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How the hacker mindset can work for your business

How the hacker mindset can work for your business

July 2014

In today’s security-sensitive world, “hacker” remains an unsavory term, one that inevitably prompts angst, if not alarm. But your business may benefit by viewing the world through a hacker’s eyes.

While there remains significant debate about the merits of viewing reformed hackers as a viable source of talent in any business enterprise, injecting the hacker mindset into your business can push the organization’s efforts—and its subsequent results—in R&D, IT, marketing, operations, sales, and other core business units.

What is the hacker mindset?
The term hacker originally applied to a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) programmers investigating the limits of mainframe computing [1]. At its core, the hacker mindset promotes neither disturbance nor damage, but rather the exploration of possibilities in an ethical, curiosity-driven manner.

Like those early MIT programmers, the hacking mindset celebrates inquisitiveness and the hunger for intellectual challenges. Agile and active, hackers devote energy to discovery and the knowledge of how things work [2].
Rather than playing defense and reacting to the world, the hacker mindset favors offense. Proactive, even unconventional, hacking begins with the opportunity and challenge, shunning any perceived constraints and, in fact, is often motivated by barriers. As a result, it cultivates creative thinking and drives innovation with spirited, challenge-defying action.

The hacker mindset can drive game-changing work. For instance, it’s deeply engrained in the pioneering efforts of the Seattle-based Intellectual Ventures Lab, where a multidisciplinary collection of scientists and inventors tackle pressing global issues, such as malaria diagnosis, vaccine spoilage, and hurricane suppression [3]. Together, the Intellectual Ventures team revels in diverse perspectives and skill sets, seeks information that empowers and advances, and they embrace transparency, eager—like so many who nobly champion the hacker mindset—to share their developments with the world.

Drive business performance
By seeking marketplace vulnerabilities, your business can discover gaps in products, services, or company programs, transforming weaknesses into strengths and liabilities into opportunities. You can deconstruct sluggish offerings, discard the unproductive, and create more relevant contributions.

When you adopt the practice of analyzing how things work rather than riding the status quo, your business can approach challenges as an inquisitive outsider, embracing novel thinking to drive solutions. As a result, you may learn to better leverage your inherent strengths and assets, including technology, to bolster the enterprise.

And by playing offense rather than defense, your business can push entrepreneurial thought and spirited, inventive action with new products and strategies to gain marketplace coverage and heightened responsiveness to customers. You won’t offer a product or service like the rest, but rather a solution that transcends the competition.

Putting your new mentality to work
Understanding and incorporating the hacker mindset into your business can better position the organization to innovate more relevant and competitive products and services. Instead of looking at the market as a matter of retention, you may embrace forward-thinking strategies to gain market share, define and pursue opportunities, and energize performance. After all, it’s about possibilities, not limitations.

More to read
Hidden workplace hazards
A farewell to cubicles
7 ways to take productivity further

[1] The New York Times, When Hacking Was in Its Infancy, October 29, 2012
[2] Schneier on Security, What is a Hacker?, September 14, 2006
[3] Wired, Why hackers need to do more than hack, December 11, 2012



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