Just when I found myself thinking that John Robb can speak no wrong, he posts some silly rant tryingabout the intelligence of U.S. military officers. He says “The only exception to this rule in modern times is Schwarzkopf, with his 170 IQ, and his ability to deal in strategy at its deepest level. In contrast, we are left with Franks and Rumsfeld. Franks is a classic line officer. Not too bright but grounded.”
With all due respect, this is signifyin’ in the literary sense of the word, and fortunately completely wrong.
I worked for Department of Armyfor a few years early in my career, and had day-to-day dealings with officers ranking from Captain to General. As a young person approaching DoD, I had the standard expectations of bureaucratic gridlock, hawkish “drill sergeant” officers, and the like. DoD certainly has its share of grifters and bureaucrats, but unless you have been there, it is hard to believe how absent such people are from the ranks of officers.
Now, MSFT is a place that is justifiably famous for hiring smart people, and I feel very lucky to work withthe people here. If you have ever been in a meeting with someone who so incisively extracts the meaning from a mess of details and distills an issue to its core, that you find youself thinking “how is it humanly possible for him/her to make it so simple when the rest of us failed?”, you know what I am talking about. Especially for people who consider themselves smart to begin with, this is the sort of gift from life that you don’t forget.
It is true that MSFT has smart people, but I can tell all sorts of stories about the “wow” factor from meetings with DoD officers as well. Iam convinced that it is impossible to rise to the rank of Colonel without being a complete genius; the ability of these guys to analyze and juggle was uncanny. Many had photographic memories. One memorable guy would regularly take three briefings simultaneously and pick out the flawed arguments and data in all of them at the same time. Of course, anyone can tell stories about the guy they met who plays blindfolded chess or whatever, but these kind of people were the rule in high-level army ranks. Franks certainly gives off the down-to-earth “grounded” vibe, but everything I have ever seen argues strongly against Robb’s “not too bright” indictment.
Smart people are attracted to MSFT by promise of money, potential industry impact, and the chance to test themselves against the best in the industry. People are attracted to the military officer’s career by power, potential global impact, the chance to test themselves against the greatest leaders of today and compare themselves to the greatest leaders in history. Franks is commander of CENTCOM, overseeing land that was previously in the hands of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. You don’t get there and stay there without the sort of mental horsepower that makes me and John Robb look like mental midgets. Note that I am not saying that Franks is a modern-day Alexander the Great or a future presidential candidate.But it’s completely crazy to question the guy’s mental power.