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  I had a chance to discuss my own experience at World Economic Forum 2008 Annual Meeting which ended just two weeks ago. I also had an opportunity to read some articles and comments about the Meeting by others who participated in it.  It was quite interesting to see how different impressions we have of the same meeting.   

 It is understandable for us to form different opinions of the meeting, as there are over 200 parallel sessions held over the course of 5 days in Davos, Switzerland. Naturally, one cannot attend all of them, thus select several sessions to attend or participate either as speakers, panelists, moderators, or discussion leaders. Each participant may have different approach to selecting the sessions.

   Remarks by the VIPs are usually ready for distribution immediately after the speech, summaries are prepared shortly after the sessions are over and webcasts are available on the World Economic Forum website for anybody to see.  Thus, it is possible, in theory, that we form the impression of the meeting by skimming the major events, whether we ourselves attend or not.  And yet, each one of us seems to form the impression, mainly based on the experience of the actual sessions (the ones we attended)—whether they are breakfast, lunch or dinner, encounters on the shuttle bus, in addition to the official sessions.

    I understand the media coverage in Japan at least during the first half was focused on economic outlook. Partly because I attended the sessions around the sub-theme of Business (and Science & Technology), my impression of the first half was quite different.
 As a matter of fact, I participated in the session called WEB on the first day, assuming it was WEB of Web2.0. The session was a huge brainstorming session discussing the most serious threats to the global economic growth in 2008 etc.  When I participated in the discussion, I wondered why it was called WEB, but I went along. It was two days ago (two weeks after the event!) I realized it was World Economic Brainstorming (WEB) and not Web2.0! I had been wondering why it was called WEB and finally I got the answer! I was so focused on Internet, mobile technology, business model, innovation etc. all around the topic of Web2.0, I automatically assumed WEB was Web!  This may show how much we read into what we want to read.

 We also did the exercise in my Problem Solving course at ICS this past week about logical thinking and writing. I had introduced Pyramid Principle which is very widely used at consulting firms and others as a tool to develop logical thinking and writing.

In the class, students were asked to decompose Bill Gates’ address at the Annual Meeting on “New Capitalism for the 21st century” into the logical structure, using the tool of Pyramid principle. i.e. They were expected to indicate his main message, and the way it was supported by evidence, stories and examples. 

 To everybody’s surprise, there were so many different answers, not only about the logical structure, but also main message of the remarks.  We had lively discussion and realized that we interpret the same remarks in a quite different way.

 These incidents gave me a lot to think about. I think it is great to have different views and opinions. I also think it is quite important for us to realize that we may hear/read what we want to hear/read. Sometimes, it helps us to realize how much we take it for granted, and how captivated we may be of the past experience or existing rules of the game.     

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  • Comments (4)

    • K
    • February 10th, 2008

    ICS’ student body is so diverse in cultural backgrounds and personal experiences that it is quite natural for students to perceive things so differently. The class could be an ideal experimental field for cultural/cognitive psychologists. When I was at ICS, I enjoyed (and also was frustrated) by the difference of perception between classmates and myself. For example, I remember well that I came across a serious discussion about “fairness” with Vietnamese classmate, or “peace” with Costa Rican classmate. It was really a precious experience that I soaked myself deeply in such a cross-cultural field.

    • yishikura
    • February 10th, 2008

    Dear K, this is Yoko Ishikura. Thank you very much for your comment. My hope is to expand ICS-like place much more widely so that many more people can actually “experience” diversity in action.
    It is one thing to hear or read about “diversity”, but it is another when you “live” with it. It comes with frustration as you pointed out, but it gives an enormous opportunity for us to become aware of the creative and innovative world and actually start the journey ourselves.

    • Yiwen
    • February 12th, 2008

    Dear professor Ishikura,

    I have been enjoying reading your blog for a while. Very open-minded and very thoughtful.

    Speaking about listening skills, is it universal among different cultures or there’s some special things one should be aware in Japan in order to listen effectively. As a foreigner working in Japan, I felt it was extreme difficult to communicate with my Japanese colleagues (of cause language is a big issue but not always be the case). For example I try not to do all the talking, but the conversation ends silence (>

    • yishikura
    • February 14th, 2008

    Dear Yiwen, this is Yoko Ishikura. Thanks for your comments.
    I think listening skills quite important for any language or any culture. Sometimes, it requires sensitivity, understanding of different styles of behavior (such as in some culture, “Silence is Golden”, while in others, you are encourage to speak up) and some experience. To me, the most important thing is the willingness to understand what others are saying or trying to convey. Sometimes I find people seem to be talking with each other, but each is expressing his/her view, and no bridge is being built.

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