2 months ago
I want to ask men this question. Married men. Is there anything you actually want to learn from your wife? In the heart of your hearts – is there anything at all that you respect about her and think you could learn from? Do you actually think it might be,…
Guest post by VEENA VENUGOPAL
To me, the most memorable scene in Dev D is the one where Paro takes a mattress from home and ties it to her cycle. When she reaches the edge of the field, she abandons the cycle, lifts the mattress on her shoulder and marches to the clearing where she lays it down and waits for her lover. There are no words spoken and the camera holds her face close. Her expression is one of intense seriousness. You can see her desire is a field force of intensity that fuels every step. She is determined to see it through, to let that desire take over herself completely; not surrender to it but to let it explode out of her. You know that when she meets Dev, the sex would be passionate and powerful. And yet, in the south Delhi multiplex where I was watching the film, most of the audience burst into rapacious laughter. The women smiled embarrassedly at each other. Which made me wonder, why is female desire a laughing matter?
I thought back to the movie and that scene because even now, in the last seven weeks that we have been talking about sex, sexuality, power, passion and crime, we are still, yet to talk about female desire. In the conversations about rape that we have had, there have been infinite references to provocation. That if women dress a certain way, they are “asking for it.” To my mind, what this means is that men don’t know when we are really asking for it. Because if I was “asking for it”, it would be a lot more than showing cleavage, or leg. If I am asking for it, dude, you will know it.
When did desire become a male privilege? There is so little conversation about a woman’s desire for sex that a lot of people simply assume it doesn’t exist. A Times of India article last month starts with this surprising headline, Women too have high sex drive. Did you not know that? To my mind, understanding that there is such a thing as female desire is essential to knowing how we behave. There has, rightly, been a call for the Indian film industry, especially Bollywood, to introspect how it depicts its women. The whole “chhed-chhad” business, the near stalker-ish behavior that Hindi film heroes indulge in does influence how men on the streets behave. That it gives that boorishness credibility. And eventually, the girl succumbs. What is important to the girl, it suggests, is acceptance. She does not desire. She does not chase. She does not acknowledge, even to herself, that she wants this man. She gives in, relents, submits.
Truth is, female desire is as much a brute force as male desire. Sometimes it takes us by surprise, often we relent to it. Some of us take risks to indulge our desire. Some of us fight it, telling ourselves why this particular one is not good for us. It occurs to us just as randomly as it does to men. When we watch a movie, read a book, walk down the street, see someone hot, at the pub drinking, at the temple praying. Sometimes we fabricate it, filling our head with fantasies. Sometimes we deny it. Sometimes we fake it. Sometimes it’s a coiled spring. Sometimes it’s a warm breeze. But what is important for you to know is that we feel it. We know what it is.
In an early episode of Girls, one of the characters reads from a dating manual. “Sex from behind is degrading. He should want to look at your beautiful face,” she reads. To which the other asks, “what if I want something different? What if I want to feel like I have udders?” Because, you know, sometimes we do. In Saudi Arabia, where laughably a lot of people seem to think there are no rapes because women are “properly attired”, the intense segregation of the sexes makes us turn our desires to other women. Don’t believe me? Read Seba Al-Herz’s book, The Others. Because no matter what you believe, you can’t put a burqa on a thought or wrap a hijab around a feeling.
We probably don’t talk about what we desire enough. But we certainly think about it. So this will probably come as a surprise to you. When you proposition us, on the road, in the bus, or at a movie theatre, and we say no, we are not saying that we don’t feel any desire. We are simply saying that it’s not you who we desire.
(Veena Venugopal is a journalist in Delhi. She is the author of the book Would You Like Some Bread With That Book, published by Yoda Press in 2012. She is a contributing writer for Quartz and Mint.)
You’re at the table with the rest of your team, ready to brainstorm new ideas or plan the next product launch. Looking around, their faces are reassuring - you know this is a bunch of talented and experienced individuals. Working together you have the potential to achieve so much more than you ever could alone.
And yet … so often group work fails to deliver. Or worse, it leads to calamity.
History is littered with examples of disastrous group decisions leading to banking collapses, political crises, and commercial meltdowns. Thankfully, important research has been published over the last decade highlighting ways to avoid the pitfalls and maximize the promise of working together.
1. Note everyone’s initial ideas.
A fundamental strength of teams is that each person brings their own unique knowledge and perspective to the table. This is the crux of the classic “wisdom of crowds” effect first documented early in the last century – that is, the judgment of a group of people will usually be superior to the judgment of any individual in that group.
In a creative setting, this could apply to problems like estimating product sales or predicting project timelines. But crucially, this group wisdom effect only applies when each person’s input is kept independent and free of outside influence. A team of Swiss and Hungarian researchers showed this in 2011 – group wisdom was undermined when team members were given the chance to modify their initial answers based on feedback about what others had said.
Too much early interaction can also compromise idea generation in a group setting. Vocal, overconfident team members have a disproportionate influence while shy contributors lose faith in their own proposals. Whether seeking predictions or brainstorming ideas, you can largely overcome these problems by making sure team members write down and share their initial thoughts and ideas before group discussion begins. With everyone’s ideas or predictions on the table, only then start the interactive group work.Group wisdom was undermined when team members were given the chance to modify their initial answers.
2. Test drive the team.
Individual assessment is such a fundamental part of working life, yet we often take it for granted. If you want the best person for a job, you put the candidates through their paces to see who comes out on top. The basic assumption is that if they do well in the test context, they’ll also excel on future projects. It turns out the same principle applies to groups – U.S. researchers showed in 2010 that a team that does well in one situation will tend to do well on other challenges too.
This suggests you should test drive your creative teams, much as you would an individual. Related to this, it’s a mistake to think that putting together a bunch of skilled individuals will automatically create a gifted team. The same US study showed that a team’s average performance is not necessarily related to the individual intelligence of each member. Rather, group ability was enhanced by having team members who scored highly in “social sensitivity” (they were better at reading other people’s emotions). The research also found that groups with more female members performed above average, simply because women tended to be more socially sensitive.It’s a mistake to think that putting together a bunch of skilled individuals will automatically create a gifted team.
3. Mix up group membership.
Although effective teams have certain qualities that make it likely they’ll be successful on future challenges, there is a balance to be struck. If the same personnel always work together, there’s a risk of the group becoming insular and detached from reality – part of a process known as “Groupthink.” Often, instead of the group context leading to a balancing of opinions, a team’s judgment will become progressively polarized. Dissenters are sidelined and enthusiastic team members rally around an outspoken flag-bearer, one who holds a more extreme version of their own views.
In business, this can lead to unrealistic optimism and a dangerous stifling of skepticism within the group. A sure way to stop these processes from taking hold is to ensure there’s a periodic influx of fresh blood into the team. This is also good practice for sustaining creativity. Research shows that familiar teams feel friendlier and more creative, but it’s newly formed teams that often generate more and better ideas.
4. Conduct a pre-mortem.
After a failed product or expansion plan, it’s a familiar experience to read that the relevant company is conducting in-depth inquiries to find out how their experts could have made such misguided, unrealistic judgments. A common cause is that the companies’ project group grew so isolated and inward-looking, they forgot to factor in the effects of other competing companies making their own ambitious plans.Newly formed teams that often generate more and better ideas.
To help safeguard against the unrealistic optimism that often bedevils creative teams, decision-making expert Gary Klein recommends a technique called the pre-mortem – a form of “ritualized dissent”. Team members (working on their own initially) are asked to assume that their project has already met with disaster and to come up with reasons why. This fosters an atmosphere that values the input of those who have doubts and reservations. Most importantly, the technique highlights ways to strengthen the project plan before lift-off.
5. Pay attention to when.
Time spent on team activities doesn’t come free. All the while that your top people are sat around talking, planning and brainstorming, they’re obviously not at work busy doing what they do best – executing the ideas that are going to turn your project into a success. This means it’s vital to schedule intelligently and punctually. When US researchers surveyed 367 employees across a range of industries for a 2011 study, they found that perceptions of meeting quality weren’t related to the length of the meeting or the number of breaks, but to whether or not meetings started and ended on time.
If you only have one team session a week, consider Tuesdays at 3 p.m.: in 2009, the events-scheduling service When Is Good published an analysis of its client data, which showed people’s flexibility peaked at this time. Also, pay attention to your agenda – a study from the 90s found that decision-making groups allocated more time to earlier items, meaning that important items lower on the agenda were neglected.
If time is short, one sure way for keeping meetings efficient is to conduct them standing up. Research by management scholar Allen Bluedorn found that stand-up meetings were on average 34 percent shorter than the seated variety, with no cost in terms of decision quality.
Much of the evidence-based advice available for improving teamwork and group decision-making seems intuitive. Yet, in so many walks of life, from board meetings to jury deliberations, the five principles above are ignored, allowing pushy personalities to dominate and bad reasoning to thrive. Teamwork can lead to shrewd decisions and flourishing creativity, but only if you pay attention to the social psychology that comes into play in a group setting.
What’s Your Take?
How does your team work best?
I started this project on September 9, 2011, and over a year later I compiled a list of 50 rules for my future son. These are “rules” in a very loose sense, and are mostly tongue and cheek, but others are more serious. Some are well-written, some are badly-written; however, they’re all written with the intention of my future son (or daughter, frankly) having a compilation of things I wanted to tell him before he existed.
This project was largely inspired by blog-turned-book “Rules for my Unborn Son,” which I think is a hilarious read in itself. However, the work left some stuff to be desired, and I wanted to make my own version of it, for my own son. While 50 articles is hardly enough for a book, and these letters are hardly of the highest quality, I had fun doing this nonetheless.
[Edit: I’ve gotten a lot of grief through email as a result of this series about how I’m too restrictive, I should let my child be who they are, and whatnot. This is not a list prohibitions and permissions, and if you only read the headlines I can see why one would believe it’s so. Rather, this list contains certain principles and ideas that are more important than the brief title atop them. It’s these principles and ideas that are important to me, not the “rules” themselves. One can learn the principle, “Be nice to foodservers,” without actually following the rule about working in foodservice for a year. One can learn the principle, “The quickest method is not always the best method,” without following the rule about shaving properly. The point of these rules is to encompass these principles in real-world applications, not to prematurely set boundaries and restrictions on a child who doesn’t yet exist.]
Without further ado, here is a full list of my first 50 rules for my future son:
Thank you for your support over these 50 rules, and I can’t wait to make a second index after my next 50. Enjoy.