Talented geeks without business savvy

Business Acumen, Geek 5

A recent blog post at BNET explored two situations in which talented geeks failed at a major business deals due to lack of business savvy.  This is a perfect illustration of one of the Geek 5 that we have not yet tackled.  The relevant Geek 5 is Business Acumen or rather the lack of it.

Geeks have generally spent their careers focused on their technical specialty – whether it be computers or medicine or statistics or psychology.  Specialized academic programs often do not allow for a lot of extra time to take management classes and such, so exposure to business often does not occur during the university days.  Once working, early careers are often built on technical expertise – again, no time or energy for general business and financial learning.

Once geeks leave the early career stage, business acumen starts to matter more.   As a matter of fact it can mean the difference between surviving and thriving or failing. 

Steve Tobak at BNET does a post mortem on two business cases in which talented people fail due to lack of business acumen.  The first explores the development of a video game, Duke Nukem Forever, which was an intended sequel to Duke Nukem.  However, the development team could not focus or stick to a timeline and plan.  After 12 years of development and a $20M investment, the project was shelved without being completed.

Another case study was on the chip maker Rambus.  They had a break-through technology DRAM chip.  However, they attemped to use an unusual approach to selling, got on the wrong side of some lawsuits and ended up behind the game.

The best technology does not always win.  Geeks need the right business acumen to protect their ideas and find success.

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