Geeks and Non-Geeks: Let’s Work Together

Written by David Michaelis

Geeks and non-geeks have a tenuous relationship. But now it’s time to work together. — Geeks and non-geeks have a shaky relationship with each other because of their basic nature. They tend to look at the world in two different ways. The geek says, “I would love to change the world, but I don’t have access to the source code,” while the non-geek supervisor says, “I would love to change the world, and I have a vision.”

But it’s not language that creates the misunderstanding between geeks and non-geeks. It is their fundamentally-different perspective and worldview. Disconnect happens because techies want to solve problems, and non-geeks want to achieve a vision based on their intuition. It’s the eternal war between left geek brain vs. right non-geek brain.

Geeks in the Workplace

Authors Paul Glen and Maria McManus recently published an article about the ongoing communication problems faced by geeks and non-geeks. Read it here: Geeks and Non-Geeks: From Contraxioms to Collaboration in Higher Education.”

The article focuses on six ways geeks and non-geeks differ: work, future, knowing, language, lying and wanting. These six points form the basis of two very-different world views. Therefore, as a non-geek in charge of IT projects, you need to understand what geeks love to do.

In addition, Glen and McManus say there are three things that motivate geek culture. They are:

  • Difficulty: Geeks love to tackle hard (but not impossible) problems.
  • Learning: Geeks love to learn new things.
  • Competition: Yes, geeks love to compete with worthy opponents for pride and bragging rights.

If you, as a non-geek, understand these three things, you will be less-annoyed by missed deadlines or industry jargon that is sometimes intimidating and indecipherable.

Says author Glen:

IT managers ask me, ‘How can I motivate my technical team?’ I love that they ask that question, since it tells me that as an industry our managerial maturity is improving. Fifteen years ago I was more often asked about process. The short answer is that you can’t motivate your team. Motivation is an internal emotional state, and you can’t crawl into someone else’s soul and make them motivated any more than you can make someone love you.

Fortunately I have a longer answer: You can create conditions under which people are likely to find their own motivation. You can offer people an opportunity to be motivated. With geeks, the best way to offer that opportunity is to master the motivational power of problem statement.”

Look Within

Rickford Grant’s book Linux for Non-Geeks is NOT the solution to the problems faced by geeks and non-geeks. But you might want to pick it up nonetheless. After reading it, you will realize that you need more insights into individual behavior, and less issues with technical hiccups like coding.

Image credit: No Starch Press

Image credit: No Starch Press

Language differences have little to do with learning Linux. The whole process, these days, is about transcending stereotypes. Examine the dark corner of the human psyche where stereotypes and stigmas are born.

We used to see a geek (or two) amidst a group of misfits. But even that image has gone through a transformation recently. Take Mark Zuckerberg, for example. He is unquestionably a geek. But he’s also a billionaire, whose vision (non-geek) and reality are idolized by millions of under-30 geeks, entrepreneurs, and well, everybody.

The perception of geek culture is changing. Otherwise a reality show like Beauty and the Geek would have been a flop. Let’s all take a good long moment, whatever category we fall under, and try to undestand the differences. With the power of both geek and non-geek, great things can be accomplished.

And if you’re wondering if you are a geek or not, check out our all-time favorite infographic, “Geek vs.Nerd“.

For aNewDomain, I’m David Michaelis.

Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him at