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Imaginary Lines

Paul Boal

The lines between technology and business have been drawn. We didn’t draw these lines but we reinforce them with every project as they go unchecked and untested. This is largely due to the fact that we blindly accept our assumptions as reality. As Epictetus taught many years ago, we cannot learn that which we think we already know.

This shows up in all areas of our lives, but most dramatically when we work in organizations that carry around a history of expectations. We assume someone on a different team or within another department has their own skill set, their own specialized talents, and therefore needn’t be bothered with anything outside of their area of expertise. If, for example, we assume a business analyst only understands business level concepts because they are not “technical,” then we are missing out on an opportunity to potentially make individuals and teams more effective. Developing this habit of testing assumptions might just uncover a whole new level of value for the business—breaking down silos and discovering newfound insights.

A New Type of Typing
Decades ago, executives wouldn’t write their own letters. They would rely on specialists—a typist or typing pools—to type and retype copies of their letters without mistakes while shaping them with structure and professional standards.

As the technological advancement of the personal computer emerged, these lines blurred. In order to access the power of these machines, executives would have to interact with a keyboard and therefore learn to type and structure their own letters out of necessity.

It became clear that executives could learn to type, and typist could do much more than type. But these lines of assumption weren’t tested until an external force changed the rules of play. They adapted by way of necessity, but why wait until we have to change?

Adopting Adaptation
Within our organization, we can start testing assumptions today. We don't have to wait until external factors force change upon us, and it can start small. Many people who identify as a business user say things like “I’m not technical” or “that sounds like something for a developer” when they are confronted with something that looks even remotely data-centric.

But this is a missed opportunity to learn and break free from the assumptions about things we “couldn’t possibly understand.” Challenge this assumption with an open and engaging conversation between business users and technologists. Give business users the chance to explain how they will use new information and insights to create real business value, and encourage technologists to explain the clever ways they solve data movement and integration challenges. Broadening everyone’s understanding will ensure everyone is on the same page and unlock greater potential business value.

With just a few small behavioral adjustments, we can blur the lines between technology and business and empower our people to challenge these perceived constraints, develop a collective adaptive mindset, and uncover insights that would otherwise remain unexplored and untapped. And it can all start with just a little bit of curiosity.

Who in your organization can teach you something new? And how can you return the favor? If you are unsure of how to approach this, feel free to reach out to us HERE and let us know how we can help!