It's interesting to note something of a division between private industry and government within these posts. It's not so much a direct comparison of smarts vs stupidity, but of cupidity vs stupidity. Whilst both sectors can and do exhibit "stupid" behaviour, only private industry has the motivation -- cupidity -- to act "smart"; the marketplace eventually rewards smarts and punishes stupidity. Government, on the other hand, exercises a monopoly, or near-monopoly, over the services it renders to its "customers", and extacts its dues, regardless of its performance.
Perhaps it's odd for me to admit all this, as I am both a government employee, and politically rather liberal. But after years in both the private and public sectors, the differences can only be described as undeniable and profound.
Judging the smartness of the company by its financial performance is a weak indicator in my opinion. It might be smart to invest money in a company which is doing well financially but it might not be smart to work for one.
I would define smartness by the way the company treats it’s employees and customers and on the level of greed of the Chief Officers. Look at Enron – at one point they could have been judged smart based on their financial performance…
I think (based on the news only - because I did not work for them) Google might be one of the smartest companies out there.
From what I have seen the more money the company has the more stupid it is. Also the stupidity comes with the territory (type of business - I think banks and insurance companies are among the most stupid) and very often size (the bigger you get the more politics go on and how brilliant the politicians are … we all know…)
I worked for a company at one point in my life where most of the time was spent on kissing up and dividing influences instead of getting the job done that I think if that company fired 50% of it’s IT staff the rest of the company would not notice the difference in IT performance.
I've worked for a not for profit for 9 years and don't think financial performance is our key measure of performance. Ours is a balance of mission and business. Our mission is number one, but we can't fulfill our mission without business (money). We've been in business since 1970 so I guess we're doing okay.
Before that I spent 20 years in the U.S. military; 200+ years of tradition unencumbered by progress or change. Many smart people dragged down by government red tape.
If you want to judge smartness by line of business, then the floor covering industry is BY FAR the dumbest on the planet. I worked for two of the largest manufacturers and let me tell you; the cumulative intelligence of the industry wouldn't add up to that of a bag of door knobs!
The fact that you say that shows you have no idea about the NHS. The words 'fixed' and 'quickly' are not often put together in a sentence concerning the NHS!
I noticed the same differences since I'm a "weekend warrior" with the government and work in the private sector during the week. The best theory I can come up with is that to succeed in the private sector a business has to be proactive -- anticipating and dealing with issues before they become big issues. Government is mostly reactive -- for the most part they have to react to existing conditions after they're already big issues.
Of course that's a good thing, since most people wouldn't want the police kicking in their door for some crime they anticipate you'll commit at some point ("Minority Report" anyone?)
BTW - I noticed in the rankings that they assign a "knowledge value per employee", but it doesn't appear to single out groups of employees (i.e., IT, marketing, etc.) According to this ranking, the guy who says "Would you like fries with that?" contributes as much to Burger King's "smartness" as the guy who administers their distributed database servers, who contributes as much as the VP of Sales, etc.
This ranking doesn't seem to really measure IT-related activities and employees specifically. It's hard to directly measure the value of good IT people in most companies, since we don't usually do sales, marketing, etc. Basically we don't usually contribute directly to the bottom line (of course there are always exceptions, and really big ones at that). We do, however, always support the decision makers and the people who do contribute to the bottom line. It would be far more interesting to me to see a methodology for measuring the impact that IT departments have on businesses.
Sometimes it is too late to be reactive (9/11). However, proactive government has not been mastered in the West yet (Iraq).