Some supergeeks have the ability to improvise solutions at a moment's notice using nothing but plastic bags, duct tape, and their own creativity. "Kind of like MacGyver, only without the mullet and the bad sunglasses," says Meikle.
Meikle was working for a state agency in Richmond, Va., when Hurricane Fran came bearing down upon his city in 1996. His CIO located the big three-ring binder with the agency's disaster recovery plan inside, blew off the dust, and cracked it open.
"The plan called for the agency head to take off in a helicopter and 'monitor' the situation from the air -- in the middle of a hurricane," Meikle says. "The contact phone numbers in the binder where from years ago and many of the individuals had retired or moved to different roles. Essentially the plan was useless."
They improvised. Meikle and his team covered all the critical hardware and filing cabinets with plastic trash bags and created a communications plan on the fly. Then they hunkered down and waited out the storm.
"Fortunately the building roof leaked but held and the agency was saved from disaster," he says. "The disaster recovery plan was put back on the shelf where it probably remains today."
But relying on improvisation is a bad long-term strategy. At least hurricanes give you a time to prepare; with other disasters, not so much. As with Captain Instinct, the Improviser's Achilles' heel is a tendency to simply wing it.
"A lot of times when disaster strikes and you have no plan, you're struck trying to rebuild without any idea how to do it," he adds. "You can improv, but it's no substitute for planning ahead."
Call it the Scotty technique. As in the original "Star Trek," when Commander Scott told Captain Kirk the warp coil array was damaged beyond repair (yet still managed to fix it before the next commercial break), some IT pros look like heroes through the time-honored techniques of underpromising and overdelivering.
That's partly because, in many organizations, IT departments have to exaggerate how bad the circumstances are in order to get the resources they need, says Wisdom.
"In some organizations IT will not get any type of support until it cries wolf," he says. "It's like in the movie 'Full Metal Jacket.' When the troops needed more soldiers they'd ask for a tank, because if they knew if they just asked for soldiers they wouldn't get them. The culture forces them to scream bloody murder in order to get attention."
But while the Distorter can prove to be an asset to your department, navigating interdepartmental politics and championing IT's value and needs with relative ease, this IT superhero can turn supervillain quickly, given the Distorter's tendency to take credit for your successful projects -- even if they did everything in their power to keep them from being successful.
Lowe says he was working for a public energy agency in the early 2000s that needed to adopt Microsoft's .Net framework for office automation. The agency was largely a Java shop, but for this scenario .Net did things Java couldn't do, he says.