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E290 | Redefining Business with Science and Openness: The Geek Way with Andrew McAfee

This week we’re set for a riveting discussion with Andrew McAfee, a Principal Research Scientist at MIT and the ingenious author of The Geek Way. In this episode, Andrew and Dominic explore the realm of “geek companies” — organisations that defy the conventional corporate playbook through their technology-driven services and groundbreaking strategies.

Andrew shared his unique perspective on why companies like Uber and Airbnb – while not traditional tech firms – epitomise the behaviours and characteristics of this new breed of business. He will explore the essential norms that set these companies apart—science, speed, ownership, and openness—and how these principles fuel high performance and break the shackles of hierarchy and deference that often hold back conventional organisations.

During this insightful conversation, Dominic and Andrew dived into the birth of the agile movement, the fallacy of the “Liars’ Club,” and the critical importance of autonomy and empowerment in nurturing a successful, forward-thinking workforce. 

Don’t miss this genuinely insightful episode where we blend the ingredients of business performance, corporate culture, and high-performing teams into a concoction that’s bound to challenge your perceptions.

On today’s podcast: 

  • What is the Geek Way
  • The Core Norms of Geek Companies
  • So-Called Tech Firms: Are They Really? 
  • Lessons From Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk
  • The Importance of Transparency and Speed in Project Management

Follow Andrew:




The Geek Way

Who is Andrew McAfee

Andrew McAfee is a Principal Research Scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management, co-founder and co-director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, and the inaugural Visiting Fellow at Google’s Technology and Society organisation. He studies how technological progress changes the world. His next book, The Geek Way, will be published by Little, Brown in 2023. His previous books include More from Less and, with Erik Brynjolfsson, The Second Machine Age.

McAfee has written for publications including Foreign Affairs, Harvard Business Review, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. He’s talked about his work on CNN and 60 Minutes, at the World Economic Forum, TED, and the Aspen Ideas Festival, with Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria, and in front of many international and domestic audiences. He’s also advised many of the world’s largest corporations and organisations ranging from the IMF to the Boston Red Sox to the US Intelligence Community.

McAfee and his frequent coauthor Erik Brynjolfsson are only people named to both the Thinkers50 list of the world’s top management thinkers and the Politico 50 group of people transforming American politics.

What you’ll learn from Andrew McAfee

04:22 – What Does Being A Scientist At MIT Mean?

06:46 – The Backstory Of ‘The Geek Way’ 

09:29 – Mislabeling Firms as ‘Tech’ And The Pressures And Opportunities of The Digital Environment

11:34 – What is a ‘Geek’ company?

13:39 – The Four Core Norms of The Geek Way

17:57 – Delving Into The Norm of Science

21:17 – The Great Geek Norm of Ownership

23:01 – Geek Companies’ Hierarchy And No Deference To Bureaucracy

25:13 – Jeff Bezos On Not Taking Enough Risks and Making Tough Calls

26:05 – Bezos and Musk’s Involvement In Important Decisions

31:44 – Geek Leaders and Companies’ Ability To Drive Vision And Narrative

33:53 – Human Beings Are Chronically Overconfident

37:15 – How To Beat Overconfidence and Self-deception: Show Your Work, Get Feedback

37:33 – Agile Development and The Liars’ Club

40:10 – The Importance Of Transparency In Project Development 

43:40 – The Automobile Industry and Electric Vehicles Demand

45:16 – Human Beings Cultural Evolution

46:26 – Book Recommendations

The Knowledge Machine

Elon Musk

How Big Things Get Done

Right Kind of Wrong

The Secret of Our Success

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