4 Stupid Things Smart Companies Do

Even the smartest people can do dumb things


Not many companies are ’stupid’. Some do a few stupid things, and some have principles which err on the side of controversial, but most do a lot of things right.

In this list I take a look at four stupid things companies can do, and why they should try and eradicate them.

Following Others

First of all, it would be stupid of me to suggest that every company that does something similar to a rival is destined for failure. The concept of doing something similar to another company, but a lot better, is a formula proven to work.

Apple took the MP3 player, came up with the industry-changing ‘click-wheel’, and have since blown their rivals out of the water. Steve Jobs, according to an article in the New Yorker, was a notorious ‘Tweaker’ - never inventing anything himself, but making what was on offer better and more user-friendly.

There is a stark contrast, however, between doing what Job’s did and purely copying another company’s products or services. Jony Ive, for example, will be wary of the increasing number of laptops which emulate the MacBook Pro series. Those that do copy risk being labelled as poor imitators and being categorised as the product that people buy when they can’t afford the real thing - not a great selling point.

Being Overconfident

Confident companies often outshine their competitors because they make it their mission to give the public what they want.

Although you can dismiss Google’s ‘moonshots’ as distractions, they’re the sign of a company that’s confident enough to invest considerable capital in endeavours which aren’t directly linked with their core business.

The difference between confidence and overconfidence is a company’s willingness to accept that whilst it might be doing something right at the moment, it’s unlikely that it will stay that way forever.

It’s an overused example, but Blockbuster’s insistence on ignoring online streaming services, since provided by Netflix and others with real success, was the sign of a company which was arrogant and unresponsive to change.


Silicon Valley companies claim not to care whether their workers hail from elite universities, whilst Wall St. is candid in its preference for those who have been to Ivy league schools. In 2014, 65% of entry-level investment bankers on Wall St. came from America’s Top 30 schools.

Instead of taking an elitist approach, the clever approach is for companies to attempt to make their workforce as diverse as possible.

It allows for differing perspectives and experiences to be incorporated into a company’s decision making process, whilst an elitist workforce often has little experience outside of its own comfort zone.

As Stephen Covey once said;

‘Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.’

Being socially unacceptable

One of the biggest faux-pas in today’s marketplace is posting inappropriate or simply ill-thought-out content on social media.

You don’t have to look back far to find examples of major companies who have made big mistakes on Twitter.

American Apparel’s decision to celebrate July 4 by posting the space shuttle ‘Challenger’ exploding on Tumblr being a prime example. If a company wants to be edgy, they must make sure that what they are posting is not going to be taken in the wrong way by their consumers.

Clever companies have clear social media strategies and always think twice before posting something controversial online.


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