Strategic Incompetence

I happened across a post about strategic incompetence — the idea that it is better to appear to be incompetent at unpleasant tasks, so that other people will do them for you.

I’m sure we’ve all encountered this in our work. I know I have; I’ve occasionally regretted demonstrating any knowledge of how autoconf and automake work, as I often get stuck with ugly build hacking as a consequence.

That said, I think this strategy is basically flawed. It can only work if you are in an environment full of enablers who don’t mind that you’re dumping on them. It isn’t easy, of course, to confront this kind of behavior; but in a team environment at least it is crucial.

I do wonder if sometimes a project as a whole can use strategic incompetence, in a milder form, as a way to attract developers.

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