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How to Solve
Difficult Problems
#heweb19#str1
#str1
Sven Aas
Head of Web Services and Application Development
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts
#str1 @SvenAas#str1
@SvenAas
Head of Web Services and Application Development
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts
#str1 @SvenAas
#str1 @SvenAas
So you get a request…
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
organization logo
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
team logo
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
committee logo
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
committee mascot
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
committee Twitter account
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
mascot Twitter account
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
flower pot Twitter account
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
flower pot WordPress site
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
Drupal site WordPress site
Our needs a“ ”
#str1 @SvenAas
Drupal site Drupal site
#str1 @SvenAas
How do you react?
#str1 @SvenAas
NO
#str1 @SvenAas
If I have to.
#str1 @SvenAas
What’s behind this request?
#str1 @SvenAas
Let me tell you a story
What problem
are you trying
to solve?
#str1 @SvenAas
Here’s another story
It’s not a technology problem.
It’s a people problem.
#str1 @SvenAas#str1 @SvenAas
It’s not a technology problem.
It’s a people problem.
It’s not a design problem.
It’s a people problem.
It’s not a campaign problem.
It’s a people problem.
It’s not a Facebook problem.
It’s a people problem.
#str1 @SvenAas
Not everyone
can do what you can do
#str1 @SvenAas
Not everyone
gets what you do
#str1 @SvenAas
Not everyone
understands what you do
Our colleagues are experts too.
Often just in something else.
They’re just as smart as you.
#str1 @SvenAas
People vs. People
#str1 @SvenAas
Designers think Programmers
have no aesthetic sensitivity
#str1 @SvenAas
Programmers think Designers
put style above function
#str1 @SvenAas
Faculty think Communicators
don’t care about their
professional reputation
#str1 @SvenAas
Communicators think Faculty
don’t care ab0ut the
institutional reputation
#str1 @SvenAas
Administration think that IT
wants to build everything from
scratch just because it’s fun
#str1 @SvenAas
IT thinks that Administration
wants to customize everything
that’s perfectly good out of the box
#str1 @SvenAas
Who are we missing?
#str1 @SvenAas
Consider the Requester
Maybe they’ve
already done their homework
#str1 @SvenAas
Bringing Problems
The Lessons of “No”
The First Lesson of “No”:
There’s not always room for yes.
The Second Lesson of “No”:
You shouldn’t be afraid to say no.
The Third Lesson of “No”:
Don’t say no right away.
#str1 @SvenAas
How Do You Feel?
Be Mindful of How You Feel
Remember that everyone is dealing
with challenges of their own
Be kind.
#str1 @SvenAas
Look Around
No one has it all figured out.
You’re just as smart as them.
Trust each other.
#str1 @SvenAas
Limits and Boundaries
#str1 @SvenAas
Lessons
• What problem are you trying to solve?

• It’s not a technology problem, it’s a
people problem.
#str1 @SvenAas
Lessons
• Our colleagues are experts too.

• They’re just as smart as you.

• Maybe they’ve already done their
homework.
#str1 @SvenAas
Lessons
• Remember these lessons when
bringing problems to others.

• Make it easier for them to remember.
#str1 @SvenAas
Lessons
• The lessons of no:

1. There’s not always room for yes.

2. You shouldn’t be afraid to say no.

3. Don’t say no right away
#str1 @SvenAas
Lessons
• Be mindful of how you feel

• Remember that everyone is dealing
with challenges of their own

• Be kind
#str1 @SvenAas
Lessons
• No one has it all figured out

• You’re just as smart as them
#str1 @SvenAas
How to Solve Difficult Problems
• Listen to each other. Trust each other. Be kind to
each other.

• Treat each other with respect from the beginning. 

• Assume good faith. 

• Help each other learn and grow and prove
yourselves.
You know how sometimes
you just can’t even?
Together we can, even.
#str1 @SvenAas
Acknowledgements
•Dave Cameron, for “Human at Work”, HighEdWeb 2014 and “Share
Human”, HighEdWeb New England 2016, HighEdWeb 2016.
•John Wagner, for “Be Kind, for Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard
Battle”, HighEdWeb 2015.
•Sarah Ryder (@sarah_ryder), for her proactive and positive framings
of workplace assumptions and misunderstandings.
•My colleagues, for their trust, encouragement, and patience.
•My family, for everything.
#str1 @SvenAas
Questions?
Thank You
Please stay in touch
@SvenAas
@Sven_Aas
#str1 @SvenAas
Credits
•Playfair Display font by Claus Eggers Sørensen
via Font Squirrel
•Twitter and Instagram icons by EDT.im via
Iconfinder
•“Take a Number” system image via Alzatex on
Amazon.com

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How to Solve Difficult Problems