Monday, March 18, 2013

Strategic incompetence

Knowledge, education and competence is all the rage these days. Never before has it been so buzzwordy and buzzworthy to know things, and to know them in very specific ways.

It is very easy to find companies talking about knowledge bases, strategic core competencies and cutting edge research. It is easier still to get an impression that knowing things is somehow important when going about doing stuff in the world and living a life in said world.

As you might have surmised from the headline, I beg to differ.

One example of strategic incompetence comes from the tranquil place that is domestic politics. That is, the division of labor within a particular household, with a particular focus on the cleaning of said domicile. As many of you probably already know, if you manage to be convincing in doing your cleaning  poorly, you will eventually be permanently unselected from doing the dirty undirtying work. By (un)popular demand.

Therefore, not knowing things may very well turn out to be a net benefit. And thus, we are in the realm of strategic unknowing - strategic  incompetence.

Another example of this comes from domestic politics in a more traditional use of the term. It turns out that having doubts about the current path and wanting to take a closer look at all the facts before making a definite statement one way or the other - is perceived as a weakness from the viewpoint of the electorate. Which translates into not being elected, a net loss.

Those who, on the other hand, have not bothered to even think the thought that there might even potentially be something to think about - can say the most outrageous things with the confidence of a PR-perfected sage. Much to the delight of those who just want to know that someone that is not them has thought about the issue and knows what to do about it.

A third example is politics in general. Turns out that the less you know about it, especially the greasy and grimy realpolitik behind the official statements, the more faith you manage to muster in the system.

I don't know enough to determine if this is a net loss or a net win. Or even for who this is a loss and/or victory.


  1. LMAO! Best re-iteration of "ignorance is bliss" I ever read. And, so very true! :)

  2. This reminds me of my brother, who always "forgets" how to do laundry when his girlfriend is around! (My dad used to call it "playing dumb"). After a few bouts of this "laundry Darwinism," a person who pretends to not know how to do laundry could get fired from the job of laundry, as has happened. Said person would then celebrate with many beers. Great post.

    1. There's an inverse to this, regarding computers: if you fix a computer problem once, you somehow end up as the computer problem fixer person in general. Even if the thing you did was to change the wallpaper image, you're now the assigned Computer Expert.

      Let's call that "unstrategic competence". Just to call it something. ;)