Don’t follow the instructions

Ever purchased an IKEA flatpack and tried to assemble it yourself? Often, it results in a little bit of cursing, rarely does it work out perfectly the first time.

At what point did you pull out the instructions?

In this process driven world, we are led to produce endless reams of step by step instructions for our daily actions; how to prepare that report, how to install a toner cartridge, how to build IKEA furniture…

But what happens when we ignore the instructions?

Hell happens. Screws get installed into the wrong holes, shelves installed the wrong way around, everything is misaligned…

Embrace this hell!

You’re experiencing failure and using problem solving skills. And learning what to do when you find issues…You’re developing your knowledge with experience.

In my day to day job, I’ve recently been designing and building a solution for a customer, which required me to install some software on a number of servers. I spent some time reading some blog posts and instructions how to install the various components, and jumped off to go and build it out for myself in a testing environment.

I encountered a LOT of errors.

Every error I encountered resulted in some further investigation; I relied on my memory and knowledge of the software and other components first and foremost to fix the errors — reviewing logs and error messages to make sense of them and see if I could fix it on my own. This further resulted in many Google queries…sometimes resulting in fruitful results — and reminding me that I missed a step in the instructions.

Other times I referred back to the instructions…They had a place after all. What step(s) had I missed? What were the errors or issues I encountered if I skipped a step?

It’s with great confidence now, that I can go off and install the aforementioned software components; and when I see issues or errors, I’m reminded of the steps I missed. Through the experience of failure, and troubleshooting, I have a better understanding of what happens when you don’t follow the instructions. I am more useful to my colleagues and customers who might follow the instructions but encounter an error and don’t know why.

By all means, follow the instructions. But if you want to become more valuable, keep on your toes and push the instructions to the side sometimes.

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