Sunday, March 8, 2009

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Twice in the Past Week, I've Been Reminded of That

This morning, I was previewing "The New York Times" on Twitter and saw an item that intrigued me. I looked at the kid's picture -- he looked Semitic -- and his name sounded Jewish; I assumed he was an MOT ("Member of the Tribe").

And then the article mentioned that he was learning Arabic, originally with the intention of going to the Middle East as a Christian missionary. Huh?

It turns out that his mom was Jewish, but had converted many years ago to being Baptist and so he's Baptist.

The First Time

Earlier in the week, I scanned the roster of the section I was facilitating for our leadership development program dedicated to new executives. Reading through the names and locations, I was a bit disappointed that the section did not include even more geographic diversity than it seemed to do (only six countries apparently) while execs. were coming to the IBM Learning Center for the program from 23 countries.

Within the first several minutes of the first afternoon together, I was reminded not to make assumptions. It turned out that the exec. from Fishkill, NY actually was from Costa Rica until he came here for grad school and stayed, and the one from Somers, NY was on assignment from Korea. And another American exec. previously had been on assignment in the Netherlands for a number of years. And the exec. from Waltham, MA hailed from South Africa.

Most people, I think, make split-second assumptions about others based on what they think they see at a quick glance, and it takes an article or a conversation to undo the assumption. My friend Sarah Holland says, "The individual is the enemy of the stereotype."

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