The Curse of Intelligence, or why do conflicts happen at work?

12 Oct

Three reasons

Misalignment of incentives: happens 20% of the cases

The conflicting parties are not aligned towards the same goals. One has been told to increase sales at all costs. One has been told to reduce costs whatever it takes.

Managers are almost always to be blamed.

Leadership is the root cause here. Rather poor communication architecture within the leadership.

Doesn’t care about alignment: happens 5% of the cases

This guy is someone you should fire. They are optimizing for their life. Their goals. They don’t care about anything else. You know such people, don’t you? We met one in The Dark Knight as well.

People come up with solutions. Not problems: happens 75% of the time 

I call it “The Curse of Intelligence”

Intelligent people have been trained to solve. To fix things. And to not stop until fixed.

So the moment they encounter a problem, they begin to think of solutions. Mostly half baked, I would argue. Considering it’s coming from an individual without any collective discussion or reasoning.

And it’s the solution that’s proposed. Not the problem to be fixed.

Suddenly, the discussion is focusing itself on the solution. And whether the solution should be implemented. And arguments are ensuing on the worthiness of the solution. No one is asking “what is it that we are trying to solve here?”

The problem is not the focus. Its the solution

Classic – outcome vs output.

“Let’s put banners all across the site because” – solution

“I want new merchants to get visibility so that they have a shot at selling” – problem


“We need more money for marketing” – solution

We are not retaining enough customers we are acquiring” – problem


“I need a raise” – solution

“I am getting married and my expenses are set to increase” – problem


“I want to quit” – solution

“I am not challenged by my work” – problem


Do yourself a favor the next time.

Walk in with the problem.

Make the effort to describe it well.

Make the effort to identify the grief it is causing.

Make the effort to pick the metric to track

And let the solution be discussed. Not proposed.


Fall in love with the problem. Not the solution. 

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