At Sherpa Software, we try to engineer our tools to be as simple and intuitive as possible. We also try to build in a lot of power and flexibility to give our customers the maximum value for their purchase. Unfortunately, those two goals aren’t necessarily compatible. That issue is compounded by the fact that many customers don’t use our products on a day-to-day basis: they may set up Mail Attender Rules to run on a schedule and then not think about them again until it’s time to migrate mail to a new server. Customers may also run a Discovery Attender search, hand over the results, and then not use the product again for six months. Bottom line, when you don’t use software for a while, it’s easy to forget how you did something the last time you used it.
New employees at Sherpa face a similar challenge, whether they’re learning our Exchange tools, the products for Lotus Notes, or the brand new Altitude IG platform. They rely, just like our customers, on our product support team who are available to help with any questions, issues, etc. Even with software engineered for ease of use, it is easy to forget a step or two in a process. Our product support team will train and support you to use our software seamlessly.
Regardless if I am talking with a new customer or a new colleague, I frequently find myself repeating the same mantra, “Don’t beat yourself up. It can take some repetition for this to sink in.”
Why go easy on yourself, because there’s actually a biological basis for our struggles. We’re always remarking about how quickly kids seem to pick up new skills. Even language is something more easily acquired early in life. This is because a child’s brain is less developed, and therefore more flexible in acquiring new skills. As we mature, survival dictates that we establish neural pathways and mental connections in order to use our brains more efficiently. The downside is that, by the age of 25, it’s just easier for the brain to use existing pathways and more difficult to acquire new skills.
To quote MIT lecturer Tara Swart, from an excellent article in Fast Company magazine, “[The brain’s] need [to survive] focuses attention on the sources of danger and on trying to predict where the next threat will appear, on escape or full frontal battle rather than on an innovative or creative solution, on avoiding risk rather than managing it towards a new suite of products, market or way of doing business.”
The article goes on to say that acquiring new skills is a great way to keep the mind flexible and to continue creating neural pathways as adults. Look for “energy intensive” activities that require the brain to work in new ways, such as learning a foreign language, learning to play a new sport or musical instrument. And for these new skills to truly sink in requires deliberate repetition and practice. As previously stated, some Sherpa customers are not using the software each day and this can easily cause someone to struggle with the software. By continuing to use the software and keeping each step fresh in one’s mind, the process becomes easier. For those who do not practice or use the product as often, our product support team is there to help.
As Tara Swart and Fast Company so succinctly put it, “New connections and pathways are fragile, and only through repetition and practice can those connections be established enough to become habitual or default behaviors.”
So please be sure to keep in mind that the more you use the software, the easier it will be to use. But know we are here to help whenever necessary. Remember what I tell new users, “Don’t beat yourself up. It can take some repetition for this to sink in.”
See what I did there?