I think as a team manager of developers it is critical to find ways to maximize this creativity and make sure the odd developers have the opportunity to shine. Be vigilante for any bullying or ostracizing going on within the team and find ways to build team cohesiveness.
It’s best to have a good mix of personalities on a team that complement each other, but it’s up to the manager to help them gel and build an environment conducive for producing great software.
This doesn’t mean that someone’s oddness should disrupt the team to the point of distraction. Another commenter on my last article talked about naming variables after his ex-girlfriends. Now could a developer really have that many ex-girlfriends?
The point here is that there may be rules to follow – such as naming conventions to make the code more easily maintainable. Try to find positive ways for the most creative developers on the team to express themselves.
Allow them to work on side projects and encourage out-of-the-box thinking that could provide a breakthrough in design, productivity, etc.
I can’t say that I know Fred turned into some great contributor in the software development world or even if he made out better after enhancing his over-under algorithm. I can’t even find him on Facebook.
But I know there are some pretty decent success stories from those that grew up outside the mainstream and may have been considered a bit odd.
There was this one guy who tinkered with the earliest computers and in his spare time made something like a bomb and took it to the school cafeteria. Today that person would be branded a terrorist and shipped to Guantanamo Bay.
This soon-to-be-famous odd genius was none other than Steve Wozniak.
His friend and fellow tech trend setter Steve Jobs was interviewed about him by Playboy back in the 80’s. This quote from the article said it all.
“I think Woz was in a world that nobody understood. No one shared his interests, and he was a little ahead of his time. It was very lonely for him. He’s driven from inner sights rather than external expectations of him, so he survived OK.”
Yep, he survived ok, and so will most of the Fred’s of the world, especially with a little help and understanding from coworkers and managers that will only benefit from their odd genius.
ALSO SEE: Dealing with Unaccountable Developers
AND ONE MORE: Are Quirky Developers Brilliant or Dangerous?