February 4, 2009

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” -Albert Einstein

Einstein’s quote put into words something I realized long ago. The world is full of smart people. Smart people revel in complexity. They seek it, create it and use it to set themselves apart from others. Brilliant people make it simple. Smart people often mistake brilliance for simple-mindedness.

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, said the same for leadership: “Insecure managers create complexity. Real leaders don’t need the clutter.”

There are so few geniuses. The NFL has 32 teams that are supposedly composed of the best athletes and coaches in the sport. Yet, in any given year fewer than a handful of coaches are brilliant. The others are, at best, smart.

Einstein and Welch added a new dimension to how I thought about this. Courage. Insecurity. Those two elements are often the only difference between smarts and genius.


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