Embroiled in your high-tech career, faced with a litany of one
computer problem after another, you might begin to think that computers
are what it is all about. Unfortunately, computers are only a small
part of your problem. The bigger problem is an overall lack of
understanding about all technology, not just computers. Technology
has seeped into nearly every aspect of life, from the electric/sonic/pulsating
toothbrush in the morning to the microchip controlled electric
blanket at night. If you want to build your high-tech career to
greater and greater heights, you would do well to teach technology
to your clients, not just computers.
Over my 16+ plus years of working in high-tech I have found one
thing to be true, again and again. When I can teach people why
something works, as well as how to make it work both they and I
benefit. If I can teach someone the underpinnings of a system,
they then have the tools to increase their own skills. Proving
the cliché true, if I give them a fish, they eat for a day.
If I teach them to fish, they eat for a lifetime.
If I give a client step-by-step instructions on how to perform
a particular task, they will never move beyond that structure.
They will never investigate what happens if they press this key
instead of that. They will never try new methods even when the
instructions no longer fit their needs. They will continue to plod
along, following their dog-eared notes, until the instructions
stop working. Only then will they call you to fix it. Even then,
they will often be confused if your solution contains different
steps from the original.
When you work with your clients you need to help them get inside
their systems. You need to show the user why it works the way it
does, as well as how. I actually discourage note taking when I
am working with my clients. For one, it slows down and interrupts
the learning process. Second, it restricts the client's understanding
of the whole. Once they start writing down step-by-step instructions
it will be very difficult to alter their thinking. Most clients
can deal with this, although there are a few who simply must write
things down. We all learn in different ways, so I don’t pressure
these people. I do understand, though, that they will never develop
an understanding of the whole. In effect, they have limited themselves
to the most basic understanding of technology, never to roam outside
that carefully established range.
Teach them how to learn
A common practice among teachers of all levels is providing their
students the tools necessary to learn as well as teaching them
fact and figures. Teaching a child how to use the library opens
up a world of wonder to them. They can be self-generating and expand
their learning on their own. What bigger gift can we offer to people
than the ability to be self-educating? I believe the same rule
applies to learning about technology.
Whether you are talking about a complex computer system or a bedside
alarm clock, you should never stop trying to give your clients
the big picture. As with any learning, one concept builds off another.
I regularly use the analogy of a desktop and a file cabinet to
explain the difference between RAM and hard disk space. In fact,
I have a whole litany of “real-world” analogies that
I use on a daily basis. I have found that tying technological concepts
back to real-world examples is the best way to set it in the client’s
mind. Better still, it is generic, so that they can see that the
same general concept also applies to their handheld computer, their
DVD, their television, their microwave and a host of other technology
that surrounds them. Giving your clients a basic understanding
of inputs and outputs can give them the freedom to disassemble
and move their VCR across the room without having to call the cable
In fact, freedom is exactly what you are giving to your clients.
When you give them a way to understand technology, a way to “get
inside the box”, you are giving them the freedom to learn
and grow on their own. When you do this, you have truly become
a teacher in the best sense of the word.
Comments, Questions, Reviews?