Back when I programmed in a huge bureaucracy, I arrived at the idea that the best idea would always win out. The best answer was the most complete that could be given. I was disabused of this perfectionist attitude in two stages.
Stage one. Other staffers would sometimes come to me, asking questions in my particular specialty. Often, in my desire to give them the best information, I would give them details beyond what they needed to solve their particular problem. We had a bull pen area where lots of computer terminals were available—first come, first serve.
This was 1980, before personal computers were on every desk. One day, sitting at the far end of the bull pen, I heard someone who’d asked me for help, complaining that he listened and nodded through a zillion details until he got the answer he needed. I resolved from that day forward, to just give the answer right away and only add the reasons and restrictions if the questioner asked.
Questions in other Areas
Thereafter, my drop-by questions started to grow. They also expanded into other areas, which I was not expert in.
In stage 2 of learning about knowledge in the workplace, a question about a particular programming language came to me. Knowing on the language’s rudiments, I send the person on to another staffer in my group who specialized on language.
The next day, I noticed the original questioner came back to me with a very similar question to yesterday’s. I took her over to the expert and listened while he answered her question. He cut off her every attempt to integrate his explanation into her knowledge. He told her comments revealed what she didn’t understand. She nodded, thanked him perfunctorily and escaped as fast as she could. She still had no idea of how to fix the issue.
The expert was strictly concerned with showing that he knew more than her about the language, which she would willingly admit, but she was not stupid about other facets of programming as he casually assumed. When she came to me late in the afternoon after the expert had left for the day, I gave her my simplified answer which had a decent chance of solving the problem.
The next day she stopped me in the bullpen. It had partially worked. We adjusted the code until it finally worked.
She told her friends that I could help, although I made some mistakes. That they accepted. Afterwards, the expert was left alone to pursue his own project.