When listening to water-cooler chat we often hear a tone of animosity toward the very people for whom we are working. No, I’m not referring to the boss (though that’s certainly typical as well), I’m referring to the end users of whatever it is you are creating.
Software developers complain about the idiocy of those who will be using their system, GIS analysts complain about wolves not living in the areas cited as most suitable in their GIS models*, cartography teachers worry about the incompetent design skills of those they teach, and so on.
What are you prone to complaining about and how can you turn that around so as to design a better product for your end users?
When we are excited about creating something that will eventually be used to make a difference, our work performance increases. Think about what those things are that make the product useful and keep those things at the forefront of your mind throughout the project for the ultimate motivated mindset.
All too often–especially in the cartography teaching field–we tend to be, okay, I’m going to say it…SNOBS…about how much we know and about how much the “others” don’t know. In the case of teaching cartography, our end users are the students who are learning. A much better approach is to evaluate their current skills, respect the variety of strengths they bring (both vocally and in terms of our attitude), and teach with compassion. This brings about a much more satisfactory result than the “snob-method”, which only serves to scare students off.
I still remember a very old professor of horticulture whom I took a class from back in college. The course was basically one of memorization. You had to memorize the names of trees, how to identify them in both winter and summer foliage, where they grew, and so on. This professor had had a stroke a few years prior to my class. He said that after his stroke he had to re-memorize everything that he was teaching, because the stroke had caused him to forget it all. Because re-learning it was still fresh in his mind, he told us he was much easier on us than he had been to students before his stroke, because he realized how difficult it is to learn everything from scratch. His experience gave him extra empathy for his end users–the students. We still learned quite a bit, and probably fared better than his previous classes, due to a new emphasis on collaborative learning that he had put into place to facilitate retention of the difficult material.
So that brings us to the following warning: being enemies with the end user is not only unproductive, it may even lead to your demise.
*Only partially a joke, it’s probably happened.