In fact, it’s only 22%. How did I arrive at this conclusion? Well, there are 18 total letters combined between the two words. And ironically enough, each word has 9 letters as in perfect symmetry. If you subtract the common letters between the two words, you are left with a difference of 4. And 4 divided by 18 equals 22%!

But this isn’t really about a mathematical exercise, rather it’s a metaphor for what I’ve been observing in the business world over the last twenty plus years. Particularly in Silicon Valley. There is no shortage of intelligence in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, there is also no shortage of hubris. That has always been the case as the valley has long been a hub of innovation, which naturally draws a high concentration of intellect and the accompanying ego (Exhibit A is Larry Ellison).

The definition is arrogance is: an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions (courtesy of Merriam Webster on-line dictionary). The definition is ignorance is: the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, education, or awareness (courtesy of Merriam Webster on-line dictionary).

The challenge that I see more and more of lately is that the business arrogance is overwhelming the business intelligence; and this results in business ignorance. People are largely ignoring business fundamentals such as value proposition, product positioning that is simple & understandable, and integrity in their communications and business dealings. Instead there is an incredibly unhealthy obsession around proving how smart you are. In fact, this unhealthy obsession extends to proving that you are smarter than everyone else.

And when this extreme arrogance enters the picture, you kill business productivity, progress and stifle innovation because it is entirely self-serving and ignorant. So rather than bragging about what university you attended, how many degrees you have or what belt you acquired in six sigma, let’s start refocusing on things like how you help customers solve valuable business problems, how you can truly impact your company/business and help them grow which creates more income and revenue for everyone.

I can’t tell you how many meetings that I’ve participated over the last 3-4 years where company execs will say ‘we have lots of really smart people (i.e., rock stars)’ and that’s why people should buy our solution. Sorry to disappoint you folks, but no one really cares how many smart people you have in your company. Customers care about solving their business problems effectively. It’s not an IQ contest, and lots of companies with brilliant employees fail and fail miserably.

When you organize a business meeting, state in advance what are the 3-5 business goals of the meeting. Someone needs to actually moderate the meeting and ensure that everyone sticks to the agenda and that the goals are met. Everyone needs to prepare properly for the participation in the meeting and be mindful of the time constraints. No meeting should last more than one hour. Stop the intellectual circle jerk that is hampering business productivity.

Get back to the basics, it’s amazing how well they work. Just look at Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway as an example! And by the way, Warren Buffett is as humble as they come:-)