Monday, February 14, 2011

Lost in Translation

A big business manager came down from the US to meet us a few weeks ago. So, my boss had setup a "Roundtable" discussion between us (a team of around 20 people) and him. As is usually the case, there's a round of introductions. We typically say a few words about our work and what we are doing and how long we have been doing it. Plus the visitor also does the same thing.

This time around, the Business guy (let's call him Jim), wanted one more thing in the introductions. Jim wanted us to add one line about what we do outside of work esp. our hobbies. Call it touchy-feely kind of Management.

So, we all went around with our introductions. A couple of people mentioned Chess, a guy mentioned playing Football (the kind where you play with your foot and not American style), someone said watching cricket and the youngest guy in the team said playing console games. I mentioned my interest in the Violin.

After that is was Jim's turn. His first comment was - "How many of you have kids?". Almost all our raised hands (except the gamer, but that's because he's really young and just out of college). Immediately, Jim said - "I'm surprised none of you mentioned spending time with your kids.". He then went on with his introduction and mentioned that outside of work he liked spending time with his family and playing in the backyard with his 11 year old son.

It really struck me that this was a classic cultural difference. I love my family and I do love spending time with them. But is family time a hobby? Its a natural thing to do and one does it but that doesn't qualify as a hobby, does it? I then put my mind to the various Roundtables and presentations we have had with visitors. Invariably family comes up during introduction time by our visitors, but its not so forth coming from us. I wonder why's that?
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