“Oh I don’t understand IT” – why do some think this is a badge of pride.


As with all my posts I need to put the – it’s just a personal view, possibly wrong but shared because in my view every linkedin stream needs more than HPCISCOIBM AgileCloudBigBuyUs promos!

When I first started in IT countless millenia ago, I got that lots of people didn’t understand it.  It’s how we made money.  The Geeks were funny/odd, and I was grateful that I wasn’t on the bottom of the pile.  I was still far away from the top, as I had a smattering of social skills, if only a small amount my wife would say.

Over the years I noticed that more people seemed to be “getting” IT, not necessarily a deep understanding, other than the Sales Directors who became experts after a visit to PC world and were ever after qualified to question the IT Director (for the younger reader an IT Director was pre CIO and pre CDO, they were on the board to provide light relief for the important board members).

I now love working with the “digital generation” who I’ve never heard say “I don’t understand IT”.   Many of them don’t understand how it all fits together and works, it’s like running water, it’s just there and always on.  However it really saddens me that I still hear older managers and directors saying “oh I don’t understand IT”.

The Problem – there are two ways of saying this – one is understandable the second is unforgivable (IMHO).

  1. I don’t understand IT – meaning >>> “I wished I did but I don’t, however I understand enough to  lead my business or my area.  I’ll listen hard and read lots of material and have an appreciation that the modern world is all about information and connectivity.  I wished I did understand it a little more for my own benefit and my teams.  By saying this I’m declaring an openness about myself, a desire to learn and a vulnerability.  I’m happy in my skin and enjoy my working relationships!”  FINE – these folks are trying and I respect that.
  2. I don’t understand IT – meaning >>> “I’m above that sort of thing, I employ people to do it, I’m showing my power and importance by reminding those that do that they’re at the bottom of the pile.  I know the worlds changing and as long as I employ the right people, I’ll make it to my retirement employing old thinking and old management styles. In fact I don’t understand it so much I think I need to create another new board name and position.  NOT FINE – these are the dinosaurs walking the earth still.

I’d suggest that very few people need to be deep subject matter specialists in the Internet of Things, Hana (whoever she is), Zachman or his mates or coding.

However having a sense of wonderment and interest in what technology can do for the individual, the organisation, the city etc is surely something to aspire to in a world where each and every business model is dependent upon it.  If my 80 year old mum can express an interest in 3D printing and the Internet of things without saying “I don’t understand IT” then so can those senior managers who declare with such pride “I don’t understand IT,” and if they really want to look smug finish it with “I’m a business person”.


Header Image courtesy of ‘Peter’ on Flickr