Leaning on Apps or Empowering Skills

Screens, Cider and Mobiles - Share on OviIn a recent post, I talked a bit about what I do (besides writing). One of those activities happens to be training. In these moments, I’m asked to train people or teams towards learning software packages that are relevant to their jobs. Problem is, I don’t like teaching people how to use applications – that’s something that most can figure out with either some playtime or by reading the mounds of online and offline resources. I do prefer to take them through that software package by addressing the problems they are trying to solve – intermingling the learning of the application within those lessons. Besides being a bit more productive at the end of the day, I notice that they are better able to retain the lessons.

So why this post? Because in another recent post, I talked about how I don’t think its impossible to work from mobile/tablet devices. The argument that many give also has a spoke – “your favorite applications may not be available.” If you know the problem, and can do the basics, do you really need a favorite application, or just a method of solving the problem that works with any application.

For example, one of the software packages that I train in is Microsoft SharePoint. Essentially a content management and communications management platform, SharePoint is used to frame everything from managing documents, intranets, and social media within organizations. When going over the benefits and pitfalls of this platform, I’m already mindful that the depth of this package is a lot more than people want to consider. So I tend to spend a lot of time helping them understand what problems they are trying to solve, or goals they are trying to reach. From there, the abilities of SharePoint opens nicely to a basic and evolving tool that does meet the company’s needs – sometimes with more work than what was expected.

In effect, my perspective is that if you know what it is you want to do, the choice of application (tool) doesn’t matter. In fact, you end up solving the problem a bit faster because you concentrate on learning skills and not applications. You also spend much less time thinking about the frailties of software decisions (licensing, etc.). 

I’m a teacher, not a support person. In my professional career, I’ve had to have both hats on for some clients and it usually ended with me between a rock and a hard place. Either they got the support because they didn’t want to learn the app, or they got the lesson because they wanted to learn the skills and weren’t sure of the app. I preferred to model MMM after the latter. Teaching people to solve problems might mean that I don’t get the long-term work (and therefore need to constantly be looking for clients), but it also means that I leave places with them miles ahead of where they were before I got there – with the technical/app knowledge.

There are times when learning applications is needed, and that’s the item needed to be concentrated on. When we get past that point, and we are “comfortable” with an application, it shouldn’t be the case that we are teaching the application or even a new one. We should be moving the in the space of teaching the skills needed to think and work through problems which are above those tools. And then we fill in the blanks with the tools as needed. An empowered worker is a happier one right?