By | Ganesh Chella | Co-founder and Managing Director – CFI
I am with a team of managers in a workshop and the subject of discussion is “having conversations with your team members”.
The managers agree that they will have conversations with their team members. But then they want a template from me for that. What questions should I ask? What should I tell them when I invite them for a discussion? Can you give us a template please?
I am talking to an HR Manager about his writing an approach paper to his Manager about a new initiative. After listening to me he asks, “Can you give me a template?”
I have been visiting this salon for my hair cut for well over three years. The same receptionist has been booking my appointment and greeting me everytime I arrive. But she does not remember my name and asks for my mobile number every single time. Unable to hold myself, I asked her why she was finding it so hard to recognise me or remember my name. Her innocent and spontaneous answer was, “Sir, all your details are in the system”.
If you ask anyone today to write, to document, to present anything they are likely to ask you for a template.
Why have we become a template generation?
Why is it that no one wants to think, to apply their mind and struggle a little bit and create something on their own and of course make a few mistakes?
Well the most obvious culprit who stole an entire generation of cognitive abilities is the computer and all its easy to use software.
You want to write a letter, craft a CV, create a presentation or do any cognitive task of the lowest level of difficulty, there is always a template to help. Sure, template have their value but at a price.
The next big culprit is the organisation that had ambitions of scaling at low cost and therefore saw the need to de-skill jobs, create reusable tools and templates. Sure, it helped achieve scale and standardisation but at the cost of stealing an entire generation for the need to flex their thinking muscles.
Then of course we have the World Wide Web. It holds answers to anything in the world including of course templates for everything in life.
The fact that one can access a template to perform any task calling for even the smallest level of cognitive ability allows people to engage with those tasks with minimum attention. On the other hand, because one has templates for everything, one can easily multitask as one engages with these tasks – one can text, listen to music, chat and even eat.
What templates have robbed us of is not just the need to think but also the spirit of inquiry, the joy of researching something, the warmth of connecting with others to discover, dialogue and create something new.
Templates have also robbed people of their ability to be original, to create, to stand out.
Templates have also led people to believe that all answers lie outside of them.
The culture of templatisation does imply that a few people will do all the thinking and all others will simply act. Perhaps there is an assumption that it is inefficient for so many people (especially in an organisation) to think.
Unfortunately, the very same organisations that popularise templates also ask their employees to be innovative. Unfortunately, these employees struggle to innovate and hope you will give them a template for that!