Original insights in international business and marketing
Years ago I remember being told a story about how German general Erich Von Manstein developed a unique system for categorizing and ranking his officers. He categorized them according to two simple dimensions: they were either Smart or Dull and they were either Active or Lazy. This creates the following profiles:
Manstein would rank his officers according to these profiles but he also had a very interesting way of assessing the merits of each of these 4 relative to each other. Before I share with you how he ranked them, take a few seconds to rank them yourself from worst to best.
Most people usually rank them the following way:
1. Smart and active
2. Smart and lazy
3. Dull and active
4. Dull and lazy
The thinking is that smart is always better than dull and active is always better than lazy. Seems reasonable, right?
Von Manstein, however, saw things differently.
Here are Von Manstein’s own words:
“There are only four types of officer. First, there are the lazy, stupid ones. Leave them alone, they do no harm…Second, there are the hard- working, intelligent ones. They make excellent staff officers, ensuring that every detail is properly considered. Third, there are the hard- working, stupid ones. These people are a menace and must be fired at once. They create irrelevant work for everybody. Finally, there are the intelligent, lazy ones. They are suited for the highest office.” – General Erich Von Manstein (1887-1973) on the German Officer Corps
So what does this tell us and what lessons can we draw from this? Well clearly, this is a gross over-simplification but like many popular parables or stories of this kind, there is often a nugget of truth. Besides being an entertaining story to pull out during your next business dinner, I think it also begs some interesting questions:
Obviously, by virtue or ready this blog, you have demonstrated that you are a clever individual. So the key question is whether you are lazy (doing only the essential, when needed) or perhaps a bit too active (wasting energy and getting people around you stressed out).
Something to think about it.