September 20, 2017

Archives for July 2015

Courteous co-operation and single track roads

Road with passing placesSometimes revisiting a simpler way of life reminds us of important things: Take single track roads with passing places, for example…

(We have these in Scotland, especially on the islands, but maybe not in your part of the world, I know.)

In case you’ve never experienced this…

To cope with the road not being wide enough for two cars to pass, “passing places” are built every so often. A degree of consideration and collaboration between converging drivers is required so that one pulls into the space at the side to let the other pass, possibly waiting briefly for the oncoming vehicle, all in a manner that optimises journey times for everyone.

And of course, it’s considered courteous to wave thanks, and perhaps also to acknowledge thanks from the other.

The system requires this degree of co-operation (and a little more) to work and for everyone to benefit. And you know… we probably feel good about playing our part—giving as well as taking.

Back in the city…

Our lives are perhaps more competitive—faster paced.

So there’s less need for that kind of courteous co-operation.

Or is there?

How direct can we / should we / must we be?

Mixed group of peopleIt depends, of course…

…on the situation, our formal role within it (if any), our personal power or authority in the specific circumstances, the personalities of other people involved, and what we want or need to achieve.

If our aim is to make a difference in a professional situation, then we may well need to be more direct than would generally be considered socially conventional.

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on just how much that’s true—in my experience anyway. I’ve found I’ve benefited from being more challenging, as has the work, even though it can feel really uncomfortable to be so direct. Sometimes that’s what’s needed though.

Yes, of course…

We need to build a relationship, and that may require some caution and patience, but if that’s all we do, we probably won’t pass the “so what?” test. We might have to wait till next time for that. And the trouble is there might not be a next time.

Obviously, it helps if we can build trust and a strong relationship quickly—and, naturally, there are skills to that—and our reputation helps. Then we’ve more chance of success when we move into a more challenging part of the conversation.

But we do need to move into that more direct phase… if we want an outcome anyway.

How direct do you choose to be? Is that direct enough? Or sometimes too much?

There’s no single right answer here, but it’s worth thinking about.

If it doesn’t suit the cognitive processes of the user…

Woman thinking…then our work is useless.

We—or others—often congratulate ourselves on our efficiency in standardising a process or making electronic what once was a paper system.

The trouble is…

If in so doing we create something that no longer matches the cognitive processes the user or recipient used to use or needs to use, then we’ve broken something. And there’s more to this issue than the question of the user learning the new IT: More than that, it’s to do with the different ways people process information, as a matter of their wiring, if you like, and what they use the information for. We’re not all the same in that respect.

For example…

On-line diary or calendar systems are all very well—no doubt they save a multitude of trees, but if what you actually need is to contemplate the picture of the year as a whole in some detail, they’re useless. If you’ve ever tried manually planning a lengthy journey on a smartphone screen, you’ll have experienced a similar difficulty.

Inconveniently, we need to present our information the way that suits the recipient, not the way that suits us. Deny them that and we may deny ourselves the outcome we want.

The form of presentation of the information can be as important as the information itself.

How much are you aware of how you process information—or how the people around you do?