September 04, 2008

Mathematics or History

We often make fun of politicians and say that they grab all the limelight without doing much or sometimes even doing things that are counter productive to society. On the other hand we have this layer of intellectuals who analyze, dissect and come with the best approach to improve things and make life more efficient and effective. Yet, many a times they do not find takers other than people in the same boat. I wondered - what is it that makes someone or some idea click? As a consultant, it becomes even more important on how do you communicate your idea effectively and more importantly get a buy-in from the audience.

In professional life, we are always taught to focus on an analytical and structured approach. If the structured approach itself was sufficient, then the same approach/ presentation would have worked for everyone. However, this is not something that has been our experience - even a great idea needs to be conveyed differently to various people. One of the main reasons for this is that every person's thinking approach is different. Some part of the thinking is innate, however a significant portion is acquired based on their experiences in life - not just professional life. I think this is one of the biggest mistake professionals do - look at others as another professional/ designation - not as a human being with a varied background, desires, experiences, etc...

This is where, I think, sometimes history helps more than mathematics/ science! Knowing about the cultural background and sensitivity of people you are interacting with is very essential. Not only would you not want to make a cultural blunder, this knowledge can actually help you score some brownie points. It may a little more effort, but it actually makes you connect to people directly. They are likely to be more open to discussions and less rigid.

As consultants working across the globe, we need to be even more careful. Each culture has its own characteristics and what it glorifies - like in some cultures, the designation could be more important than the work content or mannerisms more important than your idea. If you have to successfully implement an idea, you need to be able to relate to the concerned people and communicate at their level. In my opinion, that is the key if you want people to listen and implement your idea.

Sri Sri says that emotions are a hundred/ thousand times more powerful than thoughts - they can come like a storm and overrule any rational thinking. This can be easily seen when we see the politicians connecting to the vast majority of people around. Since, there is no 'professional' tag they carry with - they are able to exploit everything around the people's background and really relate to them. I think this is what makes them mass leaders and people are willing to go out of their way to implement their leader's ideas. Nobody really even thinks about change management effort ;-)

I think a person's knowledge about world history and current affairs should be one of the key skills tested for any job. It is only now that I understand why we are taught these as compulsory subjects in our schools!

So, do you want to be an intellectual or a politician? Or a revolutionary leader who is an intellectual politician? Or a top consultant who is a political intellectual?
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