Coffeehouse Thread

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Don Box's Spoutlet

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  • User profile image
    jj5

    So, Don Box asks questions on his blog, but he doesn't have any comment facility. Well not any more my friends. Wink

    I guess not having a comment section is a form of arrogance in and of itself, isn't it Don?

    Anyway, Don asks Which is more toxic? Arrogance or Stupidity?

    Specifically I guess wrt to the kind of people that are going to help a company succeed (or fail).

    I'm not really sure what the answer is, partly because I don't have a moral basis for determining 'success', but here's a few musings:

    I don't like the way people use the word arrogance. In the same way I don't like the way they use egotistic (and the rest of the English language).

    Arrogance: a feeling or an impression of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or presumptuous claims

    Egotistic: an exaggerated sense of self-importance

    These are really used to describe 'behavioural' patterns. Compare 'self-esteem':

    Self-esteem: a confidence and satisfaction in oneself
    This is not a 'behavioural' pattern, not in the sense that it is 'externalised' at any rate. It's about a state of consciousness, or belief.

    Now, popularly "arrogance bad, self-esteem good". In junior school your teachers and family will tell you "it's important to have high self-esteem", or "we don't like bullies because they hurt children's self-esteem". Basically, it's OK to be me, I'm worthwhile, and it's OK to succeed. On the other hand, if you did well at something, many of your peers might make comments like "oh, you think you're soooo good! Don't you?", or other nasty comments, basically excluding you for standing out and succeeding. Typical mob mentality, most honestly witnessed among school children. But, erm, you *are* good, you just proved it... Adults learn to hide it, which brings me to my next point:

    If you are smart (or successful) after a while you can't help but know it. Being smart (or successful) is a 'good thing', so you can feel good about this, and gain some self-esteem. This is all very 'good' (TM). However, under no circumstances can you let anyone else know that you realise this, because that my friend is arrogance, and arrogance is all very 'bad' (TM).

    What I tend to realise is that smart people who are arrogant are really just 'honest'. Smart people who are not arrogant are much more of a worry in my opinion, for a whole heap of reasons.

    So, I don't want to answer the question (stupid people upset me in a bad way, arrogant people do it in a good way Smiley, but I did want to gripe about the use of the term arrogance. Arrogance is not a bad thing, it is the result of someone 'externalising' their self-esteem. When they are smart, it's generally deserved. Certainly, arrogance 'is involved in' social problems, but I don't think it should be singled out as the 'cause'.

    A real geek defines their sense of worth around how clever they are. They want to be the smartest and when they are they want you to know it. If you rub their tummy and tell them how clever they are, they'll do *anything* for you. If they won't do something for you, then tell them that someone else would be able to do it. If you don't tell them how clever they are, THEY WILL TELL YOU. A geek will not lie down in the face of people just like them. They *, and whine and try to get to the top of the "everyone thinks I'm the smartest" heap. To the 'normal' person, this is cute, but it is this raw motivation that keeps the common geek awake until 2am trying to figure out [insert whatever your working on here]. They just need everyone to know they are the best (it's probably a phycological 'problem', but it tends to get results).

    The real risk with arrogance is that you actually start to believe your own publicity. The truth is, there are lots of clever people out there, and if you become complacent they'll crawl over you into your spot on the 'smart people heap'. But I reckon arrogance is at least honest, and honest is doubleplusgood.

    The trick is just a little bit of doublethink, you *know* you are the smartest, but your never *completely* beleive it. Of course every now and again you have to remind everyone that you are. Wink

    John.

  • User profile image
    UdoSchroeter

    I have to admit that I'm kind of a Don Box fan, but his latest postings, I dunno...

    Anyway, stupidity is clearly fatal. Of course, there are different kind of stupidity and some of them sort of kill you before you can even do any damage (so there is no problem to begin with).

    Arrogance is likely to kill you either upfront (if you're so obnoxious that nobody buys anything from you == outbound arrogance) or later when you're making decisions in high stakes games (== internal arrogance).

    I think what's dangerous to an organization is The Failure To Recognize And Act in the face of an important fact or change of facts. Stupidity and/or arrogance can be the underlying reasons for that failure, but at that point its useless to wonder about it.

    I'd rather hire an arrogant person than a stupid one, that's clear. Then again, I'd rather hire someone without both traits. That leaves us with complacency and the dangerous thing about it is that is tends to creep in with success.

    From that perspective, I think it's OK to get your * kicked from time to time. A quick reality check goes a long way. People who are arrogant in the face of disaster deserve to get fired.

  • User profile image
    LazyCoder

    The big difference between self-esteem and arrogance is the scope. Wink

    Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself.

    Arrogance most often rears it's ugly head in the way you treat others because of the way you feel about yourself. I know plenty of people with high self-esteem who wouldn't treat others the way the exec in the article Don linked to does. IMO the relationship between arrogance and self-esteem is not always 1:1. A lot of arrogance is usually someone trying to make up for a lack of self-esteem.

  • User profile image
    eto

    What's really toxic is someone that is arrogant AND stupid.. Not only do they think they know it all, but really, they don't.. but don't have a clue. haha! Cheers, Curtis

  • User profile image
    innes

    Unfortunately in my experience, arrogance is rarely a predictor of intelligence.
    Arrogance is a form of laziness in interaction with others and thus is disrespectful and anti-social.

    Some arrogant people think that they have earned the right to be arrogant as a result of their evident (to themselves, of course) superiority.

    These people just think they are being 'honest'.

    Because of their very arrogance they cant see the arrogance of their excuses for their own arrogance.
    How ironic!

    Arrogant pricks. Wink

  • User profile image
    SKG

    "It is better to be silent and thought a fool, then to speak up and remove all doubt"...

  • User profile image
    jj5

    innes wrote:
    Unfortunately in my experience, arrogance is rarely a predictor of intelligence.


    The question was about preferring stupidity or arrogance. I didn't really want to get into the answer, but I tried to comment on arrogance. Implicitly it should have been evident that I think you should hire 'smart' people, and I was really thinking in terms of the IT industry (specifically programmers).

    I didn't say anything about arrogance being an indicator of intelligence. I said that smart people can either be arrogant or not arrogant.

    I listed some reasons why smart people might be arrogant (like honesty, or 'emotional problems'), and hinted that I wouldn't necessarily trust a smart person that didn't appear to be arrogant. I also tried to comment on why 'smart and arrogant' people can get results. Put them in a room together and they probably won't like each other very much, but you can get all sorts of valuable results.

    Arrogant people get in your face and challenge you. They say: I'm am right, you are wrong. If they are also smart there is a high chance they are actually correct. If you can't understand why they are saying that then you'll probably consider their claims to 'presumptuous', or their attitude to be 'overbearing'.

    My complaint was with the use of the term arrogance. I don't think that it should be considered a synonym for obnoxious.

    If, for example, you consider the tone of Don's posts, I reckon you can see at least a hint of intellectual elitism and a subtle contempt for 'stupidity'. This is a sign of arrogance (the implication is other people are stupid, but I am not because I can see their stupidity). Even the author of the article that was linked to was arrogant. He says "if you don't see me handing out sample copies of our magazines on the show floor, please feel free to accuse me of arrogance". But I would say that not handing out magazines would just be complacency, not arrogance. Arrogance is beleiving that your magazines are the best (rightly or wrongly) and letting others know that this is what you think. The author then goes on to talk about himself, and how he is right, and how he sees other people fail, and how he doesn't fail, and how he's had a totally kick arse carreer, and how he's successful, and how he's learned from other totally kick arse people, etc. The entire article demonstrates his arrogance. He's not complacent though, and he may well deserve his arrogance. It is arrogance nevertheless.

    innes wrote:
    Arrogance is a form of laziness in interaction with others and thus is disrespectful and anti-social.


    I don't agree with this. I gave my definition for arrogance. Mine was from an English dictionary.

    innes wrote:
    Some arrogant people think that they have earned the right to be arrogant as a result of their evident (to themselves, of course) superiority.

    These people just think they are being 'honest'.


    Ouch. Come on, keep the shots above the belt. I don't agree with you anyway, I don't think we share a common understanding (English perhaps?).

    innes wrote:
    Because of their very arrogance they cant see the arrogance of their excuses for their own arrogance.
    How ironic!


    Irony: incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.

    innes wrote:
    Arrogant pricks. Wink


    I'm glad at least you didn't say 'stupid and arrogant' pricks..

    As for the cute comment about remaining silent. I think that is possibly one of the most harmful menalities that a person can have. If you don't engage in communication you won't learn or discover anything new, or even if you do, you won't be able to share it with the rest of your species. I don't think a person should be taught to fear paticipation because others might think that they are a fool. What about the little gem about being thought a fool for a minute rather than remaining a fool forever..?

    John.

  • User profile image
    jj5

    DiegoV wrote:
    By the way, I liked my musings so much I will publish them on my own blog. Next time we can discuss why the only valid way to asses ones right to be arrogant is thru extensive external feedback. We can also analyze the concept of "relative stupidity" and why I should never post anything past midninght.


    Cool. I'll check it out.

    DiegoV wrote:
    P.S.: Who is gonna tell Don Box his comments feed is here?


    Bags not me! He might come over here and tear me to shreds with scathing comments! Smiley

    John.

  • User profile image
    scobleizer

    I'll tell Don to check this out.

    I've known a lot of arrogant people. Generally they got that way because they were right in the past. Some of the people I've met have been right over and over.

    Is Barry Bonds arrogant? Well, yes, but he's earned the right to be, no?

    In my view, a stupid person would be someone who's arrogant without earning the right to be. Smiley

    The problem with arrogance is that just because you were right yesterday doesn't mean you'll be right tomorrow.

    "The bigger they are, the harder they fall."

    Whenever I find I am getting arrogant I usually find that I'm about to make a really stupid mistake. Luckily I have great readers who tell me to get a clue before my ego gets too far out of hand.

  • User profile image
    sbc

    You need to fail every once in a while. If whatever you do is always right it will only make it harder when you do fail. I doubt anyone has been right their entire life and for those that have they will be wrong at some point.

    The earlier you fail the better - unless you fail frequently and become bitter and resentful.

  • User profile image
    divega

    JJ5, hey bloke, I somewhat agree with your musings. However, when I read the question in Don’s spoutlet yesterday, I felt rushed to tell him that arrogance and stupidity were more less the same thing.

    A year ago I read some scientific study that suggested arrogance was clearly a form of stupidity. The document resonated so much with my experience on failed companies and bad bosses, that it quickly got close to the top of my own "must be true" heap.

    Unfortunately my bookmarks are not helping me to find the link to the original publication. All I remember is it was popularly known as the "Jerks are stupid" whitepaper. I obviously need Microsoft to do a beta of "Stuff I Have Seen" as soon as possible.

    Anyway, if I remember well, the basic hypothesis in the work was that lack of intelligence usually triggers overestimation of self competence (we can let alone the self valuation or self esteem topic) and also underestimation of the "problem space" one needs to tackle. In that sense, arrogance is both a symptom of stupidity and the source for much stupid behavior.

    On the other hand, education is the most common means to improve the knowledge about the "problem space" and at the same time it helps to get a more accurate assessment of self skills.

    So, to reconcile this view with yours, let’s build a model. If I had to guess the general behavior of arrogance as a function on the intelligence axis, I would say it should have a bactrian camel back shape:
     

    1. The less intelligent people in this world don’t really care, so they are rarely arrogant.
    2. People in the next, less stupid group, care about their competence but are not intelligent enough to realize they are not the centre of universe so they are extremely arrogant.
    3. People in the middle group tend to find out quickly that they are in the middle so are less prone to arrogance. They know there is an immense quantity of people that are less intelligent than them (which they often attribute to an educational deficit), and they also realize of the existence of genius, a quality they often admire. Ideally, members of this group feel motivated to be more intelligent and less arrogant every day.
    4. Like people in group 1, people belonging to group 3 see themselves as "arrogants for a good reason". The difference is that members of group 3 can get their perception validated by members of group 2 and up. So they are arrogants with feedback. Members of group 3 also tend to loose less time being arrogant than members of group 1. They are busy people and after all, they are intelligent enough to see no merit in being arrogant per se.
    5. The ultimate wisdom: "One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing."

    By the way, I liked my musings so much I will publish them on my own blog. Next time we can discuss why the only valid way to asses ones right to be arrogant is thru extensive external feedback. We can also analyze the concept of "relative stupidity" and why I should never post anything past midninght.

    P.S.: Who is gonna tell Don Box his comments feed is here?

  • User profile image
    divega

    I have just found the bookmark to the original article! If you haven't already, take a look at it. It is such a piece!

    Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

  • User profile image
    scobleizer

    Well, Barry Bonds fails 70% of the time. It's just that when he doesn't fail he's so freaking amazing.

    If he were to come up to you and say "I'm the best player in baseball right now" would that be arrogant? Or the truth?

  • User profile image
    jj5

    scobleizer wrote:
    Well, Barry Bonds fails 70% of the time. It's just that when he doesn't fail he's so freaking amazing.

    If he were to come up to you and say "I'm the best player in baseball right now" would that be arrogant? Or the truth?


    I don't know who Barry Bonds is.

    I thought that article was pretty cool.

    I think it's funny that this thread demonstrates how easy it is to embed scripts in posts. I've been resisting the temptation all night to write a script that changed the Avatars for 'The Crew' to something that I deemed more amusing. Would I get sued for that?

    What's the go with /Msgs/Default.aspx?MessageID=999 ??

    John.

  • User profile image
    lars

    "They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool" 
    Working Class Hero  / John Lennon

    In my perception arrogance is an attitude that you can choose to have or choose to suppress. Stupidity is something that you do not choose. It is a lack of intelligence. And not the same thing as ignorance. Which ofcourse could be a result of stupidity but more often a result of lacking motivation or lazyness. However English is my second language. So my perception of the true meaning of those words may not match 100% with a native English speaker.

    In my view stupidity is the thing that will kill the company first. Since it can't be corrected with an (painful) attitude adjustment.

    Stupidity is the worst thing that can happen to a person. With complacent as a close second. If I ever become complacent I hope someone will come around to whip my butt.

    Just my 2 cents.

    /Lars.

  • User profile image
    androidi

    What kind of feeling you get when you have to use a particular software, and something with it is wrong and you feel you could correct it had you the code or if you worked for the company? I'm not native english speaker and I'm not exactly sure whats the feeling, but I think the feeling I personally get could be an indicator of some bad trait, but I do not think it's arrogance.

    I tried to look some words from dictionary to describe it but I am not sure would "overweening" really describe it. What are your feelings in such situation?

  • User profile image
    ckindel

    jj5 wrote:
    A real geek defines their sense of worth around how clever they are. They want to be the smartest and when they are they want you to know it. If you rub their tummy and tell them how clever they are, they'll do *anything* for you. If they won't do something for you, then tell them that someone else would be able to do it. If you don't tell them how clever they are, THEY WILL TELL YOU. A geek will not lie down in the face of people just like them. They *, and whine and try to get to the top of the "everyone thinks I'm the smartest" heap. To the 'normal' person, this is cute, but it is this raw motivation that keeps the common geek awake until 2am trying to figure out [insert whatever your working on here]. They just need everyone to know they are the best (it's probably a phycological 'problem', but it tends to get results).


    I don't have a problem with the gist of what you are saying here, but I take exception to you defining "geek" this way. I consider myself and uber-geek, but I honestly do not care one bit whether I am, or am perceived to be, clever. I don't want to be "the smartest" (I know I'll never be) and I rarely am motivated by someone telling me someone is doing something more clever than I am.

    I enjoy technology for technology's sake. I enjoy learning about technology. And I enjoy helping other people learn and benefit from what I've learned. I get a thrill out of talking with others about cool technology. To me, that's geek-ethic.

    I think you're talking about the "prima dona" or something. But not geeks in general.

    -cek (www.kindel.com/blogs/charlie)

  • User profile image
    divega

    Hey bloke! You did it! You have been Boxed!

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