How to Effectively Work with People Who Are Smarter Than You

It's entrepreneurship gospel—hire those who are smarter than you. There's no mystery to this wisdom. Clever, skilled employees require less management, constantly teach you new things, and shore up your weaknesses. But while the rationale behind this oft-repeated tip is simple, executing it isn't.

The problem is people have egos and insecurities, and being surrounded by folks who are smarter than you can make you feel bad. Few would freely admit it, of course, but this is often the reason people fail to heed this obvious advice. Even the most assured among us can see their confidence erode when they're surrounded by geniuses.

So is it possible to rewire yourself to reap the benefits of a team of super-achievers without suffering self-esteem erosion? It's possible indeed, said a parade of responders on question-and-answer site Quora recently. Veterans of some of the brainiest companies in the world shared their experiences of feeling like the team dunce, as well as their advice for others who are suffering from self doubt. Here are some of their top tips.

Know Your Strengths

If you've been hired (or gotten to be the owner of a business), you must have something to offer the team. Focus on the strengths you possess, rather than the skills or knowledge you lack.

Andy Johns, an early Facebook employee, offers a greater metaphor for this bit of advice: "If a punter/field goal kicker showed up to practice with a new football team and thought 'Crap, all of these guys are bigger and more athletic than me!' and tried to outperform the wide receivers and running backs, they would fail miserably. But they don't. They focus on the intersection of their skills and experience and they focus on being the best punter/field goal kicker in the game. Within that more tightly defined role, they aim to perform."
Facebook早期的員工Andy Johns為這個建議做了個很好的比喻:“如果一名橄欖球踢球手去新球隊里練習,心里想‘糟了,這些人塊頭都比我大,都比我健壯!’然后試著勝過接球手和跑鋒,那整個球隊會悲慘地以失敗告終。但是他們沒有。他們專注于技能和經驗的交集,他們專注于成為球隊中最好的踢球手。在更具體的角色中,他們的目標在于行動?!?/div>

Be the King or Queen of Questions

When surrounded by smart people, your first impulse may be to hide your ignorance, but that's the wrong way to go, according to Doug Edwards, Google's first director of marketing and brand management, who joined the company in 1999. If you don't ask questions, you'll never learn. Communication is key.
當周圍全是聰明人時,你的本能沖動可能是掩蓋自己的無知,但是這種方式是錯誤的,谷歌的第一位市場營銷和品牌管理主任Doug Edwards這樣認為。他是1999加入谷歌的。如果你不問問題,那你就無法學會。交流是關鍵。

"It's much better to appear uninformed than to give the impression you know something you don't, which can come back to haunt you. I used to ask the engineers to explain things to me 'in little baby words that I can understand,'" he remembers. Engineer B. Nguyen agrees in snappy style: "The credo here really is, 'The only stupid question is the one not asked'. So ask and ask often."
“不知道比不懂裝懂要好,不懂裝懂會再次讓你困擾的。我習慣讓工程師用孩子的語言向我解釋事情,這樣我能聽懂?!彼岬?。工程師用B. Nguyen用時髦的方式表示贊同:“這里的信條真是這樣, ‘唯一愚蠢的問題是沒人問的問題’。所以要經常問問題?!?/div>

Take Your Time

Getting comfortable among a team of whiz kids isn't something that happens over night, many of the responders warn. Getting to know, and learning from, truly smart collaborators can be a lengthy process, so don't expect to wake up a week later and feel totally comfortable. "It took several years to be one of the top people," says Quora employee Jay Wacker of his experience arriving at the University of California, Berkeley, for grad school.
很多回答者提醒大家,不可能一下子就能習慣待在能手團隊里。認識并從真正聰明的合作者那里學習是一個漫長的過程,所以不要期望一周后你醒來就能感覺非常舒服?!薄耙氤蔀轫敿獾娜瞬判枰獛啄甑臅r間,”Quora的員工Jay Wacker談及他在加州大學伯克利分校時讀研究生的經歷時說道。

Imagine the Alternative

Leo Polovets, an ex-LinkedIn and Google employee who has a resume full of genius-filled environments, offers a simple but powerful trick to keep your perspective.
Leo Polovets以前在LinkedIn工作,現在是谷歌的員工,他的簡歷上的工作環境中到處都是天才。他提出了一個簡單但是很有用的建議,能讓你保持對事物的洞察力。

"How did I adjust?" he asks, "I considered the alternative to working with smarter people, and that was even less enticing. In my experience, working with people who are less smart or experienced than you is less educational, less rewarding, and more frustrating than working with those who are smarter/experienced. Working with great peers will help you up your game."

Remember What You Can Control

Sure, you were dealt whatever genetic hand you have when it comes to innate intellectual horsepower (though smarts may be more malleable than many of us believe), but there is still one giant factor 100% under your own control. As Gwynne Shotwell reminded the audience recently from the Women 2.0 Conference stage: "You can't control whether you're the smartest person in the room, but you can certainly control whether you're the most prepared."
你的智力是由基因決定的(盡管聰明人可能更有可塑性),但是仍有一個很大的因素百分之百是由你自己控制的。就像Gwynne Shotwell 最近在婦女2.0大會上提醒觀眾的那樣:“你無法控制自己是不是房間中最聰明的人,但是你卻可以控制自己是不是里面準備最充分的人?!?/div>

"You can't get smarter. But you can always work harder than someone else," agrees Farhan Thawar, VP Engineering at XtremeLabs, on Quora, "so the adjustment is to work extremely hard at your craft until you feel like you fit in." Christina Bonnington, a writer for Wired, also concurs: "Pedigree doesn't mean anything. Work ethic is everything."
“你無法變得更加聰明。但是你總能比其他人更加努力,” XtremeLabs 的副總裁Farhan Thawar在Quora上寫道,“所以調整方式就是努力工作直到你感覺自己融入了進去?!薄哆B線》的作家Christina Bonnington也持同一意見:“血統并不意味著什么。職業道德就是一切?!?/div>

Read and Educate Yourself

This one may be simple, but it was one of the most common bits of advice. Charles Martin, for example, recalls that "a few year ago, I had a chance to work as a quant in a very large and successful hedge fund, and with former professors from MIT. The first thing I did was read the thesis of the managing director, so I could get 'into his head' and learn how he thinks. This made it much easier to work with him as a colleague." Consultant Mark Simchock boils it down to "read a lot."
這一條可能很簡單,但它也是最常見的建議。例如,Charles Martin回想起“幾年前,我有一個機會在一家非常大、非常成功的對沖基金公司工作,還是和幾個以前是MIT教授的人員工作。我做的第一件事就是讀總經理的論文,這樣我就可以知道他是怎么思考的。這樣把他作為同事一起工作就容易多了?!盡ark Simchock把它濃縮為“多讀?!?/div>

Also, aim for diversity in what you pick up. You probably aren't going to out-expert the experts, but you could contribute that key piece of out-of-left-field knowledge. "I tried to absorb all the information I could from outside so that occasionally I could contribute a perspective that was different, without being completely idiotic," reports Edwards.

Don't Compete

The more you're competing the less you're learning and accomplishing. "Don't start competing. The day you'll accept the fact that there will always exist smarter people, learning will become much easier," advises Rajay Chamria. "Don't compete, contemplate," agrees Saraswati Chandra.
你參與的競爭越多,你學到的和完成的內容越少?!安灰_始競爭??傆幸惶?,你會接受總有更聰明的人這個事實。等到那一天來臨,你學習起來就簡單多了,”Rajay Chamria建議到?!安灰偁?,要沉思,”Saraswati Chandra贊同道。