Last post I talked about how the strong cultural bond in IT departments (and nerd/geek culture in general), can damage organizational trust, cohesion, general pleasantness and ultimately profit. Now let’s look at drilling down into the rest of the organization and see if we can’t find some solutions…

Never a truer acronym written in jest

The problem is that critically necessary information, in any situation, is scattered in different departments and at different levels throughout any organization. This is the reason that command and control management does not work any more. It is the reason why managers cannot go into their offices, close the door and write operational plans in splendid isolation. It is the reason why collaborative intelligence is the new gold in our economy.

Now stand back from IT culture, of all types, for a moment. Imagine that you are not special, wonderful, highly-creative, technologically-gifted, but simply people who are part of a world of complexity, needing to collaborate with others, needing knowledge of other perspectives. Needing “Diversity for IT people”.

Would you really want her job?

Let’s drill down into a couple of other departments, and look at their subcultures. Here’s a guy in telemarketing. You probably instinctively despise him, but he gets up every morning and makes 500 calls to people who usually tell him to F*** off. He does this 8 hours a day, for 280 days a year. Without him, your organization wouldn’t work. Your ideas of how his software should work are all very well, but he knows things you don’t know.

Move on to the warehouse. Here’s a 60-year-old lady who tracks and picks and ships thousands of different widgets, none of which you could recognize. Sadly, there is no air-conditioning. Perhaps she knows something you don’t?

Anyone who does not live under a rock knows that technology tools, products, skills and services will dominate our future; no single occupation has all the knowledge required to produce a best-possible solution to any business issue.

As IT understands it’s own culture and sub-cultures, it becomes more able to understand and flex to the cultures around it, building people and thinking skills to serve it’s business partners.

Other disciplines have thinking tools to help. Other occupations have knowledge we need, as badly as they need ours.

Aaah, Science Jokes...

A POTENTIAL solution

This is something I’ve borrowed from Competency and Performance Solutions:


The IQ symbol: critical thinking skills and the varied intelligences that make up cognition. Thinking skills are most useful when one has the conscious ability to use formal thinking tools (SWOTs, decision matrixes, cause and effect analyses, etc.) and understand thinking skills themselves as a toolbox of various skills, to use alone and with other people.

The EQ symbol represents the clusters of skills usually covered by emotional intelligence: the competencies in the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and communication domain. EQ grows with your own interest in, and insights into the self, with a positive, open-minded and non-judgmental exploration of your own needs, values, personality, and ways of relating to others.

The TQ symbol represents technological intelligence, the group of skills, knowledge and attitudes that are an essential part of managing information sharing and collaborative work in the technology-based Age of Knowledge. This is obviously the geek’s strongest card.

Word to the L.T!

So add them all up and you get Collaborative Intelligence. The CQ is this idea that if you are to function in a modern organization, you need to have the full set of “Intelligences”. This may not be as true for the programmer at his desk, but vital for a project manager or any IT person actually aspiring to be something more than a code jockey or cable nerd. The very process of looking at this issue will help adjust peoples’ attitudes and ideas about the bubbles that their alien co-workers semi-coexist in.

Training is another way to handle these types of revaluation moments. A skilled facilitator with a good idea on how to structure an organizational cultural study could help the different groups understand better ways to deal with each other. Training companies all over the country are cashing in on teaching inter-generational understanding because organizations have realized the costs associated with the tensions between the Gen-Ys and the rest of the work force – why can’t we apply this same type of understanding to inter-company cultures. An organization could quite easily sponsor a “bring your nerd to work day” where IT folk could go play in the warehouse for the day or get taught the basics of the HR department.

As IT understands it’s own culture and sub-cultures, it becomes more able to understand and flex to the cultures around it, building people and thinking skills to serve it’s business partners.

My Nerd Credentials

Well if you got this far through this post and you would like to read the rest, remember that this is Part 3 of a three part series, and you can find the others here in Part 1 and Part 2.

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I help cruise lines turn their technical ideas into reality. I'm experienced in all stages of innovation and technology management. I've also been programing since I was 8 years old, and have somehow retained the ability to have normal human interactions. Occasionally I speak about how Industrial Psychology and Neurophysiology can be interrogated with IT and systems management, because I spend a lot of time thinking about the subject, as strange as that may seem.

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Picard Day

There have been many great and memorable fictional leaders in my life: Kathryn Janeway, Kermit the Frog, and Jedediah Bartlett are instantly called to my mind. People (and frogs) like these are figures I can look to for inspiration. Their character, values, and managerial styles all contain qualities to which we can all aspire. But one mythical leader towers above all others in my admiration: Jean-Luc Picard.

I am not alone in my love of this nerd icon. Blog posts abound with the tales of his heroic deeds, suave manner, and gleaming, sexy head.The giants of the business publishing world fill column inches with click-baity “top ten” lists about Picard’s management philosophies. There is also some pretty strange fanfiction out there. 

So there’s no reason for me not to jump on the bandwagon in celebrating June 16th as Picard Day! I will do this in the great Internet tradition of writing a list (because it’s easy), and telling you six things about Captain Jean-Luc; three things you should know and three things that are entirely unnecessary. 

1. What is Picard Day?

In Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG for short), Season 7, Episode 12 (S07E12) titled “The Pegasus,” all the children on the Enterprise (the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D to be specific, and Enterprise-D for short) throw a celebration in honor of the captain. Deanna Troi explains that this is because the children look up to him as a role model. Fair enough. 

I believe that the teachers do this because they know it annoys Picard, and they know that one of his few faults is his distaste for children. Picard is an idealized figure and must come across as fairly uptight to those not under his direct supervision. I’m surprised that there are not more events like this in the show, where there are subtle attempts to force cracks in the steely veneer of principles and high cheekbones. 

Picard Day in the show is written as a cute, humanizing scene before the episode plunges into a story about espionage, death, disloyalty, and how creepy the dad from That 70’s Show can be… but that’s another blog. 

Outside of the show, Picard Day is when TNG fans celebrate the greatest fictional commander in all of literary history (yeah, I said it!) at  least in this sector of the galaxy. 

2. Picard’s Power Base

Star Trek TNG was written to be set in a more utopian human future than its predecessor. That means less curse words like “dammit” and “hell,” and the addition of even loftier ideals. That put a lot of pressure on the captain character to be an exemplary human being who still ran a tight ship. Fortunately, the writers of TNG knew a thing or two about power bases. Picard leads through both referent power and expert power. Referent power comes from being trusted and respected, whereas expert power comes from skills or knowledge. Leaders who are able to display both can be extremely effective. Jean-Luc clearly has the respect of the crew due to fairness and consistency, but we sometimes forget how well he understands the technical details of his ship. In “Disaster” (S05E05), we get to watch Jean-Luc save a group of children, stranded in a turbo-life, using his intimate knowledge of the wiring schematics of minor ship subsystems. We are also reminded of how much he dislikes children. 

3. The Picard Maneuver

Many nerds will talk of the Picard Maneuver being a tactic where you aim your ship directly at another ship and then engage your highest level of warp so that it briefly appears that you are in two places at once. The real Picard Maneuver, however, is the motion of adjusting your shirt after you stand up so that it’s not all bunchy on the bottom.

4. He leads through trust

“You have the bridge” might be used second only to “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” in Captain Picard’s dialog. Jean-Luc hands over command to his crew frequently and with absolute confidence. He has built an amazing culture of trust among his officers. Trust is something very difficult to articulate, but there are two dimensions of trust that TNG gets right. 

The first dimension is “Trust in Principles.” The crew of the Enterprise-D are on the same page when it comes to their mission and their intentions. Captain Picard has modeled how to show respect to his fellow officers, how to engage in task conflict, how to praise and reward members of his crew, and how to stand up for what is right. In one of my favorite scenes in all of Star Trek (S07E04 – Gambit, Part 1), Data is temporarily made captain while Worf becomes his first officer. Tensions rise and Data and Worf argue about how to settle disagreements on the bridge. However, the dispute is rapidly resolved when they both agree how Picard and Riker would handle the same situation, modeled for them hundreds of times by experienced leaders. 

“Performance Trust” is the second pillar of trust. This is the concept that you need to be able to know that your team will be able to accomplish the actual tasks they are given. Performance trust is probably much simpler in a world of standardized starship equipment, promotions and ranks, and Starfleet academy testing. That said, Picard encourages mutual and ongoing performance trust among his crew by being consistent and fair in his praise and feedback of their duties. He keeps an open door policy to his ready room, and actually makes changes when his staff come to him with concerns. 

5. The Picard Facepalm

The facepalm that spawned a thousand memes comes from TNG S03E13, “Déjà Q.” The facepalm in the actual footage is as fleeting as the movement of Muhammad Ali’s fist over Sonny Liston’s semiconcious body. In both situations, the image has become massively more powerful than the video. In the episode, Picard is simply exasperated and a little annoyed that Q, a godlike being and constant annoyance, has been made human and sent to the Enterprise-D. That’s pretty much it.

6. Leadership Through Clarity

Picard and his writers understood the most important thing about leadership: Clarity. Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Temptations of a CEO” is required reading for anyone in a position of power, and the book’s arguably most important “temptation” is “Clarity over Certainty.” This describes the tendency of executives to focus on being sure about a decision, rather than clearly understanding and articulating why they are making a decision. Captain Picard is a leader with an almost superhuman reservoir of clarity. He is able to passionately articulate the reasons WHY any command has been given at any point. He can speak to the philosophy behind a value that led to the mission that informed the decision that enabled the command just given. His clear understanding of his own convictions and values, as well as those of The Federation in general, make him the leader that he is. Just watch the Captain (in “The First Duty“ S05E19) explain to the eternally annoying Wesley Crusher how the first duty of an officer is always to the truth.

Star Trek can be very silly sometimes. Fans can be even sillier when they idolize the show and its characters to an unhealthy degree. But we should still remember that Star Trek TNG at its core is not a science fiction show; it’s a morality drama. Jean-Luc Picard sits at the head of this modern morality play as a vessel for the most aspirational ideals of not just leadership, but almost every type of human value the writers could pour into him. Star Trek is nerdy and silly, sure —  but from an inspirational perspective, Gene Roddenberry can outwrite Peter Drucker any day.
Finally, if anyone out there is inspired by this post to watch the show Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+, please, please, please don’t. It is a sloppy, meaningless, morally bankrupt mess, and is mainly about explosions and ninjas (yes, I’m serious). I would rewatch a thousand episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise while being forced to say, “I see five lights” when I can clearly see four, before I ever subject myself to one more minute of Star Trek: Picard.