Are your corporate customers stupid? These academics think so

If your customers work at big corporates, two academics have an insight for you: your customers are probably functionally stupid.

The Stupidity Paradox
The Stupidity Paradox

Mats Alvesson and Andre Spicer, two professors of business, make that assertion in their book, The Stupidity Paradox, which the AFR Weekend has extracted.

Employees in big organisations stop questioning “showy ideas” to rub along better with their colleagues, say Alvesson and Spicer.

They call it “functional stupidity”.

What is functional stupidity?

“Functional stupidity is the inclination to reduce one’s scope of thinking and focus only on the narrow, technical aspects of the job. You do the job correctly but without reflecting on purpose or the wider context…

You sidestep the burdens of having to think too much and upsetting others by asking difficult questions.

Having had a few experiences in corporate life of being treated like an eccentric (at best) for asking why, I enjoyed the article indecently.

Why marketers should care about functional stupidity

It strikes me that marketers should be very interested in functional stupidity.

Alvesson and Spicer have piled up examples of crucial decisions being made based on a handful of PowerPoint slides. They have cases from government, business, education, IT, the military and engineering.

If that’s all the exploration your corporate customers are willing to do; you’re swimming upstream if you can’t reduce who you are, what you’re selling, and why they should buy it into the briefest possible argument.

“Companies,” say the authors of the Stupidity Paradox, “routinely talk about their brand as what makes them different, but if you take a careful look, it seems to be the same as their competitors.”

The opportunity for marketers

So the opportunity is that your customers are confused. All your competitors sound the same. You could catch their attention by sounding different.

So the opportunity is that your customers are confused. All your competitors sound the same. You could catch their attention by sounding different.

The challenge for their copywriters

The challenge is that you’ve got three bullet points to explain your difference and your value.

Go!

> Have you seen our collection of website copywriting tips?

Some customers who definitely aren't stupid!