Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Smart organizations should also be stupid, according to new theory

Date:
January 28, 2013
Source:
Lund University
Summary:
Critical reflection and shrewdness can help companies to avoid crises, but sometimes good old-fashioned stupidity can serve an important function in raising the efficiency of an organization, in a new theory of 'functional stupidity.'

Some industries are more predisposed to develop functional stupidity. 'Stupidity management' suppresses and marginalizes doubt and blocks open communication within an organization.
Credit: © singkham / Fotolia

Critical reflection and shrewdness can help companies to avoid crises, but sometimes good old-fashioned stupidity can serve an important function in raising the efficiency of an organisation, claims Mats Alvesson, Professor of Organisation Studies at the School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Sweden, in a new theory of 'functional stupidity' that has been published in the Journal of Management Studies.

"We see functional stupidity as the absence of critical reflection. It is a state of unity and consensus that makes employees in an organisation avoid questioning decisions, structures and visions," says Mats Alvesson. "Paradoxically, this sometimes helps to raise productivity in an organisation."

Together with colleague Andrι Spicer, Mats Alvesson has written an article entitled 'A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organisations', which was recently published in the Journal of Management Studies and has been featured in the Financial Times. In the article, he expounds the logic behind 'functional stupidity'.

"It is a double-edged sword. It is functional because it has some advantages and makes people concentrate enthusiastically on the task in hand. It is stupid because risks and problems may arise when people do not pose critical questions about what they and the organisation are doing."

The state is partly a consequence of a kind of 'stupidity management', which suppresses and marginalises doubt and blocks open communication within the organisation. The parallels with some companies' sudden financial crashes in recent years are clear.

"Short-term use of intellectual resources, consensus and an absence of disquieting questions about decisions and structures may oil the organisational machinery and contribute to harmony and increased productivity in a company. However, it may also be its downfall."

According to the researchers, some industries are more stupid than others. Organisations that make a virtue of their staff's wisdom and sell intangible services or branded products, such as parts of the mass media, the fashion industry and consultancy firms, are highlighted as being particularly disposed to develop functional stupidity.

"Functional stupidity is prominent in economies that are dominated by persuasion using images and symbolic manipulation. It is preferable that people have an enthusiastic belief in an activity which may not necessarily fulfil a need. New management may be required to manage the fine balance and possible pitfalls of functional stupidity," says Mats Alvesson.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Lund University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mats Alvesson, Andrι Spicer. A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 2012; 49 (7): 1194 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01072.x

Cite This Page:

Lund University. "Smart organizations should also be stupid, according to new theory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130128081520.htm>.
Lund University. (2013, January 28). Smart organizations should also be stupid, according to new theory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130128081520.htm
Lund University. "Smart organizations should also be stupid, according to new theory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130128081520.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Cost of Ebola

The Cost of Ebola

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 18, 2014) — As Sierra Leone prepares for a three-day "lockdown" in its latest bid to stem the spread of Ebola, Ciara Lee looks at the financial implications of fighting the largest ever outbreak of the disease. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.S. Food Makers Surpass Calorie-Cutting Pledge

U.S. Food Makers Surpass Calorie-Cutting Pledge

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) — Sixteen large food and beverage companies in the United States that committed to cut calories in their products far surpassed their target. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

Stocks Hit All-Time High as Fed Holds Steady

AP (Sep. 17, 2014) — The Federal Reserve signaled Wednesday that it plans to keep a key interest rate at a record low because a broad range of U.S. economic measures remain subpar. Stocks hit an all-time high on the news. (Sept. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins