Inside the Geek: Page 3

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Another aspect of the geek is arrested development: they can be quite immature. Prima donna-ism is just spoilt childishness. Grow them up a bit. One way to do that is to fire them: geeks don’t get enough of that.

Geeks love problems. They savor them, relish them – they are connoisseurs of problems. Like a tiger hunter they admire them before killing them. Then they re-tell the story for years to come. The best problems are technology ones because they are almost always solvable by rational analysis and the application of the geek’s skills and experience. Process problems are good too, because problems are good, and because process can be deconstructed rationally. People problems are less good, because people, are messy unpredictable creatures, so geeks tend to shy away from such problems, which is one more reason why they often make poor managers.

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One unfortunate aspect of their affection for problems is their delight in sharing them, even at the most inappropriate moments, such as in meetings with clients or executives.

What are their strengths?

Intelligence: geeks often have a high IQ (but see EQ, above)

Problem solving and general analytical ability: if you want something fixed or dissected, put a geek on it.

Diligence (if they haven’t been spoilt): geeks hate being beaten by inanimate objects or processes – they will gnaw on a task until it is resolved.

A delight in delivering an outcome: the tougher the better. Geeks are finishers.

Honesty and openness: lack of guile. What you see is what you get, which is not always an attractive prospect.

It will be evident that the author has quite a patronizing attitude to geeks. They do themselves and the organization harm with their conviction of their own brilliance and their stubborn inability to see how narrow a field they excel in. One of my job tasks has been to find career paths for geeks. The truth is there are none beyond Senior Geek until they can grow up.

As we have discussed in previous articles, steps must be taken to protect the organization from the geeks, and then to protect them from themselves by helping them to grow beyond geekishness. Or to minimize the damage if they cannot and will not grow.

Geeks are real. Understand them and they become useful contributors to the business, and you can manage their personal growth. Next time we will discuss an effective process for expanding the world-view of the geek.

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