I work in a very technical field, where people like thinking in solutions. Unfortunately this also means we often think of solutions before we finish listening to our clients when they describe their problems and requirements. A few days ago I walked through one of Calgary’s parks, and noticed the city had paved a path that was originally created by people continuously walking on the grass. It reminded me of a story I once read where a professor suggested not to plan paved walks yet on a new campus, but just cover everything with grass, leave it for the first year and let the users decide where the paths should be by walking on the grass and thus creating these paths in the process. I quickly Googled the picture below which demonstrates this quite well.
In the campus example the designers basically listened to the client for a full year, and although that may not be applicable to every project environment, I am sure the paths that were eventually paved in were used well.
Listening is a tough skill, and it’s tempting to "know better than the client" because it our specialty after all. But even though we may be right sometimes, a happy client getting what he wants still works best, especially when they pay the bill. And if you keep telling your city they need to put in a path, it will (eventually) get there.