Does Smartest Guy in the Room Kill Innovation?

by Stefan Lindegaard

Does Smartest Guy in the Room Kill Innovation?In a recent blog post, I gave some views on why executives do not get innovation. Carolyn Merkel added an interesting comment on this:

“I also think ego gets in the way. I have often listened to the CEO make comments like “now, I’m not the smartest guy in the room…” when it is clear that he thinks that he IS the smartest guy in the room, and then, when he doesn’t understand the innovation, he dismisses it.”

I believe there is some truth to this, but since I only have an outside view being a speaker and advisor, I would appreciate hearing from corporate people on this. Is this a big issue – not just with the CEO but also with executives and managers in general?

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Stefan LindegaardStefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation

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  1. I think it is a huge issue, ego’s can dominate as they are mixed in with fear and telling the CEO what he wants to hear. The ‘rush to be heard’ is tempered with ‘antiscipating what the board wants’.

    To challenge, to point out, to question are hallmarks of confident people not so concerned about the consequences and the more of these the less likely we end up with CEO’s wha claim to listen to ones that actually DO listen.

    It is often funny to see the dynamics change as you enter board rooms as often common sense, and sound reason often get left outside, hanging on a peg, waiting to be picked up after the board room session of marking out territory, gathering resources, protecting cherished projects, myopic views and judging where the majority goes for a decision and what that ‘might’ mean.

    Of yes, innovation has to compete not just with ego’s but the politics of many.

  2. Smart leaders will foster innovation if they “receive” ideas well and help nurture them, especially those ideas that are just in infancy; they create a safe environment for failure; and the leadership understands how to reward innovators according to how they want to be recognized not what the company thinks is the “right way” to reward people.

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