Friday, March 26, 2010

Time For Praise

I just love understanding people's drives. So far i focused on the lows of being here, but some praise for the wonderful values i have observed among people here:

1. Focus - Individuals here can spend their lifetimes in pursuit of what they choose to excel in. This tendency is even more pronounced with the Japanese. It is not unheard of having say, coders, who wrote code for 15 years and would love to continue writing code for the rest of their career. Integrity is a very important trait, in that even in day to day communication people are sincere and speak their mind honestly. When one says that he/she likes something, it means he/she is really informed about it, and driven to excel in the field.

2. Action Oriented - People talk and think in terms of solving problems and actions to take rather than in getting stuck. Excuses have no place, either you do something or you don't do it. When stuck in a situation, people try to think of ways of solving it themselves rather than relying on outside help. To note, human labor is very expensive in the US. This may be a reason.

3. Planning - People do their best to be on time. Things should work as planned. People spend a lot of time planning to cover all eventualities and then go all out to fulfill the plan on schedule.

4. Competence - This ties in with 1. One needs to demonstrate competence, and concern. I haven't heard too many of my American friends apologize as profusely as we do in India simply because accidents are not meant to happen.

5. Friendliness - If you are doing something well, people will take potshots at you. Take it in your stride. Have a sense of humor. Skilfully and confidently being with people and allowing them to point your mistakes.

6. Confidence - already covered

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More reflections and personal opinions

The MBA has brought plenty of learnings this far - in terms of working with people here, in terms of understanding my personal strengths and opportunities and in having fun. Some observations that i admire about people here, and some things that i find strange.

My classmates are very results-driven and pragmatic. In typical meetings, every person comes informed and with an attitude of finishing the work right then. There's very little time wasted in explaining or reexamining concepts which have been covered in the assigned reading. My colleagues are interpretive and grasp the concepts needed to get the job done very quickly. Also, they communicate very efficiently, talking facts and solutions. People expect that you are credible and that you mean what you say or hint at. You would be held liable for what you speak. Their listening skills are strong, and people are quick at grasping the slant or implications of the sentences.

From what i have observed, this probably comes from a culture of reading and of implementing ideas. Even when having fun, my friends would have theme parties or play games, all requiring a fairly good grasp of rules. Reading definitely helps sharpen the intellect. Plus this is a culture of confidence where a high premium is put on one's accomplishments and skills, rather than on wealth and social status. I have rarely seen Americans hesitate or talk unclearly, even the not so educated ones. People articulate their ideas and opinions confidently, and often politely. A person is rarely blamed openly, but mostly within confined circles. If something is wrong, nobody would point it out to you, unless they are close friends, and then you would be expected to find a way out of the mess. If people sense that you are not going to improve, then you are excommunicated. One has to be very discrete in expressing personal judgements or opinions and careful about the audience. Courtesies are not as important, but people expect sincerity and a willingness to work and deliver results and to collaborate with them. If all these rules can be observed, you would notice that MBAs are very friendly people :)

The culture is an open culture. As a good friend had pointed out to me once, children here are raised to believe they are superstars and have little restrictions imposed upon them. On the flipside, every person is responsible for his/her own life from a very young age and people start working towards making a mark for themselves from a very young age. Competition is a part of the culture, and people's aim in life seems to expand their personal capabilities to the maximum. Relationships, marriages and other social institutions are considered secondary to this goal. Hence the problems. If you fail, or get weak or screw up, its game over - you lose your 'friends', who are not expected to help you get your act together in the first place. So people lose everything and sometimes they get it all back. Hence, the high stress in society and the fear. People resort to marijuana, to alcohol and to other recreational drugs to 'lose' reality sometimes. It has become such an ingrained part of culture, that the line between dependence and between doing these for fun is blurred. College is supposed to be a phase in a young man/woman's life to have as much 'fun - as many outings and trips and activities and friends and sex and booze as possible. Everything is governed by the WIIFM principle - whats in it for me. It is assumed that selfishness is a person's nature and a person works towards his or her enjoyment, trying to create a personal world perfect with their personal vision of how people, situations and objects should be. However, a lot of respect is accorded a person who gives back to society. The rule for success is get successful first, take care of people and society after that.

This is some of what i have surmised so far from my interactions. Of course, I attend college and hence deal with a more informed, more purposeful group than the general populace, as my friends tell me. Of course a lot of rings close to the stereotypical image we have of the American society but seeing it at the ground level reveals many subtle nuances and differences. Lets see what discoveries the future brings.