Wednesday, 2 April 2014

This statement is silly.

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

In my adopted home country, England, you send your children either to public school or private school. Those who can afford private education will shop around. Parents usually visit nearby schools, look at the facilities, talk to headmasters, listen to their ‘spiel’ of “children are very happy here, this is what makes us different”, check the fees and make a decision. All those bits of information get to your brain together with “Mary takes her children here. You know Mary? The lawyer you met at that party?” And the combination of all this, allows you to decide ‘freely’ where to send your children. So, Mary and you meet in the car park for years to come. When somebody has just been hired and goes to the office on his first day, he is given a tour of the place and perhaps an induction plan. There are Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to follow, training courses to join and detailed instructions on how to fill in an expense sheet. In other words, lots of formal ‘onboarding’ stuff. But the SOP does not contain all the rules or the hundreds of things that occupy 90% of your time in daily life. They are not written down. Is it better to bump into each other in the corridor as a way to meet people or to request formal meetings through Outlook instead? Is it better to desert the floor en masse at lunchtime or to unpack plastic containers and free your cucumber sandwiches in solitude instead? Is it better to wear a tie or to avoid embarrassment for being the only one who does?

Is it better to chat across the dividing screens or to enjoy monastic silence behind closed office doors? Is it better to have meetings in the cafeteria or in meeting rooms? Is it better to put everything into PowerPoints or to have a dialog without visuals?

By day three the new recruit has unconsciously adopted hundreds of unwritten rules which truly define ‘the culture’.

We are influenced by others in an incredible way. This statement is silly. It is obvious. However, many people spend a lot of time fighting against the fact that this is actually the case. We all want to be unique, different and not part of the crowd. But we are definitely influenced by others. What’s more, friends and friends of friends seem to have a particularly strong power over us. It is not entirely clear why, but many studies, some of them quoted in this book, show that this is the case. In a very important American study where more than 12,000 people were followed over three decades, it was shown that people were at a greater risk of becoming obese when a close friend became obese. We’ll talk more about this later. Obesity! Friends! Interestingly, in this large study, friends were statistically well above the influence from spouse or siblings.

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