Book Review: Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson.
Ever read a book that forced your hand to write notes on everything that just didn’t sit quite right with you? This was that book. So, buckle up, because this is going to be more of an analysis than a review.
The premise: Written by a consultant and communications expert, Surrounded by Idiots is an attempt at separating human behaviour into four personality types, each given a colour. Red’s are the leader types. Yellow’s are the creatives. Green’s are the passives. And, finally, blue’s are the logical. There’s a lot of descriptors that go with each one, but I’ve simplified it for you, so you don’t need to read the book.
The conclusion: we’re not actually surrounded by idiots, and you will only probably think so if you’re red or yellow (the extroverted… although I don’t recall Erikson using the word). And, of course, you need a versatile group of individuals if you want to get a job done.
I’ll begin by saying that this took me a long time to read. Not because it was hard to understand or poorly written, but because it wasn’t overly interesting or entertaining. It was in fact relatively well written. I cannot fault the writing style of Erikson, his deliverance of his thesis or his attempt at humour (I’m sure it was amusing to someone out there). That may seem very bold of me, but allow me to explain some key points here:
This book could have easily been translated into just one chapter. It’s just very very repetitive. The problem is that the premise is a very simple one and can be explained simply. Instead, we have multiple explanations of the same subject (albeit, in slightly different scenarios) and many examples that are drawn out.
Much of Erikson’s research seems to have taken place in a working environment, and this is an issue for this behavioural model. The main reason being that the majority of us show a different behaviour in a working environment. As a learned behaviour, we fall into a “personality” that the job requires. As an ambivert myself, that has worked in a varied selection of job roles, with diverse groups of individuals, I can confirm this. I have adapted to roles because that was needed for the role. As a manager, I would be an extroverted leader (Red). As a writer, I would be introverted; passive, logical and creative (Green, Blue and Yellow). As a customer care assistant, I would adapt to the customer, and probably combine all of those traits. So, did I crack the code of human potential before I read this book? Of course not… adaptive and learned behaviour is very normal.
And this is where Erikson’s formula falters, as he proposes, “No one has four (of these traits).” I counter propose with; we all have these four traits, or colours, or behaviours. We are adaptive creatures. We learn from experiences and events, and are able to emulate behaviours that are required, from other individuals or groups. There are far too many layers to the human psyche for us to be able to categorise it into four behaviour types, and few before Erikson have tried. For example, Hippocrates with the four temperaments and the Aztecs with the four elements. Sure, it made sense for the ancients to try to make assumptions of human behaviour or psychology in a simple form, but we have so much more understanding now, and still have much more we can learn.
I could probably go deeper into this subject and book, and might one day, but for now I will conclude this review. For the fact that is written in a way that could be read, I give this book 1/5 stars. This might seem harsh, but for a non-fic book, I learned or gained nothing in return for my time. If you want to read an interest insight into the human psyche and behaviour, I would recommend reading Quiet by Susan Cain instead.
(I’m not going to add a “buy here” link for this one, instead it will take you to Quiet by Susan Cain.)