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The Geek Gap

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The Geek Gap

Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive

Prometheus Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

To save scads of IT money, get your technology professionals (“geeks”) and business managers (“suits”) to work together

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


“Suits” versus “geeks” may sound like the plot of a lame science-fiction movie, but the conflict between suits (managers) and geeks (IT workers) is fact, not fiction. This war leads to the waste of huge sums of money on failed IT projects. Sometimes, the losses are even more devastating, such as the injury or death of people who rely on technology that fails to function correctly. The clash between suits and geeks is deeply rooted in history. Many assume that, like the weather, this conflict is a way of life and nothing can be done about it. But IT consultant Bill Pfleging (geek) and business writer Minda Zetlin (suit) disagree. They propose sensible solutions companies can use to reduce the antagonism between executives and technicians, and to help them work well together. getAbstract recommends this book to managers and technicians who must rely on each other without making sparks fly. Now you can communicate across the chasm.


“Suits” Versus “Geeks”

Suits and geeks live in different worlds. What matters to suits does not matter to geeks, and vice versa. They do not communicate clearly, or respect and trust each other. As a result, businesses lose many billions of dollars each year in failed IT projects. In 2003, the “Geek Gap” resulted in the loss of $55 billion in the U.S. alone.

Sometimes, the war between executives and engineers has human casualties, as with the explosion of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger, launched after an unseasonably cold night in Florida on January 28, 1986. Morton Thiokol, an aerospace parts supplier company, manufactured Challenger’s O-rings, seals that helped hold various parts of its rocket boosters together. The failure of these O-rings caused the explosion. It turns out that the firm’s engineers, its geeks, knew the O-rings could turn brittle and malfunction in cold weather, and did their best to warn the suits, that is, NASA’s executives and – later – executives from their own firm. During a conference call the night before the launch, 12 geeks from Morton Thiokol repeatedly explained that a cold-weather Challenger launch could...

About the Authors

Husband-and-wife team Bill Pfleging and Minda Zetlin are a geek-and-suit combo. Pfleging is a Web and computer consultant who has been in the data automation field since the early 1970s. Zetlin is a business writer and the author of Telecommuting for Dummies.

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