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The “fierce nerd” sounds a lot like what Reed Hastings (Netflix, Founder) calls “brilliant jerks.” To quote his recent book:

> Sometimes really talented people have heard for so long how great they are, they begin to feel they really are better than everybody else. They might smirk at ideas they find unintelligent, roll their eyes when people are inarticulate, and insult those they feel are less gifted then they are.

At Netflix, they say “no brilliant jerks” because they will “rip your organization apart from the inside”.[0]

A lot of this sounds like justification for a brilliant jerk’s behavior. While it’s tempting to take the “fierce nerd” badge and wear it proudly, ferocity can turn into jerkiness pretty quickly.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/No-Rules-Netflix-Culture-Reinvention/...




We're not talking about people who disrespect waitresses.

fierce =/= jerk. There are many well intentioned nerds who try their best to be considerate and kind that can't help but be impatient in technical discussions. Some organizations don't tolerate that and some do, and those who do are at a natural advantage.


> We're not talking about people who disrespect waitresses

Right, we’re not. We’re referring to behavior in the workplace.

> There are many well intentioned nerds who try their best to be considerate and kind that can't help but be impatient in technical discussions.

This is true, but I don’t think that accurately describes pg’s definition of a “fierce nerd” in the article. Also, Netflix would probably still classify someone like this as a “brilliant jerk”. Maybe they would give this nerd a chance to change their behavior, since it’s unintentional.

> Some organizations don't tolerate that and some do, and those who do are at a natural advantage.

These days, no one could confidently make the claim that Netflix has a “natural disadvantage” in this respect. They have the strongest technology in their market and have no lack of talent in any of their technical departments.

Companies that win have top talent, but this talent needs to be able to work with the team effectively. Whether you want to use the term “jerk” or “fierce”, if a team member is being disrespectful to other team members then the team breaks down.


I completely agree with you. I just think the norms around what makes someone a jerk aren't universal.




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