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Intellects Don’t Appreciate Intelligence

Filed Under Personal Improvement


It is a sincere privilege to be in an occupation where I get to work with so many smart people. However, there are big downfalls, one of which I am growing impatient with – patronizing the intelligence of co-workers.

Too often people skirt around the core of this issue with generalizations that developers are egotistical, socially inept, and “too smart for their own good”. All though those may be both foundations for and symptoms of the core problem, the real issue is generally found in everyone and is much more selfish. Most intellectuals don’t appreciate other people’s intelligence.

It’s true…but why? Here is my hypothesis…

Let’s say someone spends a week running research and development on a particular sticky piece of code. The solution is well thought out, assumptions tested, and code spiked to ensure that out of all possible options this path was the most correct. Now that person shares the answer with the rest of the team – what do you think the most common answer would be? The most common answer most of the time comes out “Duh…obviously…”, and herein lies my heartburn.

People don’t appreciate other peoples’ knowledge. People don’t appreciate other peoples’ wisdom. Most importantly, people don’t appreciate the provided, immediate shortcut of the other person’s journey.

Just because you can grasp the answer does not mean you have the knowledge, wisdom, experience, or work ethic to come to that answer. Additionally, even if you do – praise the person for giving you a shortcut to higher knowledge! Rejoice in the fact you have a colleague or maybe even a mentor!

I could have simply preached, be humble and appreciative, but that is not enough because that is a topic intellects can understand and as a result undermine it. Truly being humble and appreciative is an act that is continually learned through continuous self realizations. The next time you respond to your co-worker, boss, or intern reflect on what you just said and how you said it…you just might catch yourself being a jerk who says “duh…”.

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9 Responses to “Intellects Don’t Appreciate Intelligence”

  1. DGentry on October 12th, 2009 4:46 am

    Do you have any thoughts on the flipside of this problem, the developer who publicly complains that their co-workers do not pay enough attention to their ideas? (i.e. frequently complains).

    I worked with such a person. He was incredibly corrosive to the team dynamics, expecting any discussion to end the instant he proposed a solution. These were not issues that he had studied in depth to analyze, he simply believed his initial brainstorming was always optimal.

    He is actually the source of one of my new mantras: No one is so indispensable that they can be allowed to destroy the morale of the team.

  2. Max Pool on October 12th, 2009 7:41 am

    @DGentry –

    Actually, I don’t see that being the other side of the coin at all. My view of the situation is that they only respect their own ideas and are frequently complaining that ideas aren’t heard because there is work going on around them that they didn’t dictate.

    Now I am thinking I need to write a post about control freaks… 🙂

  3. Philip on October 12th, 2009 11:42 am

    I disagree with your base assumption – the one you say “it’s true, but why?” about. another question is “is this true?” I say not really.

    It’s People, not “intelects”. Most people seem not to appreciate the journey taken to discover truths that seem self-evident in hindsight. Or even things that seem semi-obvious, or even mostly correct.

    The big differences are, that people you consider “smart” are more likely to see the correct answer as obvious.

    The *actually* smart people I’ve had the pleasure of working with actually grasp your journey when you give the answer. Not only do they respect it, but they understand why you are making the assumptions you are.

    There is also the political aspect to consider- admitting you worked hard to come up with a good solution is damaging compared to implying “I could have told you that”. Working in a place that fosters this kind of subconscious reaction is harmful for you and the people you are writing about.

  4. Reedo on October 13th, 2009 6:18 am

    One effect of intelligent work that’s really under-appreciated is the avoidance of problems and/or the reduction of risk. It’s intelligent to double-check critical code for logic bugs, include handling for anticipated error conditions, and attempt to never leave data in an inconsistent state. Not all “intellects” appreciate these tasks.

  5. FlorianO on October 13th, 2009 12:31 pm

    Its way more difficult. Every Person has a different state of personal development. But its not a linear kind of development! Its more like a huge disc with 20.000 different areas. (imagine this!) And in each of this areas one has a certain development. If you are never gone through configuration hell you cant understand grails awesome-ness. If you never defined logic in XML, you cant appreciate Maven/Gradle! Thats the main point i discovered while working with smart people. They cant value your work because they didn’t have your experience! Even if you explain something totally logical to them, they cant value it. They have mostly a different perspective on IT.
    Thats the reason why it is so important for me, to keep contact with the handfull of guys which have a similar perspective and similar experience!

  6. Mike on October 20th, 2009 11:29 am

    My opinion is that these people, who dont appreciate intelligence, are NOT intellects. ANYONE can take an opposite position on any topic. And many do, just for fun it seems.

    It doesnt make them an intellect. In my opinion, it makes them a-holes because they’re too hung up on their insecurities to admit they’d be interested in learning something. I grew very tired of listening, openly, to others’ experiences – trying to learn from THEIR fortunes (or misfortunes), alike.

    I dont have all of the time in the world to make mistakes – why not learn from others’ mistakes – right?

    Sadly, most people are not like that and will take every effort to cut you down. This is why I no longer work in captive employment. I work for myself, out of my house, alone, and surround myself with whom I chose to. Folks at the same and better experience and intelligence levels. I will never continue to learn if I spent 90% of my day trying to convince others that 2+2=4 when they’d much rather take personal gain from disputing such.

  7. Ben on July 28th, 2010 5:56 pm

    Excellent article, in a series of articles. Its almost as if we work at the same company!

  8. Denver Website Design on August 27th, 2010 11:20 pm

    I’d like to add another thing to this theory that intellects don’t appreciate intellegence of other people….I’d like to say that intellects don’t like to ADMIT the intellegence/knowledge of other people when they are in crowd or when the code/tool is presented to them when they are in a team…if you put this thing on a blog or somewhere else where many coders/programmers visit many a times, you will see that the same person is appreciating your hard-work and in many cases they will provide their own codes as well to make it a better one…so I think people are afraid to accept in front of others that anyone can be more intellegent than them…but in their inner self they do acknowledge these developers….:)

  9. James Peckham on April 1st, 2011 5:02 pm

    well duh!


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