Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Smart organisations should also be stupid according to new theory

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 André Spicer, Mats Alvesson has written an article entitled ‘A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organisations’, which was recently published in the renowned 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.

Link to article: ‘A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organisations’, published in the Journal of Management Studies:
Link to Andrew Hill’s column ‘The Quest for the Right Kind of Stupidity’ in the Financial Times:

Contact details:
Mats Alvesson, Professor of Organisation Studies at the School of Economics and Management, Lund University
Telephone: +46 46 222 42 44
Link to article: ‘A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organisations’, published in the Journal of Management Studies

Helga Ekdahl Heun | idw
Further information:

Further reports about: Economics Financial Planner Lund Stupidity-Based smart bridges

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht From east-west divide to patchwork quilt
22.09.2015 | Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung

nachricht Penn and German researchers help identify neural basis of multitasking
02.09.2015 | University of Pennsylvania

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Reliable in-line inspections of high-strength automotive body parts within seconds

Nondestructive material testing (NDT) is a fast and effective way to analyze the quality of a product during the manufacturing process. Because defective materials can lead to malfunctioning finished products, NDT is an essential quality assurance measure, especially in the manufacture of safety-critical components such as automotive B-pillars. NDT examines the quality without damaging the component or modifying the surface of the material. At this year's Blechexpo trade fair in Stuttgart, Fraunhofer IZFP will have an exhibit that demonstrates the nondestructive testing of high-strength automotive body parts using 3MA. The measurement results are available in a matter of seconds.

To minimize vehicle weight and fuel consumption while providing the highest level of crash safety, automotive bodies are reinforced with elements made from...

Im Focus: Kick-off for a new era of precision astronomy

The MICADO camera, a first light instrument for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), has entered a new phase in the project: by agreeing to a Memorandum of Understanding, the partners in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Italy, have all confirmed their participation. Following this milestone, the project's transition into its preliminary design phase was approved at a kick-off meeting held in Vienna. Two weeks earlier, on September 18, the consortium and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which is building the telescope, have signed the corresponding collaboration agreement.

As the first dedicated camera for the E-ELT, MICADO will equip the giant telescope with a capability for diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared...

Im Focus: Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes

Self-driving cars will be on our streets in the foreseeable future. In Graz, research is currently dedicated to an innovative driver assistance system that takes over control if there is a danger of collision. It was nature that inspired Dr Manfred Hartbauer from the Institute of Zoology at the University of Graz: in dangerous traffic situations, migratory locusts react around ten times faster than humans. Working together with an interdisciplinary team, Hartbauer is investigating an affordable collision detector that is equipped with artificial locust eyes and can recognise potential crashes in time, during both day and night.

Inspired by insects

Im Focus: Physicists shrink particle accelerator

Prototype demonstrates feasibility of building terahertz accelerators

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...

Im Focus: Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions

New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Unexpected information about Earth's climate history from Yellow River sediment

09.10.2015 | Earth Sciences

Single atom alloy platinum-copper catalysts cut costs, boost green technology

09.10.2015 | Life Sciences

Indefatigable Hearing

09.10.2015 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>