October has been an interesting month, ahead of the highly anticipated US Elections in November 2016, we see possibly one of the most qualified US candidates pitched against a celebrity demagogue. What I thought was a logical and clear-cut choice from the start, at many points this year, proved to be much more contentious (often a time, I felt infuriated at why the obvious is not obvious to a large section of the US electorate).
I learnt from the lead-up to the elections that we are guided by our limited human perceptions, which in turn are shaped by our passions and life experiences. When we are championing a cause or an initiative, it is natural that we do so with passion and drive. However engulfed by our passion and our vision of the good that we may seek to do (achieve), we sometimes fail to understand why we continue to face opposition to our ideas. I see this play out not only in the world of politics, but in the business world of Consulus’ clients.
As hard as it is, we need to take a moment to step outside ourselves, view the world through the eyes of our opponents, see what they see, understand their fears, concerns and motivation. Once we understand where our opposition is coming from, we can assess whether the opposition we face, we should try to embrace.
There is an Indian parable, which describes a discussion amongst a group of men who encounters an elephant in the dark. Each one feels a different part of the magnificent creature and based on his limited perception describes what he think he has encountered. Although each of the men is encountering the same creature, their perception of the elephant is starkly different and each stands by his interpretation of the encounter and seeks to impress on the rest that his description is the most accurate. In reality, nobody is wrong but definitely nobody is right.
The failure to unify ideas and to understand what motivates opposition to a specific idea is the morale of the story here. As advocates of the principle of Unity, Consulus can play an impactful role if we are able to bring together divergent and often opposing ideas to help our clients see the Elephant as a whole and complete magnificent creature that it is.
I thought it would be a nice parting note here to share with you the poem by John Godfrey Saxe entitled “The Blind Men and the Elephant”.
THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
Rita King is a Senior Consultant at Consulus Singapore. She used to serve in government on tech initiatives. She specializes in strategy, trade policy implications, organizational dynamics and the processes to make an idea work. Her field of experience covers South-east Asia.