Don Jones®

Tech | Career | Musings

Svilen writes:

In the last month or so I have not seen any questions to you, so I’ve decided to drop you a line. 🙂 I like your idea of spreading knowledge to the people around you – I’m referring mostly to the colleagues, when I say people.

So here comes the question: have you ever been in a situation, where you wanted to share knowledge, but the people around you show no interest – either because of seniority or age difference, and they just do the things in ‘their way’?

What did/would you do?

Yeah, that’s a tough one.

You’re pretty much describing my first three years with PowerShell. Sure, plenty of people were excited about it right away, but a huge swath of people just gave it a miss. For years. 

One of the things I try to get across in Be the Master is the fact that your “apprentice audience” – that is, the people you’ll help by sharing what you know – isn’t necessarily at work. If all you’re running into are deaf ears, then go find some ears that aren’t deaf.

And make sure you ask yourself why you’re interested in helping people who don’t want to be helped. I mean… not to be harsh or anything, but if they can’t see the point of improving, then screw ’em, right?

Which brings up a point: have you really been convincing? There’s a chapter in Let’s Talk Business called “Selling It,” and it’s kind of around this point. Have you demonstrated the value of learning whatever you’re teaching? At Pluralsight, one of the things we get our authors to do, when they create a training video, is to hit the “WIIFM” within the first 60 seconds. Sooner, if possible. Learners need to immediately see “What’s In It For Me” or they tend to bail. That might be what’s happening at work – you might not have made a case from the other people’s point of view that makes sense to them.

It’s like trying to sell me a car. It’s nearly impossible, because I prefer trucks. If you’re talking up a car, then you haven’t taken the time to understand what I care about. If you had, you’d know that hardtop convertibles are about the only car I want to buy, and if you knew that, maybe you’d be successful selling me one. Looking at you, BMW, and your uninteresting coming-soon ragtop 430i. Ahem.

“Doing it this way will save time!” might not be a compelling argument to someone who isn’t interested in saving time. “It’ll make the job less repetitive!” isn’t effective for people who don’t mind repetitive work. So find out what they do care about, and show them that what you’re laying down is worth picking up, because they’ll get something meaningful to them. 

This is exactly why I was never good at math beyond Basic Algebra in school. My teachers never bothered to tell me WIIFM. They were in a position to try and force me to learn, they thought, and boy, were they wrong. I’m still resistant to any geometry more complex than cutting drywall requires. Flat drywall, mind you. No compound angles for me.

But if you’ve been trying to convince, and been doing it well, and they’re still not interested, well, screw ’em. Not everybody wants to learn new things (my 60-odd-year-old, COBOL-programming father wasn’t terribly interested in new programming languages, for example). I’m not in love with people who don’t like learning, but that’s just my personal bias. I’m happy to leave them alone, if that’s what they want. It just means I need to look elsewhere for people to share with.

And that might be where you are. Start thinking of “colleagues” a little more broadly. They’re not just the people in your office, you know. There’s a whole round world of people who want to learn things. Find ones that you can help – maybe online, maybe in a local user group, maybe at a community college, or something else.

You’re thinking the right things. Just find the “apprentice audience” that needs you. It’s out there.

Good luck!

Categories: AMA

One thought on “AMA: How do you share when nobody’s listening?

  1. Daniel Wilson says:

    This is exactly the article I needed to read! People at work only think of Powershell as a waste of time and I notice that the solution of automation helps get my job done faster. They perceive me as being a nerd. Thank you for the information.

    Like

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