How could I generate topics the idea that "The executives at Enron can be considered the smartest guys in the room?"

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that you would have to develop some level of criteria or standards as to what defines being "the smartest guys in the room."  It's a wonderful premise and fed by a great book and documentary, but it seems to me that you would have to develop criteria for what defines being "the smartest guys in the room."  If financial inventiveness is part of this, then I believe you could point to the construction of Andy Fastow's shell companies, Jeffery Skilling's "mark to market" accounting practices, or Lou Pai's advocacy of Enron's public trading.  These are example of financial ingenuity primarily because of the results.  Each individual's financial inventiveness made millions of dollars for them individually and generated the company to unprecedented heights of fiscal fancy.  In the end, these guys could be considered "the smartest guys in the room" because they were able to do something that few others could and to a magnitude that even fewer could reach.

Yet, I think that if one were going to include business viability in the definition of "smartest guys in the room," the people at Enron might fall short.  In their book, McLean and Elkind persuasively argue that "The Enron scandal grew out of a steady accumulation of habits and values and actions that began years before and finally spiraled out of control."  Certainly, this could be deemed as not being smart for a couple of reasons.  The lack of institutional control over habits of greed and personal excess is not representative of strong business acumen.  At the same time, the fact that the leaders of Enron could not control what happened when it happened reflects a lack of intelligence.  In the end, they were not in control of it.  The financial monster was in control of them.  This could not be seen as being "the smartest guys in the room," because such a premise suggests a sense of control and autonomy through deliberate calculation is evident.  Certainly, the manner in which Enron disintegrated defies such a belief.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question