One of the hardest things for Engineers to do is examine the world from a non-technical point of view. In their earliest science classes and throughout college education Engineers are taught to ask "Why?" and never stop until the question has been answered. Perhaps that is why Engineers have such a difficult time bridging the gap into the world of business. Business Professionals never ask, and most of the time don't care, about why things work the way they do or what they can do. Business Professionals care about what these things can do for them. Business people don't care how the software works, but they do care about how the software can make their job easier, make them and their customers or clients more profitable, and most importantly save time and money.
I'll use the easiest analogy I can think of: the computer. Arguably the most important technological turning point for the future of our society. Computers make jobs easier, faster, safer, on and on and on. Indeed, the future of every industry, profession, and trade lies in computers.
Engineers look at computers and think of what they can do with them.
Business Professionals look at computers and think of what they can do for them.
This is a major problem most companies face, especially technological startup companies. Most of these companies are founded and brought into existence by Engineers. These Engineers pour their heart and soul into their product, and in fact it almost becomes a part of them. They know it inside and out, and I'm sure some Engineers could reproduce lines of code or draw plans for a prototype faster than they could give you directions around town or tell you the name of their family pet. So it comes as no surprise that when these people talk about their product, they want to tell you everything. Everything it can do, they way it does what it does, and what they should do to make their product better. And there's nothing wrong with that. Engineers are educated, trained, and programmed to think that way; in fact it's that way of thinking that drives the innovation and creativity behind the products we use everyday.
Enter the business world. Business Professionals want to use these products. They want to make their jobs easier, safer, and more efficient all while saving time and money. But they don't care about how the product works, only about how the product is going to work for them. This is where Engineers face one of their most difficult tasks: taking a step back from their creation and looking at it from a completely different point of view.
Back to the computer analogy. When Bill Gates was introducing Windows to the world Business Professionals weren't concerned about what it was going to do. They were concerned about what it was going to do for them. Windows would not have been successful if Microsoft constantly showed people what it could do and how it did what it did. They were successful because they showed people how computers could turn an entire day's worth of work into something that could be done in ten minutes or, even better, something that could be done automatically with no human interaction at all.
So in the end, if you're an Engineer and anytime you're asked a question you spew out a technical manual, well then the education/training/programming worked. But if instead you come back with "So tell me about…" and tailor a response based on the other party's needs, well then you just may be on the way to bridging the gap between Engineering and Business.
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