Is 'Thinking' an Endangered Management Skill?

Last Updated Dec 7, 2010 11:59 AM EST

Is Thinking an Endangered Management SkillThere's a movie called Idiocracy where Luke Wilson's character - an average guy named Joe - goes into hibernation and wakes up 500 years later. In the future, society's become so dumbed down that everyone's a complete moron, making Joe the smartest guy in the world.

The devolution of mankind, according to the plot, was the result of people becoming TV, gadget, and media-addicted dummies who also did a helluva lot of reproducing. The relatively few intelligent people, who had better things to do with their time, became fewer and fewer in number until they eventually died out.

Don't take this the wrong way, but lately I get the feeling that Idiocracy was the most prophetic movie I've ever seen. No, I don't have any facts to back that up, it's just a feeling I get when I see everyone flicking touch screens, thumbing keyboards, and texting sound-bites while life goes on unnoticed all around them.

IdiocracyI mean, when the top five candidates for Time's 2010 Person of the Year include Julian Assange, Lady Gaga, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and Glenn Beck, how far away from Idiocracy can we be?

And right at the top of my list of people I'm most concerned about becoming dumb are our business leaders and management teams. Between all the travel, back-to-back meetings, and the ever-increasing complexity and demands of business and personal life, when do they have time to think?

Then there's the problem of communication overload which, as we discussed a few weeks ago:

Communication overload has reached epidemic proportions and it's killing precious productivity and effectiveness at a time of economic strife and global competition, when our already overwhelmed and under-resourced management teams and workforces can least afford it.
As if that's not enough, today I read this on SmartBrief: "Much of conventional wisdom about business leadership encourages people to suppress their emotions." Really? Is that what passes for leadership wisdom these days? Suppress your feelings, your inner guidance system that keeps you in touch with yourself and others around you?

No wonder leaders and managers need so many coaches, consultants, and bloggers these days. Or, as I postulated some time ago, maybe they just need a good shrink. They don't have time to think and they're not supposed to feel. They're flying blind. Let's hope there's a copilot or a navigator somewhere in that cockpit.

You know, not having enough time to think and suppressing your feelings leads to some pretty dysfunctional behavior in executives. As Peter Bregman explains in that SmartBrief article:

Suppressing our emotions is a dangerous game because it's an illusion. We think the emotion isn't there anymore, but it's just gone into hiding. And now, forced to hide, it becomes petulant. If we don't admit our feelings -- at least to ourselves -- they will seep out in unproductive, dysfunctional and hurtful ways.
Moreover, when we don't have time to think, we don't have time to strategize and plan. Instead of being proactive, we're reactive and, in some cases, overreact in a manner out of proportion to the situation. When we don't have time to think things through, we place big bets on high-risk decisions on gut feel alone.

That brings to mind another movie title: Something's Gotta Give. In the case of Idiocracy, it was our intelligence. I'm more in favor of business leaders and management teams realizing that constantly doing and communicating isn't very effective without occasionally thinking and feeling.

I don't know about you, but I'd hate to see human intelligence become an endangered skill.

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