The blind men and the elephant
Blog | 05.31.2013

The blind men and the elephant

It was six men of Indostan / To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant / (Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation / Might satisfy his mind.

Thus begins the famous poem by John Godfrey Saxe based on an ancient fablefrom the Indian subcontinent. I am sure we have all heard this story at one time or another about how six blind men try to describe an elephant by touching and feeling it, but because they each only touch one part of the elephant they come up with vastly different descriptions – ranging from tree (leg), wall (side) and spear (tusk), to fan (ear), rope (tail) and  snake (trunk) – and as a consequence they cannot agree on any one description. For each of them, what they touched and felt (their perception) is the correct description.

This is a classic example of subjectivity, and it is something that we come across almost everyday at work. Whether you are a manager or an engineer, you have to deal with other people’s perception about all aspects of your work. You may think you are working really hard and putting in your best efforts, but for all you know your manager may be thinking that you need to do better. It is just a matter of perception. Taking the elephant example above, we could probably define perception as a simplistic conclusion drawn from selective (and mostly subconscious) application of often incomplete data. For example, as a manager when you see a team member stay late in office you may think they are working very hard when they are actually watching Youtube videos – or when a team member is not available for a late evening conference call because they have to leave on time you may think they are slacking off, but what you may not know is that they have skipped their lunch in order to complete the day’s tasks.

Most workplace conflict between managers and team members arises because of this kind of mismatch in perception, both with respect to the other person’s perception and also with respect to reality – with the manager thinking it is a wall and the team member thinking it is a rope, when (In Reality) it is an elephant. You may not be blind like the men in the fable, but sometimes you may be wearing a blindfold. And think how cool it would be if you could both see the entire elephant and agree on it being an elephant. At one stroke most of these perception mismatches could be eliminated, and the energy otherwise expended on resolving the resulting conflict will suddenly become available for far more productive use. There will be a significant reduction in employee stress as well, making them happier. And everyone knows that happier employees are more productive employees.

Sapience does all this for you. By providing automatic insight into the time and effort put in by team members, Sapience removes all traces of ambiguity and makes it easy to take objective management decisions based on data. This is especially useful for managers who shy away from confrontation and thus tend to avoid taking difficult decisions with respect to under-performing team members (to the detriment of the overall team). By the same token, it is also very useful for team members who hate having to constantly try to prove to their managers that they are really putting in their best efforts (thus improving their motivation levels).

Data (and analytics) provided by Sapience reduces the subjectivity in each one’s perception and narrows the gap between such perception and reality – get Sapience today to remove your blindfolds and see the elephant in all its glory!