Every organization has a ratio of idiots to non-idiots. This is the idiot ratio.
This is a harsh, shallow, unfair way of looking at people, but everyone, no matter how offended they are by the premise, can come up with a number in their mind quickly. It’s an easy way to measure the talent pool in any organization. If for every 10 people you work with 3 are incompetent, your ratio is 3:10. Maybe you work somewhere that hires well, and it’s 9:10.
How to use it: when two people meet to compare their workplaces, both parties think through the people they have to work with regularly and assess how many are incompetent or ineffective. The resulting ratio, 1 in 5, or 1 in 20, is the idiot ratio. Or more optimistically, the talent ratio. With the ratio two people can quickly compare their assessments of their teams.
As mean as this ratio sounds, it might be more honest than when executives say “we have the smartest people in the world”, which is likely self-serving politeness. There is no executive that would ever openly say “our talent sucks” or “we are mostly idiots” even if they believed that.
- Of course low performers aren’t necessarily idiots. Idiocy is about the person, incompetence is about the job. Calling it the Incompetence Ratio would be more accurate, as the person might be a bad fit for the job but possibly good fits for other jobs, but that’s a less fun phrase to say.
- Intelligence doesn’t guarantee chemistry. A collaborative team of good people can run circles around a dysfunctional team of geniuses. (See Teams and Stars)
- You might be the idiot. If you are, your ratio won’t be accurate unless you are humble enough to count yourself.
[This idea is from Rachelle Uberecken, a Senior Software Developer at a place with a pleasantly low idiot ratio]
If you think everyone you work with is an idiot, then the idiot might be you.