Encourage Technical Leads to Find the Right Analogies
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Subject matter experts pride themselves on their mastery of the details. But when speaking with others they often get lost in the weeds and can appear to lose sight of the big picture.
The struggle they face is in changing altitude. The ability to communicate at different altitudes is a crucial skill for all of us, but particularly for technical people who often find it difficult to explain their work in simple terms. To support the development of this skill, encourage technical leads to use analogies.
Analogies help simplify complex ideas by referring to concepts that others can easily understand. Think about trying to find a needle in a haystack or attempting to put toothpaste back in a tube. These are both great analogies that vividly explain how something would be extremely difficult, although not impossible.
Devising good analogies is a great development activity because it requires both critical thinking and creativity. The process will help subject matter experts communicate more clearly and powerfully, and also better understand the needs of others.
But we should all be aware, while analogies can help clarify complicated concepts, they must be chosen with care. Analogies can restrict thinking and create a false sense of understanding.
I once heard an IT manager describe their information security protocols as the “immune system of the organization.” This was a very compelling analogy which gave the unfortunate impression that IT security was something that could take care of itself and required little attention from the rest of the organization – not the message that manager wanted to send.