Dress code, conformity and the federal government

We pay close attention to what the government is doing in digital/social/mobile because it either signals that cultural milestones have reached the tipping point of mainstream OR serves as leadership examples for the public and private sector (specifically thinking of the mobile-friendly website mandate in 2012).

Although this piece, The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults, focuses primarily on dress code, it also highlights the need to bring in subject matter experts and talent who are excited about emerging technology AND aren’t necessarily conformists — in dress, but also where they went to school, where they’ve worked, and how they approach business challenges.

Watching a guy in an untucked, wrinkled dress shirt and khakis walk into a White House meeting may seem shocking today, but the government is starting to think more about the value of these big thinkers over their pedigree, what they look like, and what they wear. 

It’s a great lesson and example for companies looking to make transformational changes through new sources of talent.

Key quotes:

The U.S. Government wants to hire more people like Mikey Dickerson. He’s the former Google engineer the White House recently tapped to lead the new U.S. Digital Service.

Dickerson has impeccable credentials. He comes from one of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies. He flew into Washington a year ago to salvage the disastrous Healthcare.gov website. And by all accounts, he did an amazing job. Now, his White House on-boarding has become a kind of recruiting tool for Uncle Sam. And just for good measure, the feds want all the techies out there to know Dickerson wasn’t forced to do that amazing job in a suit and tie.

In a White House video, Dickerson says he is asked one question again and again by people curious about his new job. They “want to know if I’m wearing a suit to work every day,” Dickerson explains in the video. “Because that’s just the quickest shorthand way of asking: ‘Is this just the same old business as usual or are they actually going to listen?’”

When it comes to computers, the federal government has a nasty reputation for prizing ISO standards and regulatory checkboxes above working code. The video is the White House’s best effort at saying it’s going to get real and hire people based on what they can do, not how they dress for work.

The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults | Enterprise | WIRED.