Human Resources

Response to "The Geek vs Creativity?"

When we published an article “the Geeks vs. Creativity” on 3rd June, Arjé Cahn, CTO of Hippo dropped us a note because he wanted to pen a response. Does anyone disagree with his views?

The notion that “geeks” (or those of us working in the tech sector) aren’t creative is a myth.  Tech is obsessed with creative problem solving; it’s just that we refer to it more often as innovation.  Tech “geeks” are constantly thinking ahead, improving the functionality of objects and processes around us, and imagining ways to materialize that which is not yet possible.

You have to draw outside the lines, so to speak, in order to think big and push the boundaries of technological possibility. And although many geeks appreciate the perception of themselves and the fields they work in as strict, organized and mathematical, there’s an element of experimentation and failure that’s key to technological innovation. Geeks don’t stay within the model at all times, they question it. To truly innovate, however, they need room to fail. Analyzing that failure and learning from it is key to technological creativity. That’s why so many tech companies work with SCRUM—a development framework that’s in many ways based on learning from mistakes.

The sort of creativity you often see in tech goes beyond the individual: it’s a collective form of creativity, and it’s the backbone of open source. This collective creative process involves consistent knowledge sharing, with the understanding that others will build on your ideas, tweak them and challenge them. The philosophy behind this free exchange of ideas is the belief that we're collectively pushing each other to innovate further than any of us could in isolation.

This emphasis on knowledge sharing, and willingness to be part of a constant dialogue goes well beyond “being quietly creative behind the scenes.” When prospective developer hires are asked to take on small projects as part of their assessment, here at Hippo, we value their ability to explain their thought process, as well as their ability to respond to criticism from their prospective peers over the quality of the programming assignment they’ve only got a very short time to complete. Basically, like most IT organizations, we love technically creative problem solvers, who are quick on their feet, able to improvise and know how to cooperate—the quintessential “geeks.”


Arjé Cahn is co-founder of Hippo (Amsterdam, Boston). In 2010 he was named Top 5 CMS Executive under 35 by CMSWire. He has written for both technical and business publications, and shares his thoughts on Hippo’s blog and on twitter @arjecahn.


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