Circles, Lines or Triangles

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A guest post by Sarah/USA.
In looking at what CISV has taught us, I think the way of acting within a group, like facilitation, and leadership skills, are at the top.  But then, what happens when you are in an environment where those skills are not helpful?  Of course, being able to work in a group is important in all settings, but in different ways.  At the moment in my work (in a New York law firm), I am expected to work in a group which I'll call a "line" -  each person as a hierarchy above the other so that if you drew the structure it would be a line (or, if it makes more sense, steps with one person on each step).  In that setting, the newer you are to the job, the less your leadership and facilitation is helpful - in fact, the better thing is to follow.  This is a very difficult situation for me as a CISVer, since I am more used to contributing ideas, making sure everyone is heard, and focusing on the end product.  Instead, I am having to "un-learn" some of the CISV methods in order to be good at my job. 
So I have been wondering whether CISV can make it harder than it might otherwise be to succeed in bureaucratic settings which, for many of us, is necessary at the beginning of a career even if it won't be the future. 
I asked some CISVers who have had what I'll call structural roles in CISV as well as program roles. Carla from Costa Rica has also noticed some of the same re-learning process in her jobs working at the department of education and culture at the OAS and now at the education division at the inter-american development bank.  But she has been able to make small changes to the setting - even organizing "national night" lunches! 
I mentioned this question to Teo from Italy, who is in business school here in New York.  He disagreed - to a point.  Even though he is in a corporate setting, business works differently from law.  He usually works in a group like a triangle - lots of people at the bottom and fewer as you go toward the top.  In that setting, being able to facilitate the work of your peer group, as well as the other skills, helps the product be successful and might help you stand out from that group and thus move up the pyramid.  (This is what I remember of what he said anyhow - maybe he can add more). 
Then James from the USA (who started a new business these last few years) weighed in that maybe it doesn't matter, because none of us really want to be successful in that environment anyway - but want to use it as a learning environment before moving on.  So perhaps we shouldn't change our ways, but only change to a new environment as soon as feasible?
As we look at the idea of what CISV teaches and focus a lot on the ASK model and other things - it is interesting to look at where CISVers are 10 or 20 or more years after doing programs, JB, etc. and whether maybe CISV works very well in preparing people for some types of lives or jobs but doesn't help them too much in others.  So to people in other work settings outside of CISV - what CISV skills do you think are really useful for helping you succeed at your job?  Are there any that you've had to "unlearn"?  Do you think the group dynamics of your work matters so much in the end, or is it the subject matter that CISV impacts more? 

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I don't think you have to unlearn your "CISV-skills", but transfer them into your new situation:

- Whereas many of us have experienced a leadership position in CISV, in our early professional careers we usually start at the bottom.
- In CISV creativity, trying out new things, challenging authority (of people or "dogmas") and pushing the limits was usually cherished, this is often not so in a real job.
- Implications of change in the "real world" are usually more dramatic as in CISV, therefore more caution is necessary.

In my own experience, being a "junior doctor" in a huge, fairly hierarchical institution I've also often felt that the stuff learned in CISV is of little or no use, so I can clearly see your point, Sarah: Values in my job include being subordinate, following existing rules and procedures and leaving leadership to others.

Sarah, this is great! I especially like the title of the post.

Right now I'm a student, but before coming to graduate school I used to have a job in clinical research. Even though I did not have to "unlearn" many CISV skills (but also did not have to use them a lot because of the nature of the job), my boss always thought that I was very cool because I presented nice-looking documents, was an efficient email writer/responder (I used bolded phrases and bullet points, haha) and could solve small annoying things like scheduling problems through Doodle. All these skills, even if they are not the "core" of what I have learned in CISV, I got from working within the organization and have helped me be a more effective worker.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick published on November 9, 2009 5:19 PM.

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