The artist as a young geek

A couple of weeks ago I posted this list of the top 10 mistakes managers of geeks make, which instantly became one of the most read posts on the site.

Mike Wagner (of Own Your Brand) has a lot of experience working with geeks, and he emailed me his take:

Some of the mistakes I remember making with Geeks or seeing others make are:

1. Treating their work and its results like a hammer when Geeks see it as a work of art. Managers must respect the different perspective each brings to IT development. Business managers see it as a tool. Geeks see it as a work of art. This is one reason Geeks often feel undervalued in the corporate culture. Geek temperament is really an artistic temperament.

2. Building on this; managers must understand the cynical feelings Geeks have towards commerce in general. Like artists who resent people putting a dollar value on their art, a Geek feels that all the business manager wants to do is make money. This is big time Geek turn off.

3. Geeks respond to critique and suggested changes of their “creations/code” like an artist. When a manager or client says we want you to change the functionality or code – it is like saying “can’t the Mona Lisa have blonde hair instead? Blonde tested better with the focus group.”

All of this can be worked with in a positive way IF the manager can practice empathic understanding – but if not, well…that’s the rub.

Great insights, Mike! People are increasingly approaching their work as art. It’s not that their painting or sculpting at work, it’s just that the nature of work has changed, so that the way people approach work is looking more and more like the way an artist approaches art.

This is true for geeks and for many other employee groups, and it profounfly changes the nature of work. Thanks Mike, for your great (as usual) input.

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