On stupidity management

“In sum, stupidity management involves a wide range of actors seeking to restrict and distort communicative action through the exercise of power. This can occur through direct interventions, agenda setting, propagating broader ideological beliefs, and creat- ing subject positions. However, two points of qualification are worth adding. First, these processes of stupidity management are not mutually exclusive: they may work in tandem. Returning to the IT consultancy study mentioned above (Alvesson, 1995), we see that all four modes of power are at work simultaneously. The managerial assertion that employ- ees should criticize only if they have constructive proposals for solutions, can be seen as a direct expression of power (shut up!), agenda controlling (‘postpone raising the issue until you have come up with a solution’), an assertion of ideology (‘be positive and constructive, don’t complain’), and a form of identity creation (‘be a good organizational citizen’). Second, the forms of stupidity management we mention can work through episodic interventions as well as developing more systemic restrictions on communicative action (Lawrence et al., 2012). The former are interventions in specific situations; the latter refer to developing and maintaining the cultural and institutional grounding that supports socialized and/or organizationally ingrained capacities for functional stupidity…” (p. 1207).

Reference: Alvesson, M. & Spicer, A. (2012). A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations. Journal of Mangement Studies, 49(7), p. 1195-1220.

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