The smartest person in the room

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Evil Genius by Crza via Flickr

You don’t need to be a genius to find yourself in a situation where you are the smartest person in the room. This can be a result of your getting hired for a specific project requiring your specialized skill set that few other people have. This can also be because you are the last surviving original developer on some specialize module requiring a specialized skill set.

On the other end of the spectrum you may find yourself in a team that has the smartest person in the room. That person descends like an eagle and looks at your work and determines that it is pathetic or your code is ugly. They have thought through all the questions and all the answers and you are only useful to them if you agree. They tell you that if only they got involved six months ago things would be better and that production issue would not have happened. Only they and they alone know what needs to be done and how it should be done. This person can be anyone – a coworker, a team leader, your boss, your CEO, even the President of the United States!

In my almost 20 years of experience I have worked with one or two “smartest people in the room.” I hate to admit that I have acted like one myself on more than one occasion, for which I sincerely apologize to anyone I may have slighted or upset. My conclusion is that smartest people in the room poison the team with negativity, throttle the innovation, and drag everything down with them. Good leaders nip that in the bud early on, bad leaders create a toxic environment for these people to fester.

As Confucius said, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” Real innovation and progress comes when intelligent responsible people collaborate and everyone’s ideas are respected. I want to work in a cooperative environment where everyone is smart, and everyone’s ideas are important.

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