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Old Way of Thinking vs. New Way of Thinking–Does it work for Tech Comm?

I was casually reading my LinkedIn feed today, and a new connection of mine had liked this particular infographic that one of their connections made, and that connection had obviously gotten it from somewhere else, so I apologize for not being able to name the direct source.

But it’s something that I think is an important part of anyone who is still working and especially for employers who want to understand those who are job seekers. It’s a very different world from even five or ten years ago (trust me, I was job searching that long ago), and while this chart really can apply to anyone, I truly see this definitely applying to technical communications:

infographic old thinking vs new thinking

What got me is that it isn’t generational–a Baby Boomers and Gen X way of thinking versus Millennial thinking.  I’ve had Millennial bosses who thought in the “old thinking” ways, and I’ve had the older generations think in the “new thinking” way.  I think the problem–at least in the United States–is that we operate on a factory mentality from the 19th century that still is in place. (Operating from 19th century thinking applies to our educational system too, but that’s another argument.)  Productivity and profit was made when thinks were much more manually done. Even in a factory with machines, it was always down to productivity and profit, and bottom line to get those things done.  While those are still important factors motivating business now, time has allowed us to reflect on those values, and see the impact on people over 100+ years time. By following the “old thinking” methods, quality of life became impacted. People were things to be manipulated at the cost of time with families, company loyalty, pride in their work.

EVERYTHING in that “new thinking” column embodies what technical communication is right now, and what technical communication jobs should be, but often are not. I’ve heard companies use language that speaks of this “new thinking”, but continue to practice hard-line “old thinking”.  This is the 21st century, mind you, and technology and society has come a long way. It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you are a technical communicator, or a factory worker, or someone plowing a field for crops. The best working conditions are those that embrace the new thinking. It allows workers to be creative with solutions after failure, and allows them to work in a more relaxed setting, and if it’s a matter of behavior over skill, the skills will catch up with the behaviors if they are good ones. Happy workers are productive workers.  Working in a variety of different jobs over the past 26 years have told me that when I’m a happy worker, I get it done. I produce my best work, and my productivity increases, and my bottom line is more willingness to help that company become more productive and profitable. It happens naturally, instead of being forced.

It’s kind of like that kid doing homework who hates school (I have one of these kids). When it’s time to do homework, some kids need someone over their shoulder, constantly making sure that they do it right, they get it done quickly, and they need to do menial tasks that might not really need to be done.  Kids who are given a little bit of room, given tasks that provide some meaning to the material and work they need to produce, and aren’t rushed, tend to get the work done better. Why can’t that apply in the work world as well? We all have deadlines–kids do too. Why not create realistic expectations, which is what much of this “new thinking” is about?

I wish more employers adopted this “new thinking” instead of holding so tightly to the “old thinking”, or at least stop preaching the “new thinking” while actually doing “old thinking”.  It would allow a more open way of working that would allow for creativity and better problem-solving, which would help the bottom line. (In other words, allow for more remote workers to get the best results possible!)

What do you think? Include your comments below.

Thought I’d add something here. Got a comment two years after I wrote this that I chose not to approve that said I was delusional and I should continue to pet my unicorn on this one. That’s fine. I’ve only been in the workforce for over 30 years and lived through good work situations, and bad situations with micromanagers who couldn’t be please even with them over your shoulder. I’ve studied British and American History for years as a history major in college, which centered on the practices of how their respective industrial economies drove events of the 19th and 20th centuries forward. I don’t speak from a standpoint of knowledge? Sorry, I think I do. Beside, guess what? This is my blog. I have no problem listening or reading opposing points of view, but I don’t need to be insulted in the process.


Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who currently employed at Cox Automotive, Inc., and freelances as her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog,, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. She is very active in the STC, as a former chapter president for the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter, and is currently serving on three STC Board committees. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog. All content is the owner's opinions, and does not reflect those of her employers past or present.

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