Beginner’s mind in IT

A young information technology worker in a large organization follows his common sense — and his boss scolds for it. The question is how to respond.

Back in 1980, he had just started at his first job, at the CBS Television Network. He soon noticed that every week business people asked him for the same data from the same source. So he did the logical thing: he wrote an algorithm for himself to save time.

Then he did the next logical thing: he gave the algorithm to the business people. They could do it themselves, and he didn’t have to do it for them. Everyone was happy.

That is, everyone was happy until the boss heard. The young man was called into the office.

“You gave them an algorithm?,” the boss asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“So now they can extract the data all by themselves?”

“Sure. They always ask for the same thing, so I thought they’d like it better if they didn’t have to ask me.”

“Lou, if they can do that, what’s our job?”

His ultimate response is a good product — which he won’t let me identify — that gives users control of their data.


  1. Paul Boal says:

    I thought that we were beyond this by now. Note that the anecdote says “1980.” But, I’ve had some recent personal stories in which an IT worker has said things like: “if we give them (users) access to do that, then what will our job be,” or “if I document the process so that someone else can do, then what’s my job?” Maybe I should have majored in psychology instead of computer science…

  2. Michael W Cristiani says:


    Next time, you might reply, “then you will be more fully alive, more fully human, more actualized, more free, and more freeing of others to be who they really are.” Something like that.

    In the mean time,

    Peace and All Good!
    Michael W Cristiani

  3. lewandog says:

    This behavior still occurs today. It may not be said out loud, or as overtly as described; and it is often camoflouged in some other objection; but it happens…ALOT!! The agenda is usually obvious; but there is often so much history, process and unnecessary complexity that it is becomes a nearly impossible challenge.

    In general, change can be a scary thing, and not all are comfortable working in ambiguous environments or situations. People want to feel as if their work is important and makes an impact, and by putting it in the hands of another, this may be taken away.

    All of us could benefit from learning how to “Tai-Chi” this behavior, to use the momentum, and to redirect its energy into something beyond “what they already know.” I may be an idealist, but I believe that people really do want to progress and make a difference. We need to help by inspiring people into behavior that looks forward to the next step. We need to constantly encourage rational experimentation, projects of personal interest, and to always move the finish line forward as we create a culture of change. This is by no means an easy task. But when you find someone who is receptive to this, make them part of your team immediately!!

    These are solely my views and not representative of anybody else.

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