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From Within, From Without


With exceptions (and there are always exceptions) everyone knows that the view “from within” is different than the view “from without“.

While viewing “from without“, there is typically less emotional attachment of the viewer to the viewed. The more one is attached to the view “from within“, the more difficult it is to extricate oneself from that view and form a secondary view “from without“.

On product development projects, it’s much easier for a project team member to step outside of the intricate details “from within” to form a view “from without” than it is for an “outsider” to form a view “from within“. But just because it’s easier, it doesn’t mean that it’s done often.

This “from within” and “from without” crap is simply a twist on the old “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” advice…..

  1. February 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm | #1

    >> On product development projects, it’s much easier for a project team member to step outside
    >> of the intricate details “from within” to form a view “from without” than it is for an “outsider” to
    >> form a view “from within“.

    Sometimes. IMHO It really depends on the domains that the outsider and insider are experts in. If the outsider has expertise in a domain that requires a significant level of software development skill, and this is not a domain that the insider is knowledgeable, then I think the statement above could be false.

    Examples:
    1. The outsider is an actuary with expertise in evaluating risks, assessing exposutre and setting prices for life or casualty experience. The outsider may have had to learn to do significant programming, but all the insider knows about risk management is what s/he pays for their auto and homeowners insurance policies.

    2. The outsider analyzes the outcomes of clinical trials for a pharmaceutical company’s new drugs. All the insider knows about pharmaceuticals s/he learned from experiments in college

    I think that your statement is more true than not. Software engineers need to step into user domains to understand them and model them. But this doesn’t mean that the outsiders don’t or can’t do this well.

    Charlie

  2. February 22, 2012 at 6:25 am | #3

    I felt like I was picking on a nit, because the rest of your post was spot on.

    It is extraordinarily difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. One, it’s so hard to shut off ones own ego. Two, one just doesn’t (and didn’t) experience the context like the other.

    One can try hard. One can listen without editorializing. One can be empathetic. And in the end, one can approximate “getting” another, and have some significant successes. But approximate is the key word, as Coffeemate is to cream. Hey, people are married to their spouses for 25+ years and we can’t even get that one right most of the time :-)

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