post wp-admin edit 369381

Finding Common Purposes Amongst Differences

I was very fortunate to have started my career in a well-managed American global enterprise in the 1990s, with a proper career development plan for young employees ahead of its time. Other than managing its business by geographic markets, the company grouped its revenue sources under three major business divisions, a common practice in many large FT-500 companies.

As part of my development plan, I was relocated from one geography to another, and from one division to another, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I remember one day, just feeling it was not quite right. I didn’t quite understand why I was working in the “XYZ division” within the company. Was I in a “company,” or did I belong to a “division”? The word “company” is from the Latin word “companio” – i.e., one who eats bread with you. While the word “division” is from the Latin word “divisionem” – i.e., an act of separating into parts, portions, or shares; a part separated or distinguished from the rest; state of being at variance in sentiment or interest? To me, it sounded like an oxymoron, and I struggled at the thoughts of exactly what it meant, and feeling awkward each time I had to state I was from the “XYZ division.”

TCG - question

I wondered how one could achieve a united company goal while managing a business structure with multiple divisions, but I was young and novice; hence I did not raise my issue with my managers.

Now, slightly more seasoned, I begin to understand how this can work, and in fact, it is how it works in our societies. One may have heard of the inter-collegiate rivalries. The most famous of it will likely be the annual Boat Race rivalry between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. While one may think Oxford is better known for humanities and politics, and Cambridge for sciences and engineering, these two oldest universities in England, collectively known as Oxbridge, are known to produce prominent leaders.

In London, my college’s mascot, Reggie, the lion, has been kidnapped many times by students from rival colleges and sustained numerous injuries. Gladly Reggie survived. In China, a similar rivalry also exists between the two top education institutions – Beijing (北大) and Tsinghua (清华), and not mentioning amongst the Ivy-leagues and the closely watched college basketball and football games in the USA.

Competitions, intercollegiate rivalries form a part of our education system. These include healthy sports, passionate debates, pranks, games, etc. While these youths may represent different camps, they share a common goal: the vision of achieving excellence in the competition. If you are an excellent athlete like the Olympians, you have the same purpose as your peers, that is to perform at one’s best as we compete.

TCG people and cogs

Competitions and differences are good only if we can find a common shared purpose. It has driven humans to the epitome of excellence, which gave rise to great inventions that have changed the world and how we live.

It is important for us to look around at our workplaces and communities. Instead of dealing with differences, perhaps it is more important to focus on finding the common goals. As leaders, finding that and successfully communicating it will be the holy grail to propel organisations to the next level of success, especially in a cross-cultural and diverse team.

As a side note, though, I am now less perturbed about naming business units as “divisions,” I think I will still prefer to choose a different term if I had a say. What about you?

‘Finding common purposes amongst differences!’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kendo

What We Can Learn from Kendo – “The Way of the Sword”

Few knew I’d practiced Kendo (劍道) during a period of my life. It all started with a Manga (Japanese comics) I read when I was little during a school holiday. I was intrigued by the self-discipline of this martial art and the tenacity of the main character. Years later, when I was working and living…
TCG Newsletter May 2021 - hand heart

Celebrating the World Day for Diversity this May

Last month, we talked about Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and the people we surround ourselves with within our spheres. This month, in celebrating the World Day for Diversity, I would like to share this clip (~ 2mins) from the United Nations.
globe-diverse flags

Enriching Our World through Diversity and Inclusion

Today, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) have become the buzz words. On their own, words are just an assembly of different alphabets/characters, insignificant and meaningless unless they lead to awareness and actions. Applying the famous idea: “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with,” let’s expand it and explore our “world.” Here…
TCG - child airplane pretend

Advancing Humanity through Exploration

Inspired by J.C. Maxwell (1831-1879), who published the Theory of Electromagnetism, my final year undergraduate project at KCL was to design and fabricate a Microstrip Antenna for satellite communication. Today I still remain on the mailing list of a group of British IEE engineers living in France. Because of that, I got to watch NASA’s live broadcast…
TCG inter-cultural - faces

Gaining from Cross-Cultural Experience

Regardless of the different colours of our hairs and eyes, or the different languages we speak, did you realize we all hold and bite into an apple the same way? My curiosity about myself being a human and what makes me a person resulted in watching several documentaries about our bodies and how our minds…
TCG 2021 January Kindness, virtues, connection

Kindness, Virtues, Connection

Raised with Eastern philosophical root, I always embrace duality (Ying and Yang) when examining life’s happenings. As Winston Churchill said when he worked with other world leaders to form the United Nations after WW II: ” Never let a good crisis go to waste!” How useful his insight can be for all of us, considering…
TCG pandemic

Pandemic, Divisions, Collision

What a chaotic year! 2020 has certainly shaken the world. Below is the list of my top three observations. Troubling, but there are reasons why these things happen, and there are valuable lessons for us. Three other words also came to my mind: KINDNESS, VIRTUES, and CONNECTION. I will be sharing more in 2021! Meanwhile, wishing you, your…