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Hanlon’s Razor, or the “Truth-in-Cynicism Law”

I came across this nugget today via a friend’s posting in FB. It is a rather cynical corollary to Murphy’s Law and states, “Never attribute to malice what can better be explained by stupidity.” Simply brilliant.

I really try to be optimistic and positive and all that, but I do have a cynical bone in my body (a rather large one, truth be told), and this aphorism scratches its itch. For those of us blessed to work in the midst of large bureaucracies, this rings so true. While not particularly uplifting in any kind of spiritual sense, it does acknowledge a reality in which we live, and does so in a satirical manner that lets us blow off some steam through laughter.

The article goes on to offer advice for leaders in how to use this concept in organizing your team:

A practical observation on the risks of stupidity was made by the German General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord in Truppenführung, 1933: "I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!"

I found it helpful to examine myself through this matrix, to see where I fit in and where I want to fit in, but mostly, I thought it was good for light-hearted musings.


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