Summary of The Stupidity Paradox

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Organizational experts Mats Alvesson and André Spicer make a strong case about the dangerous prevalence of “functional stupidity” in organizations. They provide iconoclastic, intriguing insights on functional intelligence and its absence. The authors outline specific steps companies can take to transform from being stupid to being smart. Their detailed presentation offers many revealing case histories to bolster their argument – although they fail to address how, with all the organizational dumbness they identify, corporations are able to develop products, like smartphones, that transform consumers’ lives. Nevertheless, getAbstract recommends their clever program for helping smarten up your management and boost your organization’s well-being.

About the Authors

Mats Alvesson is professor of business administration at the University of Lund, Sweden. André Spicer is professor of organizational behavior at Cass Business School, City University, London.



Ford Pintos

You might expect knowledge-intensive organizations and their workers to be smart and to do smart things. However, most organizations and their employees more often do stupid things. Many companies don’t support careful thinking or enlightened actions.

These companies encourage stupidity and discourage reflection and analysis. They consider such thinking subversive. “Stupidity managers” – the paladins of “stupidity management” – purposely intervene to limit employees’ thinking. To illustrate how “functional stupidity” works in corporate life, consider Dennis Gioia, who worked in Ford Motor Company’s recall department in 1972. His job was to look for patterns that revealed problems in Ford automobiles that might trigger manufacturer recalls.

Gioia often visited what Ford employees referred to as “the chamber of horrors,” a warehouse for “burned-out cars” that Ford retrieved from accident scenes. One destroyed automobile – a Ford Pinto – made a horrific impression on the young engineer.

Gioia had to determine if this Pinto represented a one-of-a-kind incident or a potentially dangerous pattern. He told his colleagues about his concerns about the...

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    C. G. 3 years ago
    Amen. whoops, did I say "amen"?
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    U. D. 4 years ago
    An excellent book. Unfortunately I recognize the same patterns in our organization as are described in the book. Time to change things... .
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    R. T. 5 years ago
    Very interesting.