I’ve written in the past about learning agility, which I and others define as being able to figure out what to do in a new or even a situation where you aren’t sure what to do next.
My firm, EASI·Consult®, has just introduced a test to measure learning agility in individuals. There are nine dimensions that the test measures. One of the dimensions is Flexibility, which involves being able to change one’s perspective. I’ll be writing columns over the next couple months on different aspects of learning agility. Today I would like to share some experiences I had recently that changed my own perspective.
At EASI Consult, I’ve been working with a group of senior managers on their ability to manage change in their organization. Part of the process of managing change involves being able to articulate your current situation, then define a future situation that you are trying to attain. Many times when people go through a process like this, they get locked into their existing perspective and are unable to imagine this new possibility. In one of our exercises, I showed these managers a picture. Depending on your perspective, you see either an old woman or a young woman. Same picture. The only difference is the perspective through which you view it.
Now back to my own change in perspective. I recently went on a cruise through several countries in Southeast Asia. Cruises are great because you only have to unpack once, but on many days you fall asleep in one country and wake up in another.
One of our stops on this cruise was to Manila, Philippines. It’s a place I have always wanted to see. I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt and was intrigued by how Taft was able to introduce a democracy in the Philippines. I also read about General Douglas McArthur during World War II and how he recaptured the Philippines and became a hero to the Pilipino people. I wanted to see where his headquarters had been.
I used local transportation – pedicabs – to visit some of these sights. In the Philippines at least, a pedicab is essentially a bicycle with a side car for 1.5 people. We had two. Our driver was small in stature and looked to me as if he was barely 20 years old. His English was OK, and as he pedaled us around for two hours we learned that he was married and had a daughter.
In the afternoon I took a regular cab to visit the Manila Chinese Cemetery. The guidebook said not to miss it. Imagine a village with roads and beautiful mausoleums, and no one else around. Some of the resting places are air conditioned and very ornate. My cab driver, again in his 20s, and I walked around this village. He told me his wife had died from a kidney ailment (primarily because he could not afford proper health care for her). He has two sons who are living with his mother.
As I reflected on my day in the Philippines, I thought about the friendly people I met. Manila is a very hot, dirty place with incredible poverty. Most of the native Pilipino residents of Manila have never been anywhere else. Life is hard, but it is what it is. I got back on the ship and woke up the next morning in Brunei.
Brunei is a tiny nation on the island of Borneo. It is ruled by the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Brunei is predominately Islamic and has adopted Islamic sharia law. It has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Its citizens pay no taxes, have free health care, and have free education up through college either there or elsewhere. The nation’s economic well-being is as a result of oil and gas reserves. It is hard to say what impact $30-a-barrel oil will have on the lives of people there, but a two-thirds reduction in revenue from a year ago has got to have some impact.
The intent of writing this piece was not to question democracy. The United States is the greatest country in the world. You appreciate the U.S. more looking from the outside in. Part of being flexible as a learner is to be able to see the advantages and disadvantages of each situation. How do we take what there is to learn from each situation and apply it to our present situation, or a situation we are trying to create?
EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call 1-800-922-EASI.
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