Friday, September 25, 2009

Group Think

I attended 2 seminars today in the office, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Yesterday, I attended another one on improving one’s project management skills. In all these training seminars, I attended them from my cubicle via phone conference and shared screens via the Internet or the company Intranet. I like the environment here where learning is actively encouraged and pursued. There also forums where employees can meet and network. Of course, there is Toastmasters as well in the company to develop ones speaking skills.

This is the main difference from my work in Asia. Although there are many opportunities for learning, it is not as well organized in a professional manner. One can attend much training in a month and it’s only ones ability to absorb the information that will inhibit you. With so much input and incoming information, the task of absorbing and synthesizing it into usable skills is the challenge. Once can easily lose his perspective and bearing. As my manager would say, it’s like drinking from a firehouse. He used that expression when he compared my challenge to absorbing all the information to be competent in my job.

There is a training plan devised for me which is supposed to make me competent in 6 months. The fact that there is a structured plan is a big departure from where I came from. Although not all the training opportunities will be seminars, one can use the guide to do ones own learning by looking for the presentations and Wikis that inhabit the company Intranet. Everything is made available in the net that one can easily educate himself on the job. For my example, I need to learn about the project, the application, the process and tools, the people involved and contributors. Learning all these in the space of a few months is really like drinking from a fire hose.

The best tools to synthesize all this knowledge is mind-mapping and also journaling. The first tool one gets to understand the relationships and the association of ideas. It helps one clarify the thoughts and concepts. The second tool allows one to reflect and focus and articulate ones thoughts in a structured manner. This helps in making one accept the incoming data. I guess my strengths identified by the Strength Finder are the right mix in these circumstances: Input, Learner and Ideation. Mind-mapping and journal writing are good aids to keep my mind working under properly. Otherwise, the result will be bewilderment and stress.

The greatest challenge for me is improving my emotional intelligence. I need to empathize more with the people here. I am afraid I may come across as being arrogant. for instance, I think my choice of words may not be appropriate and I often like to dominate the meeting and conversation. I need to listen more and respect other’s opinions. It’s a strange feeling because it’s like understanding the mind of the crowd. It is not the individual person that needs to be understood but the crowd being a collective but singular unit. I think there is a ‘crowd think’ and one needs to cater one’s response to the crowd. This is where great politicians excel and the challenge is to understand ‘group think’ in a new environment.

This is where Toastmaster may help me. Hopefully it will give me an opportunity to practice my empathy towards ‘group think’. In other words, to practice my skills to communicate empathy and understanding of ‘group think’ situations. By ‘group think’ I may mean the essence of democracy where every one has his own say but respects the rule of the majority. Perhaps majority rule is the so-called ‘group think’ and one should understand the synchronicity of thought. Oftentimes, I find myself in the opposite end of the prevailing wisdom so I have to be careful otherwise it maybe interpreted as aloofness and arrogance.

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