What The Movie Avatar Can Teach You About Working With Architects And Engineers

avatar-engineer Working with architects and engineers might seem frustrating. How many times has one responding to your advice or idea and by doing so convinced you they were from another planet?

The problem isn’t what they said or that they just didn’t get it. No, the problem was what you were wearing!

Getting Into The Capsule Helped

A few of you may have saw the movie Avatar a few years ago. It was kind of a big deal at the time.

In Avatar, we travel to another planet to mine its resources. But the planet is occupied by blue beings known as the Na’vi. These Na’vi are nothing like us. They are giant, blue cat-like creatures who speak a strange language.

I’m sure the prequel to Avatar will have a fateful scene where a human knocks on the Na’vi’s door and says, “Hey, I’m Bob from Earth. Can I mine some unobtainium from your back yard?

The Na’vi responds with, “Nick nock, click click, glob!”

Bob walks away asking himself, “What the heck did that thing just say?”

By the time we meet the characters in the film, they’ve gotten wise. They’ve engineered a living suit that looks just like a Na’vi. They’ve also learned to understand and speak their language.

So, they send a guy into the suit (ie the capsule that controls it). He infiltrates the Na’vi. He lives in the woods with them, eats their nasty food, rides a couple dinosaurs, and learns how they think.

"So this is what it feels like to be one of them!"

“So this is what it feels like to be one of them!”

Now instead of thinking the Na’vi are some smelly cat people from another planet, he’s thinking, “Hey, these people kind of have a point.”

And despite the fact this guy is a soldier from an invading force who spied on them, signed their death warrant, and seduced the chief’s young daughter…the Na’vi still end up liking him and listening to him.

"I'm sure they won't mind if I take advantage of this situation."

“I’m sure they won’t mind if I take advantage of this situation.”

Why? It’s because he took the time to understand them, to see things from their perspective.

Time For A New Suit

Architects and Engineers can seem a lot like the Na’vi, especially to marketers.

But rather than concluding they “just don’t get it,” take a step into your avatar. Make some effort to look at the issue from their perspective.

Why do they believe what they believe? Why do they feel the way they do? And is there some validity to their point (there usually is)?

Walking around in your architect/engineer avatar will give you a valuable new perspective. Just don’t touch tails! (Click Here to Tweet This!)

I believe exploring their world in your avatar will not only reduce your level of frustration, but also help you slowly move them closer to your way of thinking.

Key takeaway: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.


  1. Great Analogy!

  2. T. Olsen says

    Good post and good points! Engineers and marketers are often on a colliding course when they are forced to work together. In search for my dream customer, I just realized that as an ex-engineer myself, I already speak their language.

  3. Erika Booker says

    Great post! I agree that the best approach is to seek understanding before seeking to be understood. I must admit, that is probably the hardest part of this job, the lack of mutual understanding.

  4. Great parallels and a great lesson. Understand FIRST, then seek to be understood.

  5. Jana Brickey says

    Great post! Sometimes we have to take that step back away from our preconceived notion of how things should be and listen. There might be a way to merge the two ideas or processes into the differentiator in your proposal.

  6. Great article – interesting and TRUE! It not only acuretly describes the need for engineers and architects to understand each other, but for us to also understand our clients.

  7. Bernie Siben says

    This is like the old advice to “walk a mile in someone’s shoes before judging them.” It’s still good advice. Years ago, I worked for a big engineering firm that was adding architecture to its service mix. The architects wouldn’t talk to the marketing folks about what was needed to market architecture, so the growth was very slow. After a few frustrating months, one of them admitted that it was an educational thing. In his senior year of architecture school, there was one day in one class where they discussed marketing and the instructor told the class that only an architect could market architecture. Once we understood that perspective, we could counter it, and started to see success in marketing architecture. But until that discussion, we had no idea what the problem was.

  8. This was a fantastic example on engineers! I have definitely had a few experiences where it was frustrating to work with an engineer. I think that I’ll work harder on understanding their perspective from now on. Thanks for this help!

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