One of my students, a soon-to-be MBA graduate, asked me a great question recently: "Where do the smartest people work in America today?"
Puzzled, I requested her to clarify.
She said, "If I wanted to work around the best and brightest people, those who are on the cutting edge, making it happen, where should I go?"
I thought about it for a moment and gave her my response.
"Having spent a good amount of time in each education, government, the military, non-profits, and the private sector, I have found a lot of smart people in all of these areas."
"The highest IQs can most likely be found in academe. Government -- despite its bad rap -- has a lot of people who are deep thinkers and deal with huge, complex problems every day. Those who work in big companies face similar challenges."
I continued, "For those in the military, what they do is truly a matter of life and death. To stay alive and achieve often vague objectives requires a high-degree of intelligence."
"Non-profits are often resource-challenged and regularly forced to meet their goals living by their wits."
So, I told her, diplomatically, "Smart people can be found everywhere."
Unsatisfied, she pressed for a more specific answer. "Where, which place, has the most?"
I thought some more and finally relented: "It is probably in small and medium-sized companies."
Curiously, she wondered why.
I went on. "Small and medium-sized firms are the backbone of our nation. Each day they wake-up to new sets of challenges imposed upon them by government, globalization, the banks, and creative destruction.
Unlike the faux dealmakers on Wall Street, for example, the risks they take are with their own money.
Further, the small and medium-sized folks control so little of the environment in which they operate, yet they fight on, providing so much of the innovation and jobs a dynamic capitalist system needs to flourish."
Was I right? What do you think?