We just finished the second week – half-way through our four week deployment on the Corporate Service Corps (CSC). We got a big deliverable out the door this week and are working hard on two others.
The entire CSC Morocco team spent a rainy weekend touring Fez. It has the largest medina (old town) in the world – dating back to the 8th century. It is a center of industry for beautiful pottery and leather goods. On the way back some of us were talking about learning – my theme for this week – and my colleague Anna Astakhishvili used the analogy of pottery. We think that we are ‘fully formed and fired’ but in fact if you put us back in the kiln ‘we can soften and be reformed.’
Everyone I spoke to about the CSC before I came talked about the learning curve you are on when you are deployed on a CSC assignment. I kind of assumed as one of the most experienced consultants on the team that if anything, I would be teaching more than learning. But part of the fun of this whirlwind is the constant new experience!
In some ways it feels like back in university or my summers spent learning to fly where we are learning many different subjects, seemingly unrelated, at the same time. Some examples
- New client, new client processes (in a foreign language)
- Using lots of new tools – when was the last time you actually started using 5 new phone apps in the same week? Not just download them, but using them daily? Probably when you got your first smart phone.
- Having to start over in dealing with the living basics like where to go to buy food, which restaurants are good, where can I do laundry. And again, having to ask in a foreign language!
- Figuring out how to get things done in a very different cultural environment than Canada
- Haggling and bargaining with the shopkeepers in the souk (or market) in Fez – okay, that one is just for fun, on the weekend J , but still a learning experience!
On top of that, it feels like on every one of our projects, we are trying to pack what might normally take 6 or 8 weeks of effort into 4 weeks. This week we issued a survey to our client’s customers in less than 4 days – on other projects I’ve seen the approval cycle to validate a survey take more than a week! So together with the client, we are driving hard to make sure there is maximum value in this short assignment. And yet, spirits are high, people are having fun, while working hard and learning too.
Even on the weekend, the learning continued. Our tour guide through Fez – who provided tons of information about the city – took us past both a kindergarten and one of the oldest universities in the world. He made the point that secular education is critical to democracy and critical thinking, and it is one of the first things that dictators cut or control.
The Corporate Service Corps talks about the ‘triple benefit’ of the program, where the individual, IBM and the client all gain. But maybe we should add a fourth – our home country. We benefit the most when we are giving the most. We learn the most when we push the hardest. IBM takes people who are great in their existing roles and pushes them way out of their comfort zone. And it takes us all up a level. Maybe that makes us better citizens too.
A little learning is a dangerous thing. Alexander Pope (1688-1744
A little learning is a dangerous thing. Alexander Pope (1688-1744)