I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.
I have had my fair share of great GIS ideas that I thought were sure bets. I spent a lot of time trying to convince people that GIS was the way to solve a lot of their business problems. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to convince sceptics that GIS is the way. However, there were a few things that took me a long time to learn.
First, you can’t convince everyone all the time. No matter how good you think your GIS for lawn maintenance crews will make people’s lives easier, many just won’t care and stick with the old way of doing things. This is normal and fine.
I spent months showing off a set of really cool maps, and features that were connected online with dashboards showing project progress. I showed how our office and field teams could work better together, I showed how clients could be engaged.
I got a hard no… again… and again… and again. There was simply no way I could convince my employer that GIS was the solution to their problem.
On one hand, I was disappointed, on the other… I realized a second valuable lesson.
If you can’t convince people your GIS is a great solution to a business problem… take as much out of the situation as possible. What do I mean?
I mean experience, skills, learning experiences, emotional highs and lows… take as much out as you can.
Knowing that you can’t convince everyone and still maximise your own results, is massive. Knowing that you can get more out of every situation is half the battle…
Here are the three things I learned about persuading GIS sceptics whether they accept my results or not.
Show Don’t Tell
This means building the GIS you know will work, and showing the results to the sceptic. Don’t talk about it, don’t even just show slides… build it.
A hint on this one, the GIS you build… doesn’t have to be complete, it just has to be complete enough. A great set of symbology, a (mostly) working model, and a great sales pitch go a long way.
It takes a bit of work on your end, but showing is 100 times more powerful than simply talking about the GIS solution you can build.
And… you keep the learning, and if the data is yours… YOU KEEP THE RESULTS.
Talk to the GIS Sceptic… A LOT
You may have a great GIS idea to solve your sceptic’s problem, but the problem is THEIRS, not yours. Yes, you can take on the issue to help them, but they want to be understood. They want to be heard.
Humans are emotional creatures. No matter how much you want to believe we make decisions on data and logic, we always make decisions on emotions.
The more you talk to sceptics about your GIS idea, the more they will feel understood, and the more they will accept your idea. Be human and talk to your GIS sceptic.
You learn to listen, and you learn to be better at GIS.
Learn for YOU, not for them (you keep the EVERYTHING)
This one is counterintuitive. When you build the system, you “sort of” get to keep the results. If you work for the company you show your GIS idea to, they technically own your work. But! What they can’t own is your experience, they can’t own your future ideas, and they can’t own your future!.
How does this convince the sceptics to go with your GIS idea? If they are smart, they know you now have the ability to build something… for the competition! You are now more valuable than the results… you can make more results.
A few years ago I was let go from a job I loved. None of the code I wrote, none of the maps I made, none of the analysis I built, was mine. It all belonged to my now former company.
But I kept something better. I kept my experience, I kept my new ideas, and I kept my future. I could build everything again different AND better. I could write code again but better.
While you show the sceptic your GIS idea, learn as much as you possibly can… You get to keep what you learn.
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