will be better off for it.