The Cult of the Tech Genius

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There’s a sure sort of know-how persona that routinely leaps into our creativeness. You know him. (It’s nearly at all times a him.)

It’s the audacious, perhaps barely off kilter, sharp-elbowed know-how genius who makes all the magic occur. People like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Many of us — together with journalists like me — are fascinated by these tech geniuses, and we might be fast to show in opposition to them in the event that they make catastrophic errors. The fall of singular geniuses is usually blamed on their private flaws. How may he, we ask?

The downside, although, isn’t solely private failure. It’s the mythmaking that creates the singular genius in the first place. When an individual is imbued with the energy and confidence that he can do no unsuitable, ought to we be actually stunned when he does unsuitable?

But we should all pause and look deeper at the fallout created by the singular genius myth.

Tejal Rao, the California restaurant critic for The New York Times, wrote this week about the phenomenon of the genius chef. It sounded familiar to me.

She wrote that the reimagining of chefs as auteurs gave them license for creativity that improved food and dining, but it also justified systemic deficiencies and abusive work cultures and ignored the contributions of almost everyone else.

In technology, we can see the good done by singular individuals like Bezos, who created Amazon, and Jobs, who co-founded Apple. But we can’t tally the full cost of the genius myth.

How many Levandowskis are there rotting companies from the inside? What new ideas never got off the ground because a lone genius obscured everyone else’s contributions? Who got pushed out of the industry because they didn’t fit the mold?

Some iconic tech companies — Google, Apple, Microsoft, Uber and Oracle — are now run by hired hands, not the singular geniuses that they’re associated with. This may be natural turnover as companies mature. But I hope it’s also a sign that the industry is rethinking whether singular geniuses are the best path to success.

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The history of the technology industry is littered with evidence that having a great idea is no guarantee of success. Someone can take the same idea and improve it, or outright steal it.

When piggy meets puppy, it is adorable.

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