Among everything else I do, I am also an amateur artist. As is often
the case, something you learn in one area can often be useful in other
aspects of your life. One useful technique I have learned from my art
is squinting. When you are first looking at a scene you want to draw
or paint, you purposely unfocus your vision in order to get an overall
impression of the light and dark areas. Sometimes in order to see things
more clearly, you have to get the big picture first.
If you’ve been working in high-tech for even a short while, you
have probably faced a situation where you didn't have the whole picture.
Oftentimes, your client will come to you with a specific request for
software or a procedure without giving you any background on the challenge
they're trying to solve. Despite my inherent desire to jump right in
and start offering solutions, I have to remind myself to step back
and gain some prospective first. I have to "squint" at the
problem to see if there are underlying issues that the user does not
see from their perspective. I know, from my own experience, that if
I don't do this, I only waste time solving the wrong problem. This
can often lead to great misunderstanding with both your clients and/or
your managers. You may have thought you solved the problem, only to
realize that it wasn’t the true problem, after all.
What are you looking for?
So what am I looking for when I'm out with my sketch pad? How does
squinting help? First, it reduces the amount of data I have to process.
Instead of seeing hundreds of trees and thousands of leaves, I see
blobs of color, sections of light and dark. Instead of being overwhelmed
with data, I can see the big picture. It may have become a cliché,
but squinting truly allows me to see the forest for the trees. Once
I block in these large, general areas with my pencil, I can then begin
looking at specifics, no longer mesmerized by the sheer complexity
of the scene before me. You can apply this process to your high-tech
work, too. When you are presented with a din of confusing, and often
contradictory details, look for more general causes for the problems.
Are your online forms too complex or is your system operating too
slowly? What is the real reason your users aren't using the new
it a technology issue, training issue or, worse still, a political
issue. It will do you no good to address technology issues when the
true cause lies in corporate infighting. Always make sure you are
solving the right problem.
At your own pace
As with all troubleshooting, you often need time to analyze a problem,
but those around you will be clamoring for immediate answers to their
questions. In order to do your best work, though, you need time to
think. You should always take a few minutes to "squint" at
the problem, to consider it from several different angles, before diving
in. If my experience is any indication, taking this time can be quite
difficult. You may find yourself under a lot of pressure to "react" to
a situation. I can guarantee, though, that your best work only rise
from calm consideration, not immediate reaction. Step away for a few
minutes to “visit the bathroom” or get a drink of water.
Take a short walk around the office to give yourself a few minutes
of consideration. Do whatever you need to gain perspective on the issue
before saying anything. Too often words spoken in haste can come back
to haunt you.
Doing the best work you can, relies largely on your ability to analyze
a situation and find the underlying issues instead of being distracted
by superficialities. Take a cue from the artists of the world and "squint" at
the scene before committing to a plan of action. Both you and your
client will greatly benefit from this consideration and thought. It
will allow you to develop better solutions with less wasted efforts
than ever before. This is sure to increase your value to your clients
and further enhance your high-tech career.
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