Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Red and white


Afew months ago, sitting down for a conversation with four well-mannered representatives of the Lalitpur District Maoist Trade Union 'whole timers' it was clear they see the world in black or white, or maybe red or white.

You were either with them or against them, it was either-or. The world was divided between their friends and enemies.

The friends (the poor, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged and the anti-feudal) could do no wrong, and any amount of violence could be justified in the name of aiding such friends. When those friends were somehow wrong, they could criticise themselves publicly, and learn from the mistakes. But the enemies were to be given no such recourse.

They had to be defanged and destroyed. This was a very clear worldview, and the Maoists sitting across the table seemed entirely sincere in their belief that their view was not only true, but also superior.

In business, as in life, how the world appears to the other person or to the other group influences what is to happen next. And the managers who do not understand this are headed for a life of frustration, because they will always be throwing their hands up in the air to ask, "Why don't others understand the gravity of this x or y problem?"

Take the chronic national shortage of electricity. The way it seems to our political leaders is not that it is deeply shameful for a country that is supposed to be wealthy in water resources to be keeping its citizens in darkness on most evenings, and that something must be done urgently to solve the problem so that tomorrow's voters will look upon them kindly.

The way this problem appears to our political elite is that, first, it's an opportunity to continuously blame those who were in power yesterday, and, second, if it gets any worse, donors and others will somehow come to the rescue through some hastily arranged bailouts. How else is one to explain the lackluster campaign to promote the usage of energy-saving CFL bulbs?

In Nepali companies, too, it matters how the world is viewed by the employees. If the employees' worldview is that the owners are wealthy and will somehow find the money to pay the bills even when costs continue to go up and revenues continue to dwindle, then, it affects how the employees offer to help their own companies to ride out the bad times.

There are three ways to change how the world is percieved by others. First, is the acceptance that the same problem can be viewed differently by different people, and these different views can determine the responses to solve or not solve the problem. Second, transparency with regard to sharing relatively neutral indicators such as financial
statements can go a long way to help those who need to know what is what. And third, one can puncture the certainty of others' views by throwing logical doubts supported by veritable facts that contradict the world view that the other person holds.

In management communication, understanding how others perceive problems is the first step toward solving issues that require a wide range of support.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)