Monday, July 07, 2008

Dichotomy of sentiment toward the West

I haven't blogged so much lately, because (borrowing a phrase from Hal), I've been too busy living. Two days ago, MommaBean and El 3atal celebrated our 12th anniversary. Yep, 12 years ago on the 5th, we married here in Amman. So, we spent the day at the Dead Sea with the Beans in tow. We had a lovely time and then had dinner out together. I had many posts in mind for the day, but was too busy to write them. And then today, I was thinking about this interesting phenomenon in Jordan. There seems to be a love (on the part of some) to hate the West and all Westerners. But, in business circles, there seems to be a belief that anyone who comes from the West is brilliant and worth paying big bucks to see. How interesting. Let me tell you why I find this interesting.

When Steven Covey was brought to town, thousands of people paid a rather large sum of money to sit in a big room and hear him tell them his secrets to success. Were those secrets applicable to them and their business? Did they even process the idea that his thoughts might not apply to them? I don't think so. It seems to have become a status symbol in the business community to drop in something that he said into conversation. In fact, companies here are taking what he said and using it as if it were gospel. "A Manager should have no more than 3 Key Performance Indicators." Really? What does that mean, exactly. So, everything I do can be boiled down into 3 key areas and measured? How interesting. So, there is no consolidating? If there were, it would be assumed that they would impact the Manager, but perhaps I'm confused here.

The success of this event has caused lots of companies to jump on this bandwagon bringing in speakers for 1 day or 5 days to talk. And people jump right in to hear it. And yet, when there is expertise that is world-class and local, it is all but ignored. Companies refuse to pay as much for a local speaker as someone from the US. In fact, they seem to expect to pay 100% less. People who spent many years in the US, building expertise, reputation, and credibility and then chose to return are somehow viewed as second tier. They are, by virtue of location, less impressive and less valued. How does that work exactly?

I will grant you that the level of skill gained by the average Jordanian, due to the quality and type of employers, is typically of a lower quality than that gained in the US and UK. But why is it that the truly world-class talent that lives in Jordan must go abroad (even to other Arab countries) to get any respect? How interesting and challenging that is.

Happy dichotomy!


At 8:54 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were visiting a friend when my husband noticed a Steven Covey book on a shelf. The title was "The Speed of Trust". He exclaimed, "No wonder things move so slow in Jordan!"

You are absolutely right that these business principles from the west cannot be applied wholesale to a Middle Eastern context without thought of the local culture.


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