You know too much

-October 07, 2008

The following appeared in my former column (Rows & Columns) in the October 1997 print issue of T&MW. It was never posted online because we didn’t have this web site at the time, but it was worth retyping.

You’ve probably seen those Dilbert cartoons where the boss does something that, in Dilbert’s mind, makes no sense at all. Dilbert must wonder how the boss became the boss since he seems to know so little. Have you ever wondered why your boss is the boss and he makes more money than you do? Are you frustrated because you’re convinced you know more than your boss, yet you make less money? I’ve certainly been in Dilbert’s shoes once or twice in my career.

There’s a simple explanation for your predicament: You know too much. Sounds impossible, right? Let me prove, through simple math, that knowing too much is costing you money no matter how hard you work. While at a conference this summer I heard a speaker give the following hypothsis:

We’ve all heard the phrases “knowledge is power” and “time is money.” These two concepts are the keys to the explanation. You may recall that the definition of power is work per unit time. Expressed mathematically,

Now substitute knowledge for power and money for time. You get:

Solve for Money and you get

Look at this equation. It says that money is inversely proportional to knowledge. The less you know, the more you make. Carried to extremes, as knowledge approaches zero, money approaches infinity regardless of how much work you do. You can also interpret the equation such that the more you work, the more money you make. But, that’s where the equation breaks down. When was the last time you were paid for working nights and weekends?

There you have it. The equations clearly prove that your boss makes more money than you do because he or she possesses less knowledge than you. Don’t, however, think that all your knowledge is wasted. A friend of mine reasoned the the equations yet another way. Creswell’s Corollary states that is you set up the equation such that

Then the less time you spend working, the smarter you are.

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