Imagine you are a Peace Corp worker in some third world country– let’s call it Budzaria. You find that the local Budzarian people are not getting enough protein in their diet, and that one cause is that while they do have chickens, they rarely lay eggs, and are much smaller than the chickens back in America.
In your weekly report emailed to management in DC, you ask if they can ship a dozen Leghorn chickens via air freight. They agree. On treacherous, washed-out roads, you drive the six hours to the capital city of Budzville, to meet the weekly single-engine airplane. You collect the dozen birds and head back up-country.
The local budzarians you are working with are delighted! Not only are they bigger birds, but they lay much larger eggs, most every day! In fact, they are so amazed, they have a special Animist ritual with their carved, wooden gods, giving these new chickens to these gods and their ancestors, in ritual animal sacrifice.
What are you going to do?
You now have twelve dead chickens. Your only positive thought is about fried chicken. Are you going to tell them to stop their religious practice? Probably not the most productive idea. Tell them they need to join the Wisconsin Synod of the Metho-bapterian Church? They have never been outside of Budzaria, and they speak Budspeak, not English.
Given enough time and over-processing, here is what I think you would do– You would find some other, more positive ritual, that would fit with their culture, that would keep the next dozen birds alive. Their ritual (ceremony, social function, sales technique) provided them with a necessary function for their cultural requirement. If you expect to take their ritual away, you will need to replace it with a better one that works for their positive need to celebrate.
Perhaps– ceremonially wash the birds (they probably have foreign bugs, anyway), and instead of giving them to their gods and ancestors, honoring the memory of loved ones that never had such nice birds, and thanking the divine for things they don’t understand.
Visit some third-world culture, and you will gain some valuable insights into your own culture.
Our DFW IT culture has a few dysfunctional “rituals.” The only way we are going to be able to get rid of one is by replacing it with a more functional, positive “ritual” that ‘keeps our birds alive.’
Any solution is going to have two basic requirements:
- The various parties are going to need to know that they are respected. It’s not about ridicule or contempt for anyone; such personal attacks will only alienate.
- They need to know that you want to see them be successful. Two heads are almost always better than one, and reciprocity is a two-way street.
Just like you, I’m not perfect yet. If we will get together, say, monthly, with a one-page agenda, we will have a process where we can have continuous improvement. Tell folks to not bring us problems, but bring us solutions. We can’t solve world hunger, climate change, or prevent natural disasters. Let’s be realistic– we have limited abilities to make things happen.
This blog post sparked the Eureka moment that started a whole new subject matter. See Better Rituals.
Let’s find, and implement, better rituals.