Cultural Bias, Translation and Learning

One lesson learned on my recent business trip to India: idioms don’t always translate. Case in point, in a meeting with several colleagues, I said, “This process is like explaining water to fish.” It didn’t take. The conversation quickly devolved as the Americans tried to explain the meaning to our Indian counterparts (What were we…mammals?  Did the mammals eat the fish? Or drink the water?). I felt like Abbott and Costello doing “Who’s On First?” Needless to say, we all had a good chuckle trying to unravel this one.

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker

The key takeaway is that we don’t always appreciate our culture, or ways of working, or knowledge until we see it from the viewpoint of others who have a different cultural background. Note that I said “different,” not better or worse, just different. Are we open to new perspectives? Do we relish the opportunity to be uncomfortable and truly learn? Can we take advantage of others’ experiences without judgment? I’d like to think so.

This was shared by my India counterparts, and was met with many chuckles, even within their culture: Indian Headshakes.

 For my Indian friends (and young friends) to appreciate Abbot and Costello: Who’s On First.


An Inquisitive Learner

Bookshelf 032514

Photo by Mark Baker

This past Saturday, I had the luxury of some free time to catch up on my reading (almost all on my iPad these days). Even with a voracious daily reading habit*, it’s still easy to accumulate a backlog of articles, blogs, etc. that have captured my interest.  On this occasion, I was able to leisurely explore links to other sources, revisit past MBA School learnings, and, of course, purchase a few books. It was a rich, engrossing and rewarding journey that reinforced my long-term enjoyment of being an inquisitive learner.

I don’t deal well with “canned” learning.  I’m always asking myself “why” and “really?” For that reason, many times in the past I’ve felt that teachers, librarians and parents have restricted my access to information. The internet represents a rich new frontier for an inquisitive learner, with unlimited possibilities for accessing media and thoughts of all kinds. That is, as long as you don’t allow its gatekeepers to plan and control your travel routes. This is how Google is killing the web is an interesting counterpoint to those who think Google is the Holy Grail. Does this ring true for you?  Are you an inquisitive learner?  How does this article strike you?

*Daily consumption includes: