There are a few annual events I adore even though I’ll never ever go to any of them: Burning Man, SXSW, TED, and this time of year, Comic-Con. When you’re hyper-focused on IT innovation, you sometimes miss good stuff disguised as frivolity.
As we speak, San Diego is being overrun by 125,000 nerds, many dressed like superheroes, video game characters, zombies, stuffed animals, space aliens or manga hotties. All are ostensibly clamoring to witness the next big thing in comics, movies, TV and Web video. To be clear, these are not the cowering, bashful nerds from back in high school. These are angry, hipster nerds drunk with nerd power and full of nerdy attitude. They’re intolerant of boredom, enraged by sameness. They want all of the tools and technologies at their disposal employed to deliver new diversions in the wildest, weirdest way possible.
Which is why they all go to Comic-Con, then complain incessantly about Comic-Con. There are plenty of IT folks in attendance in San Diego this week, but not in an official capacity. Unless you’re the CIO of Marvel Comics or Hasbro, you may never have even heard of Comic-Con. But you should have. We in the enterprise technology arena could learn a few things from our geeky brothers in arms.
The Comic-Con faithful support those dedicated to their interests. But they instinctively know something fundamental about creativity and the artistic pursuits. Wherever thousands gather in its name, creativity has fled. Real creativity is born of rejection — rejection of the current, the popular, the safe, the known. It’s why some of the best stuff at Comic-Con happens in tents in a park down the street from the convention itself. There are always at least as many people boycotting Comic-Con as attending it.
I make this observation while sitting in another hotel conference room listening to another garish, noisy, colorful presentation on another current, popular technology choice. In today’s case, it happens to be cloud computing, but it could easily be mobility or virtualization or social networking or BI. How many of these sessions have we all endured? Endured them, even as we had a nagging sense that the really good stuff was probably being discussed by a small, rebellious group huddled in a tent down the road. Why do we put up with it — silently for the most part?
Where’s our awkward hipster’s sense of outrage?
If there’s one lesson from Comic-Con for IT leaders it’s this: It’s time for them to let their snarky geek flag fly. Comic-Con is all about creativity and its continuous pursuit. That’s not so different from what we’re after in our quest for technological innovation. Innovation is, after all, another flavor of creativity. Innovation and creativity are brothers from the same mother. Innovation is creativity with more moving parts and a better credit score.
And innovation, like creativity, tends to wither when we all gather in one place around what is popular and current and safe and known. As my hero, Hunter S. Thompson, once said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
In enterprise technology, every day is Comic-Con. What we need are more angry nerds.