Sunday, September 26, 2010
Try Something New
Why don’t they just try something new?
So it comes to this, people don’t try something new.
Until just now, I thought that change was difficult because not enough information and education had been provided to make the “changee” appreciate the value of trying something new. (That’s right, Aristotle. Aristotle presents and defends the learning-by-doing thesis, according to which we acquire the virtues of character by doing the kinds of actions that are characteristic of virtuous people, just as we acquire a craft by doing the kinds of actions that are characteristic of experts of that craft.) After living and working in Saudi, it becomes clearer to me that trying something new is resisted because it involves giving up a known.
Try this idea; turn off the car while you’re inside the building. Does it really matter that doing this simple act of turning off the car saves the company money on gasoline, or is it more important that the car remain a comfortable 72-degrees upon your return. Given the 100-degree temperature here, it really is a big deal to have nice cool ride. If you turn off the car, you can save yourself or your employer -- if the car is owned by the boss -- a little bit of money. But, will the boss notice that pocket money you have contributed by allowing a little sweat to appear on your forehead, underarms, and below? It is more likely that the effort is invisible to everyone except those lucky souls who get to sit next to you later that same day, and you will have suffered a bit too.
But this conversation isn’t about the weather here, although that, in and of itself, deserves a bit of airing. It is about trying something new. I have been trying to make things simpler in my workplace. Why don’t we use the electronic imaging system to save documents instead of coping them into files, again and again? Or, why is a multi-page paper memorandum used instead of the email system for communicating? (We own all of this technology already.) People don’t understand when I ask about making better use of electronic communications and instead tell me about policies demanding original paper be issued. Don’t think that I am suggesting that only the Saudi’s give me this story, as the expats are fully vested in keeping the status quo. Maybe, just maybe, we could try to modify the policy to make everything a little simpler and cheaper? Each time that a memo is lost or misplaced, the paper is dutifully loaded into the copiers (we own lots of these too) and sent by courier to another office, desk, and secretary to be read and stamped with a date and time of receipt in readiness for the reader. So many people and hands in all of this processing must serve a function? Or, the reality is that the process is just that, a known process. Better to keep the routine and avoid the hassle of trying something new, at least for now.
But wait! Did I tell you that I tried something new today? Restaurants here are sometimes a little scary. Those eateries that make your eyes water and noise run are also the best places. Today it was a place in on one of the souks that served a “traditional Indian” breakfast before a day of shopping. What a wonderful new way for me to begin this day.