I’ve thought a lot about how people interact with the computers they use. I’ve often wondered why people in offices know so little about the computers they use 40 hours a week. In many cases, the machine has not changed in years. The Operating System is the same. The Office applications are the same. They perform the same tasks day in and day out. They’re the 21st Century versions of assembly line workers.
They perform a skill. They perform it repeatedly and anything outside that small skill set is foreign and deemed impossible in their minds.
I often thought about the several times I’ve had to revisit the same people for the same problem over the course of weeks, months, or in some cases years. I see the same people for the same problems and I ask myself, Why?
Why am I solving the same problem for the same person so many times?
I thought perhaps it was a lack of understanding. Maybe the tasks were too difficult, but in comparison to what they did everyday, it was no more difficult, just different.
I thought maybe it was willful ignorance. They knew what they needed. They didn’t like computers. They resented having to use the computer so they were determined to learn as little as possible about it.1
I thought I was failing them in some way. I was not educating them. I was not providing a way for them to understand. I was speaking to them in techno-gibberish. I needed show them. I needed to help them to understand.
I was wrong. Thomas Brand and he gets to the root of it better than I ever could.
Windows users are different though. Enterprise Windows users never had to fend for themselves. They never made a meaningful transition to the new and different. They stuck with what the company gave them, the clear and popular choice, and never identified themselves by the technology they were provided.
Relegated to having to ask for administrative rights to do anything on their computers, most Enterprise Windows users never learned to take an interest in administering their own machines because they never could.
This lack of understanding, and the security vulnerabilities of early Windows operating systems made Windows users the primary targets of malicious software and phishing attacks.
Worst still, companies reactions to these threats have been less about user education and more about tightening controls. This gave Windows users even less of an incentive to learn about the machines they sit in front of 40 hours a week.
He works in a role where he supports Mac and Windows computers and the people who use them. He is writing about Enterprise Windows customers in comparison to the Enterprise Mac customers. 2
They have never been challenged. They have never had the ability to go outside of their pre-defined corporate box. I’ve seen effects of his last paragraph all too often.
Anytime there is a threat, the immediate reaction is to clamp down on rights and abilities on the computers instead of educating people about the problem. Security is always the battle cry instead of Education. Why educate people when you can simply ban them from doing anything to hurt themselves or the company’s equipment? Security seems like the easy answer.
Working in the IT field, I have never been on the other side of the administrative rights fence. I have always had the ability and knowledge of working around problems and the abilities to do so.
I never had to call and ask for permission to install software. When I wanted something, I would load it on to a USB drive and run portable versions of the software I wanted to use I knew the company would not approve.
Corporate computing rewards the compliant and punishes the inquisitive. There is no benefit in learning more than what is required to perform a task. There is no room for exploration and learning. The corporate world rewards conformity and obedience. The structure of the system explains the results of that system. Why would anyone take in interest in something denied to them anyway?