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Improve Collaboration by Understanding Natural Human Instincts

Last January, I was lucky to have an article posted right here at BA Times.

How To Get Requirements From Resistant SMEs Part 3. It is about what to do when your SMEs clam up. It mentions using a person’s natural human instincts to get them talking. One of the hardest things to do as a professional is to put theory into practice. I have been asked several times this year to elaborate on what I shared, by giving examples or case studies on How.

First let’s do a quick refresher, the FBI and Homeland Security states that these are the natural human instincts that trigger people to share information.

  • A desire to appear well informed, especially about our profession
  • A desire to feel appreciated and believe we are contributing to something important
  • A tendency to expand on a topic when given praise or encouragement; to show off
  • A tendency to correct others
  • A desire to convert someone to our opinion

Part of the reason people struggle with practical application is because you have to create a scenario that triggers someone to act on their instincts. I will share several examples or case studies that show you how others have successfully applied these techniques.

A Desire To Appear Well Informed

1. In larger groups, meetings, or messages

  1. “Jack, it has been a few weeks since our last show and tell, before our developer shows you wants coming up, why don’t you give us a quick summary of how our last release helped your team?”
  2. “Today is all about coming up with new ways to help our production support team reduce their backlog of support tickets, before we get started, Harry can you tell us what solutions or bandaids your team is already using?”

2. In small group conversations

  1. “James, have you met Nicki? Nicki you can explain what your team does better than I can…”
  2. “Ok I include the two of you in a half an hour meeting before the brain storming session. I was hoping that the two of you, who have a vast amount of knowledge, would mind talking through the most important points before the team got here, so that the meeting has a bit of a head start.”
  3. “Milly, we are about to go into another grooming session…which is going to end in you having to make all of the decisions any way. Can you do a quick pass before the meeting so that we don’t waste time going into detailed conversation for something you already know the priority for?”


A Desire To Contribute or Be Appreciated

  1. “Jonas, I just got out of a planning meeting and they finally approved us to start working on the improvements you guys have been asking for. Would you mind being my goto expert? I need someone who can help me focus on this from a user’s point of view.”
  2. Meeting Invite: I know we normally have James, Calvin, and Sanya in our kick off meetings but I have also added Stacey. I have noticed that when a lead from UX is involved from the beginning, we spend less time reworking usability issues from user acceptance.

A Tendency to Expand On A Topic

  1. “Greg that seems important to talk about, but not here in stand up. Why don’t we finish up the daily meeting and then can most of you guys stay on the line so Greg can explain the issue in detail and we can decide as a team what to do.”
  2. “Jeremy, let’s switch gears for just a minute. Instead of starting with a list of changes, can you tell me a little about what your team has accomplished recently and what they are looking to accomplish and improve on in the next cycle?”…”Ok now can we map those goals and accomplishments to the items in the list to see which ones should float to the top?”

A Tendency to Correct Others

  1. “So I hear your team would rather start from scratch learning a new system, than deal with the issues you are dealing with today.”
  2. “I am telling you the report is wrong, everytime I rerun it, it looks exactly the same!” “Oh so you are saying the report should always change each time you run it?”
  3. “James, can you do me a favor? Can you job shadow Erica and then share with me what she could do in her processes to be more efficient?”

A desire to convert someone to our opinion

  1. “Harry, can you tell Madu what you told us the other day. I may not have explained it right, but Madu completely disagreed with us.”
  2.  “Why is this so important that my team has to work 10 hours plus a day and work on the weekends?”

These are just a few examples, but I hope they inspire you to engage that reluctant SME or Stakeholder by triggering their Natural Human Instincts.