This phase, “Are you kidding me?” has become quite popular lately.   It is asked by individuals when faced with stupidity and bureaucracy.It is usually paired with an incredulous tone, and raised eyebrow.  For a while, it was even a fun feature on Saturday Night Live, used to poke fun at some particularly foolish politician or other public figure.

At the recent TED Conference psychologist Barry Schwartz gets to the root of the problem as he describes a  society gone mad with bureaucracy. He argues powerfully that rules often fail us, incentives often backfire, and practical, everyday wisdom will help rebuild our world.

As he describes the activities of three hospital janitors he makes  a passionate call for “practical wisdom” Just a few quotes:

  • You don’t need to be brilliant to be wise, but without wisdom brilliance isn’t enough.
  • There are exceptions to every rule
  • Rules and procedures may be dumb, but they spare you from thinking
  • Scripts prevent disaster, but they insure in its place mediocrity

But there is so much more worth listening to in this 20 minute video.  Watch it!  Watch it twice!