Saturday, August 21, 2004

Being the biggest brain

I liked this line in the I, Cringely article I posted recently.
    Being the biggest brain in the room didn't always make you the best decision maker. The Google founders have yet to learn that lesson, but they will.
A common mistake, especially for new managers. It can be hard to let go. I've been guilty of it myself in the past. But it is a lesson the Google founders have to learn to be successful.

But, why doesn't the biggest brain entitle you to make all the decisions? Because it just doesn't matter. It's a fundamental misconception about the nature of intelligence that smart people can make decisions in the absence of information. You see this all the time in bad SciFi books or poorly written movies. The genius solves the crime without any evidence. The brainiac learns to speak French after hearing a few sentences of the language. But this isn't how intelligence works. Intelligence is an ability to process, understand, and synthesize information.

So, a big, juicy, chess-club brain doesn't help you if you lack information. In terms of management, this means that the people with the most information are usually in the best position to make a decision. And the people with the most information are usually the people closest to the problem, the ones on the ground, the ones trying to build something, not the people in upper management.

This is why pushing down authority results in better decision making. You make better decisions with better information. Pushing down authority allows people with the information to make the decisions.

Update: Looking at the trackbacks on this post, I don't want to get into a debate about whether the biggest brains are in management. I very much doubt it, but that's not the point. The point is that, if you are a manager, even if you think you're the smartest person in the room (regardless of whether this is true), you should still delegate decision making to the people with the most information. Your team will make better decisions that way.

No comments: