The Socratic approach to information management


I don’t always compare myself to inspiring historical thinkers, but when I do …

I sometimes worry, especially looking at my colleagues’ blogs, that my posts are a little simplistic. Other people write thoughtful pieces full of technical detail and carefully reasoned arguments, and they make my ramblings look very bare by comparison. And then I remember – I’m a jargonaut. This is what I do. If I could do what they do, I’d be a specialist. What I do is reduce everything to the simplest possible terms. Perhaps in doing so I lose the interesting subtleties, the shades of grey that make every issue so complex.

Good. That’s the point. Issues are simple. Person A has a problem, Person B has a preference, Person C has an opinion, Person D has a concern. Somewhere in this there is an option that addresses the problem, hears the opinion, allays the concern and respects the preference. It might take a while to work it out, but it exists and it can be found.

The most common cause of unnecessary complexity is that people don’t always know what they want – especially if it involves something technical, and especially if they are managers rather than operators (sorry, managers, but it’s true). I’ve frequently been asked to provide information in a very specific way, only to find out that when I do it turns out not to be the answer. I’ve done what I was asked to do, but it isn’t what that person needed. I didn’t do my job properly, because I didn’t check.

That’s why my job shifted from providing exactly what was asked for, to educating others on what to ask. I train my chain of command to tell me why they need something, how it will be used, so I can respond with something that meets the need.

And when I hear “ah, but it’s not that simple ...” I know it’s time to step up and make it that simple. Because we might shy away from big scary complex issues, but if we can define the simple things we can fix them until the whole mess doesn’t look so intimidating after all.

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About jargonaut

Unashamed geek lost in policy land. Frequently required to believe three impossible things before breakfast, and implement them by tea time.
This entry was posted in Organisational Development, Ramblings, The Geek Wonk Interface, Work and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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