The world’s knowledge is layered.

There are industries that make metal, industries that make airplanes using that metal, and industries that operate airplanes. The travellers on these airplanes are in turn doing something else - producing and servicing various things across the world. There are people who build operating systems, people who build software tools, people who make applications using those tools and people who use applications and run businesses.

There is hardly anyone who knows all the layers in a single supply-chain stack very well. But it may be a good idea to look into those adjacent layers to understand our own layer well.

The other day I met a software engineer who was struggling with a new software tool. He knew how to operate in the software tool layer, but this turned out to be a little different than the rest. Having no understanding about how tools are built, he kept trying to fit the new tool into his mental image on similar tools. It wouldn’t fit. We then looked a bit closely, just to find that the tool had all the required features. It operates the same way as other tools, from a much lower perspective.

In another instance, a business analyst prepared exhaustive requirements for a software, without much grasp on the tool that was selected by the customer. As soon as the development started it became apparent that the tool would not support many requirements. Either the requirements had to be collected in the context of the tool, or the tool should have been selected to meet requirements. Ideally, a better understanding of both the worlds - software tools and business requirements - would have made things easier.

Such examples can be found in every layer – between design and planning, or production and marketing. Those who dare to learn beyond their own layers become good designers, developers, managers, and sales-persons.

Let us then, think across the layers.