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In my workplace I am a process engineer that regularly works with people whose highest education is a High School Diploma. There is nothing wrong with that, as many of them are very intelligent, just do not have the same educational background as myself (B.S. Chemical Engineering). I work in a manufacturing facility.

Due to the job I regularly interact with the employees on the plant floor, and some of them have shown initiative and have even been promoted into engineering positions, despite no background education. They do a fantastic job with their day to day work, but when it comes to thinking outside the box or proposing "unorthodox" solutions to a problem it is hard to get a reasonable backing behind it.

Only a handful of others at the plant are college educated engineers, and none of them are in my department. The rest of the employees are in business/sales/customer service. My day to day job is simple enough to complete, but I want to grow and improve the systems we have in place to allow for better work flow, and higher quality products. There seems to be a communication barrier that I am having trouble resolving.

How can I best communicate and explain my ideas to people with a non-technical background? Also, how can I get support from people who are needed to implement these new ideas, even if they do not completely understand them or think they will work (even if they have been proven to be effective solutions)?

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I am a Sales Engineer and that happens a lot to me. A particularly useful trick that i use is going step by step.

The issue here is that there are not only technical and non-technical, there are many people which are a bit-tech, enought-tech, and so on.

For instance:

Is it possible to integrate A with B?

Yes. you pause.

If looks like they want more informations

Yes, with API. you pause.

and so on, adding more and more informations.

When they stop asking informations means, usually that they don't need more depth informations about the topic, and you can enrich your answer, with pratical examples and metaphores.

4

Take off your "Chemical Engineering" hat for a minute and start to think of yourself as a sales agent. In order to make the "sale", i.e. their approval, you need to relate to them in terms they do understand, not things they do not. People buy into ideas because two simple things, the expected benefits and the price. Also be confident in your ideas, and be prepared to back up your ideas with well thought out responses. If they don't trust you to get this done, they aren't going to buy in to your ideas.

  • 1
    You want an engineer-type to understand a sales analogy. Bruh. BRUH. That's probably the wrong analogy... – YetAnotherRandomUser Jan 31 at 2:33
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Business Analyst here. Worked with people on many levels of expertise in the HealthCare IT industry. From people that do not know a browser and to a level where the user can create Macros in Excel. I would say that the 2 most success I've had to communicate technical components are 1) Storyboard and 2) Prototype.

Most people are visual. If you can break down your ideas into pictures and show it works and how it's beneficial for them, more often than not, everyone will be on the same page. Remember the KISS method (Keep it simple stupid!). Don't throw tech jargons. Don't deviate from your presentation. Just convey your idea and how the components work as it relates to them.

If deeper tech questions arises such as component requirement (server, OS, maintenance, etc.) schedule a separate meeting that answers these. Don't jumble them with business users.

I can't guarantee they will agree with your idea. However, I can guarantee that they will understand your idea and you guys can move on from there.

You may find additional information here: https://www.batimes.com/articles/beyond-use-cases-with-storyboarding.html

Good luck

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So far in my own experience, you can't do correctly something you don't understand (or, if you can, a good script will do it x1B time faster than you, and more precisely).

So in my point of view, you have two differents matter :

How to explain technicals ideas to non-technical people :

The best solution that I found to work around with is to find simple analogy to something there are familliar with. You can see it as the most simple concept close to your idea in their field. But you should think it carefully before, because this analogy must not harm the original idea (e.g : inaccuracy, contrary, etc...). In my experience, it work pretty well without giving you too much headache.

Another but quite difficult solution is to find someone expert in both domain, and that can "translate" in non-technical term. But I will assume that if such a person exist in your coworker, you will not ask this question.

How to get support from people who will have to implements those ideas:

That point is quite troublesome to me, because you can't expect that someone who didn't get all the idea, or someone who don't understand the mechanic behind, will be able to implement it correctly. I'm not familliar with the Chemical Engeeniring at all, but I expect that you could automatize some of your work (e.g : autotest, auto sample, robots, etc...) ?

If you can, I don't really get the point.

If you can't and you just need some workforce, then I think you don't have to bother you too much : you should talk to your manager (or those guy's manager) and be entrust as team leader on your idea by him. Then, you just have to reunite your team and explain how to do things. If they don't get some part, it's not really important if there is no need to fully understand what they are doing.

I hope I have answered it at your convenience.

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