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Posted on Apr 7, 2017

The One Thing Required To Truly Understand Others

The One Thing Required To Truly Understand Others

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of engineers. They would build something they felt was amazing and then turn to me to help market it.

In all the marketing materials we created, we would attempt to highlight key features and benefits. But it was not uncommon to experience a problem. While many products and services might seem intuitive to use to the designers, little things would often baffle customers, sometimes to the point of making them feel stupid.

What was missing was a solid understanding from the viewpoint of the customer.

Based on recent experiences with various cloud-based software applications, I thought it would be timely to share a Values Quote video I developed a few years ago on this topic. I hope it sparks some new understanding that will benefit all those with whom you seek to make an impact.


Today’s quote is from Martin Fowler, an author and speaker on designing enterprise software.

Fowler wisely observed:
“Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.”

Whether you withdraw money from a bank machine, are trying to figure out how to text on your cell phone or attaching a picture to an email on your computer – most of us can relate to Fowler’s statement.

Have you ever been so frustrated you said “Who was the idiot that created this thing?” You felt the creator of ‘this thing’ had no understanding of you and your needs.

As a differentiating value, Understanding means comprehension or assimilation of knowledge. But it also means to have sympathy.

I would suggest most designers and builders of things we use – including programmers – grasp the first part well, but not the second.

Success is often seen as having the knowledge to create something and applying it. But real success may be elusive if we lack the sympathy of those who will be using it, to truly understand the person with all their challenges and foibles, and then be willing to provide the support they need.

If you want to build something that will be valued and appreciated by others, I encourage you to embrace the full value of understanding. If you include sympathy for others – the expected users – you’ll likely avoid the reference of being a fool and instead be celebrated as being good. And that’s often the best compliment one can achieve!