Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Wisdom of Psychopaths

The latest Scientific American has an article "The Wisdom of Psychopaths" by British psychologist Kevin Dutton which probes a little more deeply into their traits. Dutton is particularly interested in 'successful' psychopaths: business leaders, military types, surgeons and so on. (This is not the article but covers some of the points).

Just to remind you: the key traits of the psychopath are: ruthless, fearless, charming, persuasive, non-conformist, extraverted, thrill-seeking, philandering, and decidedly lacking in the conscience department.

I didn't meet many people like this in Nortel - it was a Canadian company - but the one I did meet was American and was considered a maverick and rule-breaker by most everyone else. Telecoms companies are utilities and tend not to attract James Bond type executives, but consultancy has its fair share. It's interesting how quite spontaneously such people are often described by others as 'evil'.

Here is how psychopaths describe people like me (from the SciAm article): "Intellectual ability on its own is just an elegant way of finishing second."