Journeying into the business world... one undiscovered culture at a time

Welcome to [Per]Suit of Anthropology, a blog dedicated to the exploration of modern business trends and perspectives from the view of anthropologist, with a special emphasis on cultural understandings of work-life balance and disability rights in the workplace. This blog is a way for me to connect two sides of my professional self that I see in constant dialogue. Though the business world and the anthropological world may not believe it - they have more in common and more to learn from one another than readily acknowledged. Topics covered include: Western business practices and the impact of those decisions on socio-cultural institutions worldwide, invisible disabilities, Ignatian spirituality, work-life balance, and some discussion of issues of tourism and its impacts on culture, and common human capital practices in private industry and government.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"How Fascinating!" A detail oriented person and a big picture thinker agree on one thing

I was talking to a friend earlier this week. We were discussing, of all things, things we had heard at our jobs that we needed to work on. He said he was encouraged to work on thinking big ideas, taking initiative, and the next step. I said mine was, as always, attention to detail.

We then got into a bit of a philosophical discussion about how we thought that the skills we've been told we were lacking are, in our own separate opinions, what is necessary for success. I told him that I've always thought that "detail oriented" people have better job promotion potential because they see all the little things that employers tend to like. He told me he had the opposite view, that he feels that he is capped out at his level unless he can really take his ideas to the next level, learn to speak up, lead, etc.

I remarked how fascinating it was that we both thought exactly the opposite. As my one mentor said, whenever in doubt at work, or a professional situation, you always respond with "how interesting!" I suppose it is the adult version of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" - which by the way I do want to figure out how to work into a real life situation.

I digress - I thought that in the current business world, there is an expectation that we are all things to everyone. And I wondered how smart of an idea is that, really. For example, take my friend the detail oriented person. As he progresses he will be expected to go into management, a role he may or may not be suited for. Who knows, this person may be comfortable in a more technical environment.

As for the big picture thinker, I am all well and good, until I forget a detail. I can have a lot of good things at work about performance, but one small mistake and that is all I hear. Both of us are at a disadvantage as current business practices of acceptable performance and management systems are set up for one person to be good at everything, especially as you rise in seniority.

If you examine most organizations as you progress you automatically get into management situations, sometimes with no training. Now for some this may present an exciting new opportunity, but for others annoyance ar not  doing what you enjoy, to fear of leading. Likewise, some people who have the penchant for leading may not have the opportunity to do so as they have not "proven" themselves in a particular position, or in certain tasks required of them.

Thus I think the business world needs to get out of the mindset that rising in ones career naturally means you enter management. Such is not always the case nor should it be. This is where I think the government has a good example. They have senior levels of expertise (GS 14/15s) as well as the Senior Executive Service, which gets into the more senior posted requiring a very high amount of management skills. While the system is not without its own flaws, organizations should look to this and a possible model for how to manage different types of thinkers. 

Again just a thought...  In the meantime I recommend checking out Dan Pink's book, "A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future." He speaks of the history of why certain skills, namely those of the left-brained, are what is desired in current businesses. His theory is that the more creative types will soon have the edge when it comes to business, but first we have to make our way and achieve success in a logic-oriented world....

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

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