On Debates, Quotes and Good Workflow Management

“Just because you can’t think how it can be done doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do” - Amit Shah.

Happens each time I get into a debate. People, with their limited knowledge, can’t think of ways a particular thing can be done by a particular way.

Slightly off-topic: I’ve finished reading “I Sing the Body Electronic” a few weeks back (review pending). It talks about one of the projects that Microsoft took up. The developers don’t have patience to explain the nitty-gritties of their work to designers. Similarly, designers would have a tough time goading developers to create a “simple” widget that looks like an ellipse instead of a standard circle.

So how do you really explain stuff to people? They don’t open up their minds. They’re just not ready to accept that things could happen in a different way. They just go by what they’ve learnt till now and what their brains are capable of extrapolating.

Seemingly bright people stay in their own nutshells. They impress their colleagues / managers by talking at length about what they know and how things could get done. But hold on, cowboy… Don’t you think it’ll be better if we did things this way? Uh-oh.. how’s that possible? I don’t think it can be done. <Does some research on the ‘net. Finds one or two sentences which of course don’t talk about specifics. Comes back with them as proof. I think we’re over the episode and I’ve made my point. But hey, now we’ll have to start an email debate. Great!>

Engineers are meant to doubt everything they hear and see. I used to do that. But I’ve realized over time that to be communicative, you have to be receptive as well. If you just go around flouting everything that seems impossible to you, hold back. Think about it. No doubt, challenge it. But also give it some credence and consider it could be possible. Will make your life easier because the people involved (at the other end of the argument) will be willing to share more with you just because you’re more receptive.

If you don’t agree to something, people might not tell you things, which means you won’t get to learn new things and you’re out of loop on possibly very important new developments (happening in your own group, perhaps). What’s better is to just nail it down in a second meeting. First meeting, carry points home. Research. Send mail. Research more if there are replies. Second meeting, things are automatically sorted out.

Yeah, get out of the notion that you’ll always be right. And that you’re the first person in the world to think of a particular solution. There are bright minds everywhere. Beside you, in the next building, in next city, the next country, the next continent and so on.. Take credit for what you’ve said. But don’t expect others to not have said / thought of the same thing.

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