The Ordinary Path of Genius

Crisis on The Foundry Floor

Gathered around the pool of hot molten bronze slowly spilling across the foundry floor, five men argued over the product failure that could sink the company’s largest contract. 

One man, a highly paid PhD metallurgist, dominated the group with scientific reasons the expensive mold broke. Another man, the shop foreman, insisted the timing of the metal pour was responsible for the failed mold. Dozens of explanations were surfaced. None of them rang true. The CEO listened to the suggestions moving around the circle until he realized the only man not speaking was Jose, the new metal pourer on the day shift.

Jose had barely graduated from high school and was supporting a family of 6 on $10 per hour. “Jose, what do you think?”, asked the CEO.

Jose being the lowest paid man on the shop floor looked from side to side as he pointed to the pool of metal cooling at the feet of CEO.

“There is something wrong with the metal. It smells a little sweet. It should smell sour.” Based on Jose’s very subtle observation the company caught an undetectable contaminant which had breached the pot of metal and subsequently altered its chemical composition. The “genius” of one hourly worker’s subtle observation, led to a solution that saved a 6.8-million-dollar contract.

The Brains at the Bottom Can Solve the Problems at the Top

Years ago, the CEO, mentioned above, had learned a valuable lesson. The real intelligence in his enterprise extended far beyond the borders of the diplomas, leadership positions, and high salaried individuals. He learned that tapping into the core intelligence or the genius buried in every employee working at his company would actually become his greatest secret weapon. He found that the majority of CEOs simply couldn’t see past their limited view of the “worker.” This limited perspective actually allowed him a tremendous competitive advantage over his competition in the market.

Human Beings Challenge Us

You see, as business leaders we are, at times, challenged by the irregularities of human behavior. We build subtle judgments that cut us off from the truth. We watch people make “dumb” mistakes. We observe lazy behavior. We see employees forget simple processes. We slowly begin to lose a measure of respect for the intelligence of those working around us. We begin to believe the statement that says, “The brains truly reside at the top.” Eventually, we stop asking the brains at the bottom what they think.

No One Can Convince You

Leveraging the ordinary path of genius “found on the shop floor” can be one of the most surprising revelations a CEO can have. No one can really convince you of this. It requires an open curious mind willing to get out of the limiting box of its own making. It requires recognizing our own genius.

"The primary reason that so many business leaders fail to recognize and therefore empower, the genius in their staff is because we think of genius in terms of IQ. Genius is a high degree of insight in a given area of human activity. It is found in the extraordinary degree of mastery in one’s calling however simple or complex that calling may be…" Power vs Forceby Dr. David Hawkins

What About You?

What are your own experiences with ordinary paths of genius? How has this experience impacted you as an individual, leader, or team member? Let me know in a comment!