Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm not very pragmatic (duh)

I'm wondering if I'm ever going to be worthwhile...

I am finishing the free lectures from the history class "Modern Physics: From The Atom to Big Science" taught by Dr. Cathryn Carson @ UC Berkeley. It's the history of physics, basically.

The latest class I listened to was on the history of physics education in the U.S. In particular, research. She noted that from the 1940s (when the U.S. really started offering post-graduate physics) to the 1980s, research (both in the classroom and at G.E., Bell Labs, etc.) was on speculative, futurical ideas. Then it all changed and physicists had to accomplish short-term successes (fix this problem in 18 months or create this new technology in 12 months).

Amazingly, without bemoaning the fact, Dr. Carson stated that the U.S. has been, since it's inception, very pragmatic. While we may think of ourselves as "cutting edge" we are only so when it has immediate benefit. The labs at G.E. and others drastically changed when quarterly stock-value became the deciding mark of a successful product.

Then I was talking to a guy who does sales from a company like Cisco where the product is very complex and it usually takes 12 to 18 months for a sale to complete. What is he supposed to do when the Sales Manager says, "Profits were down last quarter, we need to sell more!"? How can he turn even a 12-month sales-cycle into a profit in 4 months?!?!?

So here's where I fear I'm not going to be worthwhile... I'm strongly inclined to see eventual gain. For example, if Home Depot goes back to treating its customers well (which I believe they are trying to do), I think they will eventually gain back much of the market they lost to Lowes.

If more people meet more Christians who aren't fully-obnoxious about their religion, eventually people will have a new understanding of Christians and, even better, of The Christ.
If more people grow up around more Christians who deeply love God and others, eventually this will become 'the norm.'

At least that's what my eyes see.

So what do I do in a country/culture that is so pragmatic? Do I try to 'sell' what I see to those who are pragmatic? Do I try to give them glasses or binoculars? Do I try to change their pragmatism?!? Do I use metaphors I don't really care for like 'being balanced' (balance of pragmatism and long-term investment)?

Even worse, I sometimes see a win-win in which pragmatic decisions are made based on both short- and long-term goals. Is it possible for someone to see the benefit of both-and when they can't (barely) see 'the other' side?

But what pragmatic person is going to even have a conversation about long-range thinking?

Am I in the wrong part of the sandbox?

No comments: