Ironically, as we come into closer contact with each other, the pressure to "produce” compels us to compress time and to take too many shortcuts in our communication with each other. This often results in our pushing people away from us rather than bringing them closer.

 

 

 

 

 

I define multi tasking as the ability to hold a business conversation with the boss, conduct a telephone conference call, work on a computerized spreadsheet, and chew gum all at the same time. It is physically and mentally impossible to take on such a range of tasks simultaneously, yet so many people feel pressured to do so.

 


Magazine
Fall/Winter 1999

Sam Kazdan ’71
communications consultant,
President, Strategic Training Systems
Bloomington, IN


What 20th century event has had the most significant impact on your profession or field of study? What lesson do you take away from that event?

From my vantage point as a trainer, curriculum developer, educator, and business owner, I don't feel there is any single 20th century event that has influenced the training and development industry. Instead, I see a series of economical, political, and technological events that have triggered global changes in the ways in which we communicate with each other. This is especially so in the corporate business setting and in our use of English as the preferred global business language.

Ironically, as we come into closer contact with each other, the pressure to "produce” compels us to compress time and to take too many shortcuts in our communication with each other. This often results in our pushing people away from us rather than bringing them closer.

For instance, it wasn’t that long ago that letter writing was considered an art—an elegant art at that. Today, when I go into American companies to assist employees with their writing skills, especially those who have a technical background, I see these shortcuts highlighted, especially in their e-mail writing. Many of these language time savers are triggered by time limitations when clients a half a world away say, "I need it immediately!"

When I talk to these business writers about completing their thoughts so their domestic and foreign readers won’t misinterpret or distort their messages, I often hear, "I don’t have the time to write complete thoughts in my e-mail messages. I have 30 other messages to respond to!” In too many instances, these shortcuts send the wrong tonal cues and are interpreted as rudeness or American aggressiveness.

This issue of time compression also compels many employers to search for those individuals who can perform "multi-tasking.” I define multi tasking as the ability to hold a business conversation with the boss, conduct a telephone conference call, work on a computerized spreadsheet, and chew gum all at the same time. It is physically and mentally impossible to take on such a range of tasks simultaneously, yet so many people feel pressured to do so. I become tired just watching them.

I do see a number of bright spots, especially in my consulting work with Indiana clients. For instance, I am participating in curriculum development projects where some of my clients in the manufacturing environment are working hard to develop the skill and knowledge sets of their workers through programs that integrate college-level classes with on-the-job experience.

In another instance, I am assisting a client who wants to develop high school programs that will help students make a transition into the construction industry and provide the means for them to continue their studies on the college level. I find these developments refreshing, innovative, and long overdue.

What is the most meaningful life lesson you've learned from your vocation or avocation?

The most meaningful life lesson I have learned: Once I have set my goals and decided upon the course of action that is right for me, I will not give up until I have attained or surpassed that goal. I have also learned that there are many different points of entry to realizing my goals. Some of these entrances are risky, but after examining them, they are usually worth the risk.

What mentors had the most significant impact on your life?

I have been fortunate enough to have a number on mentors in my life. As I look back at my Wabash experience, I recognize how much influence Dr. Walter Fertig from the English Department and Professor John Fischer from the Classics Department had on me. They both spent a considerable amount of their time showing me how excellent teachers really do make a difference in the lives of their students by using humor and challenging them to reach beyond what these individuals see as their limits. They modeled the teaching and communication styles that I have used so often in my own college teaching and consulting work. They are part of what makes Wabash College such a unique environment for learning and experimenting.

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