March 25, 2011

Remember The Context

A colleague and I had just let the restaurant and we were walking down the street back to the hotel. As we approached the pedestrian crossing (frequently called a zebra crossing in the UK due to the black and white stripes painted on the road) the traffic slowed to a halt in anticipation of us stepping onto the crossing. We walked across the road and the traffic started up again.

When we got to the other side my colleague turned to me and said that he would need to learn how to manage the traffic when he got back home. I was slightly puzzled by the remark and asked what he meant. He went on to explain that in the city we were in the traffic was highly disciplined, they obey the speed limits and traffic lights and as we had just seen they even stopped for pedestrian to cross the road. He explained that in his home city it was very different with many drivers jumping red lights and white / black stripes of a pedestrian crossing were just something for drivers to aim at, certainly not something to stop at. Lane discipline was almost unheard of.

This reminded me of just how important context is when transferring lesson or best practice. In one location drivers were highly disciplined and obeyed the road rules while in the other location is was more chaotic. If we had tried to transfer lessons from one to the other without that context it could have resulted in an undesirable outcome or it would have sounded so alien to the receiver that they would instantly dismiss it and never accept learning from that source again.

So if you are trying to share learning, don’t forget the context of the source and the receiver.

Knoco Ltd