Computerworld’s guide to working with non-geeks

cw non geeks primary

Are you a geek? If you are, this won't come as a news flash for you: You and the users you work with on the business side are pretty much nothing alike -- not in the way you communicate, not in the way you value various traits and not in the way you relate to work.

If you're not a geek but you work with them, you probably are just as aware that geeks and users can seem sometimes to exist in parallel universes. You might be working on the same project, but there's a good chance that the geeks and the non-geeks are going to have very different ideas about what is important. They will say things to each other that they don't have the background to interpret. Their differences can make it nearly impossible for them to see that they both actually want the project to succeed.

Paul Glen has been observing the interactions of geek and non-geeks for years, gaining insights along the way about the ways that their differences can cause them to work at cross-purposes or simply misunderstand each other's motives. We have gathered here several of his columns in which he tries to help the two sides bridge the gap that separates them and come to understand why they say the things they do.

Glen pulls no punches. He talks about how it can look to a non-geek that techies are condescending, become impatient quickly and seem like they always have to be right -- and how, in his experience, that stems from geeks being horrified at the thought of being wrong.

Another column looks at how project planning can go awry, because business people think in terms of achieving a vision and techies are generally looking to solve problems. Another different perspective that can cause a massive disconnect.

Included here is advice for geeks to speak in terms that business users will understand, for business users to better understand why geeks say things that seem counterproductive to the users, and for managers who need to motivate geeks and get them to work well with others. No matter which side of the geek/non-geek divide you fall on, you're sure to find it instructive.

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