We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and know the place for the first time. - T.S. Eliot.
This morning I ran into an old colleague. Over a cup of coffee, he told me a recent incidence with his teenage son who is going to France for an extended period of studies and cultural experience. When they first talked about going to France, his son told him, “Dad, I have already been there (he meant a few days of prior vacation)” His dad told him, “Son, you went there. But you still have not been there.”
This deep meaning wisdom of the ages that my colleague shared made me think about incidences from my career and life. Here are a few:
1. Our US based company sent a few of us for an expatriate assignment to Manila. One of our colleagues ate hamburgers or steak & fries for his meals every day of the year for the entire three years (except on rare occasions when we had customer visit and had to go to local cuisines). He hung around only with other expatriates and did not show much interest in the local culture.
2. Having seen a very impressive resume of a “Process Engineer” we called him for an interview. When inquiring deeper in the interview, we found that he had not “Processed” anything himself even once. Operators were processing the material, technicians were doing measurements and this fellow was doing analysis (excellent one to his credit) of the data that was coming out of the printer. He had no clue how the equipment operated or even once experienced processing himself. As my boss Joe Z told us “He has a lot of years of experience as a Data Analyst. And he is very good at that part. But he is not a process engineer. I need someone who likes to be on the production floor.”
3. During the bus tour of Europe, one tourist constantly kept criticizing local people, their habits and even the historic places we visited. He also kept comparing things in different countries with things back home and had many arguments with the tour manager. Instead of enjoying NOW, he wasted his precious time and great opportunity to understand and appreciate the richness of the local cultures. Yes, he was in Europe. But he has not really been to Europe.
A few years ago, just after checking in the hotel in Japan with my family, I suggested that we go to Maharaja (an Indian restaurant) for dinner. A very strong and unanimous protest from the rest forced me to go to a Japanese restaurant. It had the best Sushi and local Japanese varieties I have ever eaten.
The very first time I visited a supplier and wrote a trip report, my boss Jim Boyd asked, “How much of this information did you collect in conference rooms vs. from direct observation from manufacturing floor and other work areas?” And that was a major turning point in my career. The year was 1981.