On Hubris

Today, I checked myself out of CVS using one of those self-checkout kiosks. I always feel like I’m getting out of the store much faster if I do it myself. As I awaited my bus, I realized that my believing that I was faster at checking out purchases than someone who does it every single day displayed remarkable hubris on my part. After all, every good operations class points out that as people do a task repetitively, they get better and faster at it.

Where does this come from, and what does it have to do with geeks?

Well, I think that geeks and I have this in common: we were much better at certain things than people around us. These certain things likely were related to logical thinking or problem solving, which then translated to the technical world. As such, we all believe that we are naturally just better at things than everyone else.

Although this should not translate to tasks we do not do regularly, it does in our minds. This is why I call this hubris, rather than simple ability or self-confidence (where hubris is defined as excessive self-confidence or arrogance). We/they are not trying to make others feel stupid, we just have an innate assumption that if our brains can grasp the logic behind something, we can do it better.

While leading geeks, it is good to keep this in mind. It means that sometimes they need to be told–gently–that while they might be the smartest people in the room, others occasionally know how to do things.