Embrace the inner geek

August 8, 2012

My dream team for work is not simply a bunch of people I like, although that helps enormously. Neither is it a group of people just like me (God help that team –  a million ideas, no processes or systems, no filing, no ‘stakeholder engagement’….) .

Naturally it is great to have a driver at the helm – someone with vision who will push on through. And I love them. But  I also find myself drawn to the geeks. The nerds. The detail jockeys.  The quieter ones who have often been in the same job for centuries, would not be recognised by the big bosses if they lay down in front of them, and could not play a political game if their life depended on it.

They are employed to do a job and they do it. They are true to the core. Things tend to be black and white, right or wrong. But usually open to evidence-based argument. They often appear low on the creativity score, but because they often have vastly detailed  technical knowledge can be a huge boon in an ideas generating setting as they will know some random fact that will spark off creative juices in those who run on them. But you’ll have to ask them for it.

My alter ego?

They tend not to shout from the rooftops but will sit and suffer the inane twitterings of a group with little experience or knowledge but bags of self belief and will only contribute when you ask them directly. And even that can make some of them I know uncomfortable. Much better to ask them to have a think about ways to solve a a particular problem and come back to you in their own time.  They tend to want to give you a considered opinion, not an off the cuff one. One that will have been thoroughly evaluated and researched before being aired. They find it difficult to give you an answer ‘in priciple’, becuase so much depends on the detail of the individual issue.

And they never seem to shirk their responsibility or delegate. They take  whatever is piled on and keep on plodding. Without complaint. Without making a huge song and dance about it. Without wasting half an hour at the coffee machine telling everyone how busy they are…..

But they never seem to complain. It is just the way of the world. Because the world is run by people who have those charismatic leadership skills and go-getting personalities that went out and got them the  top jobs. And left these detail jockeys grafting away where they were.

Apart from doing their jobs to the best of their abilities (and in my experience they tend to take huge pride in their work) , these exacting colleagues don’t try to make themselves look good in front of others just for the sake of it. It’s just not how they work. You won’t see them compromising their principles just to try to be popular.

And it’s not that they are antisocial or Aspergers or weird. (Well, not all of them anyway!)  But I think they prefer one to one conversations than group discussions.   Unlike the ‘ Lets have a meeting! Look at me! Look at me!” types who feed off having an audience, the geeks get their energy from inside themselves, being on their own or in one to one discussions. Not huge groups where it becomes a feeding frenzy.

They like things to be meaningful not frivolous chat taking up space. Which is perhaps why sometimes people find them hard work as they can be laborious in the detail, not simply giving you the headline story. But we need people with these skills as the foundations of the business. These detail jockeys are the worker bees – heads down doing what’s required of them. They will never be the drones, but given the right circumstance they could indeed become Queen, metaphorically speaking (they aren’t all female)  of their  own colony.

So next time you are designing a ‘team building’ exercise, spare a thought for people further along the spectrum than me. Ones that don’t want to get involved in large group games where he who shouts loudest wins. Those lairy types will get on anyway without spending a day dressed in camouflage gear and warpaint..

If I ran an agency it’s who I’d employ. I love them. Nurture the nerds. For they will deliver the earth for you.

In my nerdy fact checking mode


4 Responses to “Embrace the inner geek”

  1. Terri Says:

    Excellent. Will send E to you when he needs job. T c

  2. michael Says:

    “My dream team for work is not simply a bunch of people I like, although that helps enormously. Nor is it a group of people just like me”


    Loved it though, great post. It’s a shame some people’s contributions get overlooked because they don’t buy into the networking/social side of things. Competence – excellence – should be the primary consideration.

    • Well said. I agree, but relationships are two way streets and just like I think the ‘noises’ have to let the geeks recharge their batteries by being alone, the geeks need to come out to play every now and then to allow the ‘noises’ to recharge theirs as they need the social interaction to do that.
      And I love the venn diagram.

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