Living in a busy city like Lagos you may have noticed how hard it is for drivers to give way to pedestrians trying to cross the road or other drivers trying to join a major road. It didn’t take long after I moved to Accra to realize that the attitude on the roads was quite different here. In Accra, giving way to pedestrians is such a strong culture that pedestrians consider it a right. Giving way to other drivers when they need your help is considered civil. It is simply all a way of life that has been cultivated.
Have you ever been on the road in your car and someone gives you way by allowing you come in from an adjoining road to the main road. There is a sense of responsibility that act of kindness gives you. It makes you feel obliged to give way to the next driver who needs such a gesture. This is the same case for most other acts of kindness, the recipient of the act becomes a giver automatically. In societies where such acts of kindness have become the natural course, I believe It has become so because of the ripple effect of such acts of kindness.
The next consideration in view of the above is then how does it all start? How can one change a society that is more inclined to hedonistic behavior than otherwise. I think it can be achived by consistent acts of kindness whether they are reciprocated or not. Kindness can have a ripple effect and it may be even more powerful in environments where such acts of kindess are not considered normal behaviour.
Most acts of kindness take hardly anything away from us. For example letting someone in front of you on the highway cannot stop you from reaching your destination. Letting a disadvantaged person in front of you on an ATM queue will not stop you from getting your money out. Besides, you actually feel better after doing such things! How about starting a ripple of kindness today?
More than once, twice or thrice in my work place I have had situations where management wanted something and I insisted that it was either not possible or too difficult to invest energy in. There were other times where I or a colleague in the same team insisted that a particular problem was not within the scope of my team. More than once or twice we would later find new ways of delivering what management wanted or in the case of incidents found that the root cause was actually traceable to our area.
Attitude is a very critical component of problem solving in any discipline. We must search ourselves and ask whether we really want to solve a problem or we simple don’t want to be found culpable. Some work environments contribute to an attitude which says “It’s not my problem so why bother?” but whether the cause is a flawed workplace culture or otherwise, we can solve more problems if we are more open, and more willing to try harder, learn more and work as a team.
Having the right attitude tends to open up our minds and help us think outside the box. Thinking more broadly produces new ideas. A defensive posture blocks our minds and the minds of those we are defending ourselves against. When everybody is playing “defensive midfielder”, nobody really attacks the problem to the point of delivering a solutions. We should also be aware that there is a world of difference between explaining why we think the problem is not ours and real, productive brainstorming with other teams. When we focus on explaining why the problem is not ours, we are leveraging on what we already know and forget that there are many things we do not yet know.
Let me conclude by recalling a story from my previous workplace. We had a certain issue with licensing on BMC Remedy AR System which indicated that the MAC Address on a blade servers Network Interface Card had changed. A number of “IT Professionals” laughed me to scorn when I sent emails indicating that the server’s MAC Address had changed because “everybody knows that MAC Addresses don’t change. After thorough investigation it turned out that when certain options are setup, pulling a blade out of its slot and pushing it back in actually changes the MAC address. We had to go all the way to the OEM to learn this. And it took someone with an open mind to go that far and teach us all something new.
Please forgive the excessive jargon in the last paragraph. It’s just buttressing the thought earlier communicated. Have an open mind when given new tasks or when you need to solve new problems. You are likely to solve the problem faster and learn something new in the course of it.