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  • Nathan Kirchner

No no no no no! Pls go!

So many things would be easier if people just said what they meant! Yep, that is a pretty useless statement, I agree. All too often people aren't even consciously aware that they are thinking, let alone have the ability to convert it into coherent utterances. That's right, I am talking about the bane of the solution maker's existence - tacit knowledge, intuition, gut feelings - whatever you want to call it (apologies to the semantic amongst us that know these are all slightly different things, you get the gist though).

This is all a bit first world to vent about & for the record I am a strong believer that extensive practice yields expertise that sublimes into the ability to do without exertion or even direct focus - autopilot, take me home! I raise this as being on the other side often results in confusion at best, misleading distractions & dead-end efforts at worst.

The scenario I am all too painfully familiar with goes as follows: I present an idea / solution / possibility & the other side of the table rejects it, shuts it down & suggests I focus elsewhere. This generally results in large amounts of confusion & frustration as I try to understand what the objection on a very limited fuse of patience from the 'intuition' I am questioning. My pleads to 'know the details' of what is behind the objection/s only put fuel on this fire.

I can't claim to have many friends left, but I have managed to get more than a few very frustrated retorts to my pushing over time. These fit neatly into three reoccurring elements that the customer for my solution must be able to clearly see, must believe in & must not feel coerced into accepting (who knew there was soooooo much psychology in engineering solutions!). Anyway, here are the reoccurring elements I've found

In order to overcome the typical objections of intuition it must be immediately obvious, clearly apparent, readably believable & seemingly unquestionable that the solution presented:

Perspicacious - has behind the scenes intelligence; The solution bears cognitive load to make job(s) easier and more intuitive. It is not enough to connect A to B. The solution must do something 'clever', 'tricky', 'unexpected', 'surprising'. Customers must feel like they are getting 'some extra brains' by using the solution.

Plus five percent - proactively augment human capabilities and / or reduces need for extraneous & unnecessary human actions. It doesn't need to do the 'whole' job, but it must 'pop' that getting the job. done will be quicker / easier / better using this. Customers must feel like they are getting 'some extra hands' by using the solution.

Zero footprint - is easy, natural, and seamless to deploy, Invisible, unnoticeable, and unobtrusive when removed, not in use, or in fail case. It needs to be a no-brainer to set-up and get running; no need for training. It needs to be clear that if something does go wrong there is no ill effects whatsoever; it doesn't disrupt the critical path. Customers must feel like all risks are mitigated by the solution.

Just the be thorough, I probably should mention that along with this solution needs to do something useful, work, be sensible, all that jazz!

<the ubiquitous 'honest question'> 'Why do I need to go to all this extra effort to communicate what should be obvious?'. You don't... but if you've gone to all that effort to make the thing in the first place why wouldn't you want to make sure you highlight these relatively simple elements to potential customers so that you don't end up with an unexplained 'no'?

<the insight> People are busy. The people I generally target as customers have whole other day jobs going on. They have responsibilities, goals, objects, lots of moving cogs. It is far less that they can't understand or are even trying. It is far more that there are many other things going on in their worlds. If there really are these few things driving the most opaque 'no', then scream it!

(& look inwards and your solution doesn't have it front and centre, then out with the polish!)

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