Where the Smartest People Work

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?

About the Author

Andrew R. Thomas Blog | Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business

Andrew R. Thomas, Ph.D., is associate professor of marketing and international business at the University of Akron; and, a member of the core faculty at the International School of Management in Paris, France.

He is a bestselling business author/editor, whose 23 books include, most recently, American Shale Energy and the Global Economy: Business and Geopolitical Implications of the Fracking Revolution, The Customer Trap: How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Business, Global Supply Chain Security, The Final Journey of the Saturn V, and Soft Landing: Airline Industry Strategy, Service and Safety.

His book The Distribution Trap was awarded the Berry-American Marketing Association Prize for the Best Marketing Book of 2010. Another work, Direct Marketing in Action, was a finalist for the same award in 2008.

Andrew is founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security and a regularly featured analyst for media outlets around the world.

He has traveled to and conducted business in 120 countries on all seven continents.

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