As an engineer myself, I like solving technical problems. I find it very satisfying to sit in front of a problem and think about an elegant solution to it. When someone comes to me with a problem I used to immediately translate it to a technical problem and start working on a solution. Brilliant right? Not really.
After assisting to many meetings with clients and working on consulting projects I learned that thinking technical sure has its benefits but also has some disadvantages. Let me explain.
In this article, we'll discuss how you can escape being just the technical guy or the magical pair of hands that can implement other people's solution and how to provide real value to those who need your expertise.
Ask questions and listen
When someone comes with a problem, you must listen to them carefully. It's not about you, it's about them. Make sure you really understand the core problem ( eg. asking Why? multiple times in a row ), let them know that you are there to provide a solution to the real problem, not only the symptom.
Example : A person under the rain might ask for a towel. You know that a towel wont help him with the rain. You need to step in and suggest an umbrella instead. People don't always express their needs right, it's your job to help them. You don't want to be the person who comes with a useless solution.
Value your thinking
Let them know that you are not there to be just the pair of hands they are going to use after they came up with a solution. Instead, show them that you are there to provide not only your execution, but also your thinking. The latter is more important.
Example : Don't give away your thinking just because it's not materialized. People pay high for the thinking. If you can think of the right solution, you can bring someone else to implement it. Your boss might not know how to build a website, but he knows when it's necessary and who to hire to do so.
When proposing a solution, make sure it responds to the problem but don't overdo it. The famous book "The Lean Startup" highlights the importance of working with multiple small iterations. Each iteration ends with a feedback from the client until the product fits exactly what the client needs and nothing more or less. The idea here is minimize the waste of resources.
Example : if you have a project idea to build an App. Don't just disappear for 6 months and then share your app. It wont work. Have a number of users who will be engaged in testing the app before the launch.
Speak the right language with the right person
Before you dive into the technical details with someone, make sure you consider the knowledge level of the person you are talking to. Yelling technical buzzwords at someone who's not technical can enlarge the gap between you. Speak their language.
Example : if a 50 yo person needs a phone for watching youtube videos, why would you talk to him about the number of pixels on the screen. Instead you can tell him, you can watch YouTube for 5 hours before the battery dies. Tell him that the screen is certified to be healthy for his eyes.
In this article, we discussed how valuable the thinking is and how to gradually see beyond the technical aspect of the problem. Being technically capable is a thing, solving problems is another. So who do you want to be ?
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