“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask — who’s that guy?”
It’s your first day working on a new team. You’ve introduced yourself to everyone except the guy sitting quietly on his own.
Your coworker looks up. “Oh, Chad? Yeah he’s great, he does it all. He helps us with research, write-ups, programming — anything, really. He’s a true 10x’er.”
“Wow, really? That’s pretty sweet.”
“Yeah.” Your coworker pauses. “Oh, I guess I should mention that every now and then, he sort of… makes things up.”
“Well, he produces great work, like, 95% of the time. It’s just that sometimes he, well… gives you something totally weird and wrong,” your coworker sheepishly explains. “But I swear, he’s really smart! The things he gets wrong — they’re not the hardest things you ask him to do. Sometimes you’ll ask him for something really complicated and he’ll give you a super impressive answer or piece of code or whatever. But other times, you’ll ask for something simple and he totally drops the ball. We sometimes joke that those answers are him hallucinating.”
You look back at Chad. His head is buried in his laptop. You realize you haven’t seen him blink yet. As he’s typing, his fingers are moving faster than anyone you’ve ever seen before. You look back to your coworker, who’s also staring at him. “Huh, got it. Good to know. That’s… well, kind of bizarre,” you say.
“Yeah, once I asked him a pretty simple market sizing question and he gave me back some numbers that were off by, like, five orders of magnitude. I asked him to explain how he landed on those numbers and his response was all over the place. Like, he couldn’t explain basic addition — 3rd grader stuff. But then he turns around and sends off an email to help with some marketing campaign, and he’s explaining the company’s mission using analogies to quantum mechanics and Nietzschean philosophy.”
You mull that over. “Well… I guess he still sounds like a net asset to the team?”
“Oh yeah, one hundred percent,” your coworker assures you, nodding profusely. “You’ve just gotta know how to work with him — the types of tasks he’s good at, and how to double check the stuff he might get wrong. You’ll figure it out.”