Sunday, August 2, 2009

Inducting the deduction

Still I'm wrestling a lot with how my Indian employees execute jobs. I still can find that they are having problems with independency, decision-taking and the purposefull design of a "plan-to-act".

Lately I had to think about the old induction-deduction pair of concepts which is used to describe types of (logical) thinking. As always I try to understand the differences between Western and Indian way of thinking.
You can read more about deductive and inductive reasoning in Wikipedia.

So here's another hypothese:

- In Western culture, people are forced to train their DEDUCTIVE thinking. Not only in education itself (where Math is one of the most threatened subjects for almost everyone). But also because of the relative absense of very specific rules of conduct in the broader society. This forces young men and women to first create themselves a mental framework from which they can DEDUCT specific rules about how to behave now and here. In these youth a lot of "testing" and "experimenting" of various behaviour is there.
In other words: they are trained to think from the general (mental framework) towards the practical (specific behaviour). Or: for Westerners, it's the "general mental picture" which is important and the results follow logically out of that general knowledge.

- In India however, young people are trained to use their INDUCTIVE thinking. In a wonderfully complex society like India, many hidden "rules" of conduct are embedded. It's impossible to understand for a Westerner, and as far as I can judge, neither Indians themselves completely understand all the variations, habits and valuesystems that exist in their society.
I've always thought that growing up in the Indian society must take lots of energy from kids, just learning what is "acceptable" behaviour and what is "unacceptable" ... because both are completely situation-bound.
Their memory also must be very well trained. The clever guys and girls will be able to come to a deeper understanding of what they memorise through INDUCTION. They have to reason from the specific (behaviour here and now) to a general framework. Even then the general framework is still only partially valid. I often see Indians themselves be very surprised about some situations and behaviour.

As Westerners we expect Indians to understand our mental picture of what we want, just by "explaining" it to them. This procedure often does not work. Indians are not trained to go from the general to the specific (result).
In one or another way a Westerner needs to use inductive techniques to teach Indians to come to the results he needs.

Failing to understand this difference in thinking will lead both Westerners and Indians to frustration.

In support of my hypothesis I can give this experience:

- In India businessmeetings usually begin with exchanging info about one's background, family, habits, personal interests. This enables Indians to define one's position in society. Sometimes this phase can take quite long. However, having a white face is already a feature that gives Indians the possibility to catalogue you in a specific position very quickly (at least that is what they THINK).

- In the West businessmeetings are very much to the point right from the beginning. Only if this part of the communication is straightforward and results can be reached quickly, only then partners are interested to know more particulars from eachother.

In India the movement is from particulars (personal situation) towards a (business-)framework where both parties can feel comfortable with. In some way you can say that the framework on itself doesn't make sense without a good understanding and matching of the particulars.

In the West the movement is from the ("logical" business-)framework towards the particulars. The particulars only make sense if the framework (mental picture of the businessagreement) is installed and accepted first.

If you think further about this difference in reasoning (induction-deduction) ... then a lot becomes more clear to the Western mind willing to understand "Indians".