Steve Wozniak and a Leaders’ Hacker Mentality

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Too often, our go-to move when addressing an issue is to throw additional resources at it – more people, more tech, more money will solve all of our problems. While it may be nice to have an unlimited reserve from which to pull, most of us aren’t so fortunate. We have set budgets, a streamlined workforce, and fixed capital to play with. So let’s stop wishing for the impossible and start developing a hacker mentality.

Steve Wozniak is a strong proponent of the hacker mentality. Woz, as he’s affectionately called, founded Apple Computers with Steve Jobs in the mid-1970s. For all the credit Steve receives, it was Woz’s brilliance that built the first Apple computer and revolutionized the industry. And he did it in a garage.

All the best things that I did at Apple came from (1) not having money and (2) not having done it before, ever. Every single thing that we came out with that was really great, I’d never once done that thing in my life.

The hacker mentality is a mindset of creativity and innovation. It involves a drive to do something that’s never been done and then constantly improve upon it. This differs from your average high achiever in that hackers want to accomplish their endeavors with the least amount of resources. If you do it in ten steps, they want to do it in five.

This need to ‘find the new shortcut’ mixed with ‘using parts in ways that they weren’t intended’ is the hacker’s mentality.

Before you get into the ethical quandaries associated with hackers, please know that I am not promoting immoral acts when I encourage you to be hacker-esque. As always, you should use your powers for good. What I am promoting is the attempt to do more with less. As Woz has said, “try to figure out how to use less parts to do the same thing.” This may include:

Stressing the need for continuous improvement. This is more than just repairing glitches; find something that’s working and make it better.

Evaluating and re-evaluating processes on a regular basis. There is no “final” version, just the “most recent” version.

Challenging yourself. Try to cut the amount of time your regular tasks take to complete. Or, to push yourself and your team, only allow the use of a percentage of a project’s budget. How creative will your team be when you offer the excess budgetary funds as a bonus?

With a culture of hackers, innovative solutions become the norm. It is no longer, “what do I need to get this task done,” but “what do I already have…” You can find a purpose for the great idea that never worked out and, with the ‘new shortcut’, save time, effort, and money. It may not generate the next Apple, but you have to start somewhere.

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