Posts Tagged ‘orientation’

I distinctly remember having done the egg drop experiment at some point during high school.  Since I’ve heard from many people that INSEAD is just like high school – or at least clique-ish like one – it’s only appropriate that orientation should start with an egg drop! 

The point of the egg drop of course is not to learn how to protect an egg from a 5th story fall or a catapult throw.   If you want my expert opinion: you protect the egg by first slowing down the velocity of the egg by constructing a parachute and/or by creating a suspension system that decouples the impact of the fall from the core containing the egg.  Duh.  There are a million ways of doing this, of course, but the solution has to work within the constraints of the presented challenge: materials, size, weight, etc.

The point is to learn about each other’s communications styles.  The most obvious of the realizations that we’re supposed to come away with is that engineers aren’t the ones that have the good solutions.  Oh no!  Am I about to learn that I wasted the last 10 years?!  Well, no.  Good engineers can look at first-principles of the challenge and, working alone, construct a fine device.  

The point is that engineers aren’t always the best at communicating their solutions or getting buy-in from their team members on the value of these solutions.  Engineers like to be right, and aren’t always likely to listen to input from an art major.  In my career, I’ve seen plenty of engineers beating someone over the head with their idea instead of bringing them along, helping them understand why they think their idea is best.  

When I first joined my company, a really over-the-top ridiculous Maria Something came in to teach a class on Social Styles to all the new employees.  Prior to this two-day touchy-feely seminar, several of our friends and co-workers filled out questionnaires on each of us that gave insight into a person’s communication style and their flexibility.  Then we pigeonholed everyone into the graphic below.  The four social styles originate from the placement on a people-task scale vs. an ask-tell scale.  Are you likely to give marching orders than ask for input from your team?  Are you happier crunching numbers or organizing a rally?  To help you out, the shorthand for the four styles are clockwise from upper right are Asshole, Fag, Wuss, Nerd (I didn’t come up with that, ok?).  


The premise is that we have a default communication style, which becomes modified in predictable ways when under stress.  Being cognizant of other people’s communication styles can make us better able to empathize with and be receptive of other people’s points of view.  

Let me say here that once of the greatest obstacles to my accepting this methodology is the lack of understanding of the premise behind it.  It’s easy to find people who fit into these categories, but it’s harder to tell if all people fit into these categories.  One colleague repeated the survey with a different group of co-workers got a differing result.  Each time, Maria Something, unaware of this conflict, nodded sagely saying, “I knew you were a Fag” or “I would have automatically picked you as an Asshole.”  Not in those words, of course.   

My own style was no great surprise to me (or anyone else).  I’m a very consistent Asshole.  I like for people to communicate with me openly and directly.  I don’t like stories and metaphors in place of facts.  In return, I am direct and honest.  I don’t mince words.  On the flip side, I can be impatient and intolerant, and my standards can be irrationally high.  I’m learning to adjust my expectations and be more patient with people whose decision-making styles are different from my own.  Of course, this attitude just thinly hides my total insecurity.  [Is she kidding?]        

Today I found myself going crazy when talking to an HSBC rep in person.  The woman over-enunciated and over-communicated.  It took her three times longer and five times more words than necessary to get a point across than it should a normal person.  The amazing thing was that her languid, fluid, tranquilizing speech did not have any breaks for Um’s or Uh’s where one could jump in to interrupt and let her know that I had gotten her point 5 minutes ago.  

She either thought that I was retarded, or she could not read my body language and communication style to adjust accordingly.  I say here that she should adjust to me – and she should because she was the service rep and I was the customer – but I simply did not know how to adjust to her.  

Maybe I need more Social Styles training.  Though personally, I would prefer an iron chef style cook-off to an egg drop.


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