Why Smart People With Egos Aren't Good To Have On Your Strategy Team

By: Jef Welch
Diversify Your Core Team Of Strategist

Most people assume strategy is something that should be exclusive to extremely smart people, those that are on the genius level or academically proven. It is true that smart people are attracted to the development of strategy, but does not mean they are naturally good at strategy. 

Why is strategic planning difficult for smart people? It’s simple and you’ll understand as you read through this article. Smart people are accustomed to making decisions, finding answers and solutions. Strategy, on the other hand, is not an exact science, and requires choices to be made about an uncertain future. It’s impossible to actually know the correct answer when predicting the future or to discover an exclusivity within one correct answer. Strategy works within a different guideline other than absolutes. Strategy works within the realm of “what-ifs” and falls within the objective of guiding the way the future transpires instead of predicting it.

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Smart People And Strategy

Smart people are challenged by their way of thought process, which is a challenge for them, because they want to establish an exact path, the correct choices, however there is no way to judge the relative quality of any pathway of decisions in comparison to pathways not chosen, because it is future and not past. Neither is it possible to for a company or organization to have multiple strategies as if doing a double-blind experiment. 

To develop a successful strategy, you must always start with the components which are tangible. What are your objectives? What is the target market? What are the behaviors you’re trying to establish within your organization? How can you monetize your audience? Strategists aren’t looking for the one correct answer or to get rewards for identifying that one correct answer. Great strategists actually step back from the need to find that one correct answer, and have a broad perspective, openness to thoughts from others, and evaluate creativity from those within their circles of influence. They are not paralyzed the uncertainty and are stimulated by possibilities which may or may not actually exist. They are prompted to develop a plan of action (or a system compiled of actions), and have an understanding (due to the ever-evolving landscape of markets) of flexibility and need for adjustment. All strategies must be tweaked or even completely demolished entirely as natural transitional change takes place, to maximize the optimal success. 

So it is imperative that a strategist is to be the type of person who has the qualities of flexibility, imagination, resilience, and an environment of freedom to express. But these qualities are not always evident within very smart people. It is possible these qualities are possessed by smart people, however, there are obstacles. The problem is..... smart people (especially with an ego out of control) tend to be very rigid, brittle, and are “know it alls.” Smart, egotistical people usually have their own agenda based on decisions of which they have set in stone, and instead of making decisions which are best for their company, their decisions are more based on being correct, and that their correctness is recognized, embraced, and exemplified, regardless whether their perception or reality is actually right. 

Smart people and egos are not necessarily a bad thing. People who possess these characteristics and abilities have extreme value if their charisma is kept in check within perimeters. It’s important to find their niche of expertise, talent, or areas of which they excel. You will find that everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. And if everyone excelled within the areas of their strengths this would be a perfect world, but it’s not. Most individuals never adequately tap into their gifted potential. Just like those who have dedicated their lives within the sport which gave them the achievement of becoming an Olympic athlete, most of them were pushed and coached once someone found their potential and encouraged them to take their natural skills to the top. 

Smart people should not be kept away from strategy sessions. The objective should be diversity of minds, opinions, collaboration of ideas, and perspective from various backgrounds and from people with different levels of education, specialties, and market view points. Remember..... smart people on your strategy team are very important, however, you also need people who have been through the fire and who have failed. I’ve found that most people learn from their failures and not from their calculated brilliance. Find people who have fought their way to success, through the failures, through the valleys of continuous mistakes. People who have not made mistakes have no value to the table, because that’s the obvious indicator they don’t do much, and are not accustomed to thinking outside the box, take zero risks, and have no ability to offer collaborative content. 

Surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak and you’ll cover all the aspects needed to produce a powerful strategy to accomplish and direct the future paths of your business. Remember, there are no exacts. Adjustments must be made along the evolution of the process as your business takes on it’s own personality. You can direct only so much and the segways that take place may not all be alternative paths you wish to reject. It’s an ongoing process. Strategy is never complete. It is only a process that never ends unless your business ends.


(Jef Welch, founder and creator of the Sustained Prosperity System)

Categories: February 2016