A talent in the blind spot

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic


A few years ago, company "Fruit Blossom" hired a new employee named Jack. At first, Jack showed promise to become a big asset to the firm...

Submitted: September 10, 2017

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Submitted: September 10, 2017

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A talent in the blind spot

Imagine a fictional community known as "Orchard", where a tradition of apple production has dominated for long the local economic activities. An important profession in the area, one of high esteem, is that of apple picker. Picking apples is a skill which can only be mastered after successful completion of a dedicated training. In order to meet with success, a picking professional has to master certain competences. First, as apples are green likewise the foliage of the tree, it is quite a challenge to keep picking them until the last apple is found. An experienced professional knows how to look for the short shoots and to perform a targeted search. Doing this he will usually achieve a picking efficiency of >95%. Secondly it is most important to properly identify different apple varieties, this expertise can only be acquired by following a 3-year horticultural study with specialization in apple production.  Finally, the toughest aspect is the assessment of the ripening of the fruit.  In the past, several companies active in the region have developed guidelines and procedures, based on scientific experience. These have shown their merit in guaranteeing an acceptable ripe fruit picking accuracy. All apple picking personnel receives a yearly training and an internal audit system enables continuous improvement of the quality system.

A few years ago, company "Fruit Blossom" hired a new employee named Jack. At first, Jack showed promise to become a big asset to the firm. Although he did not possess the required certificates, he showed to be a quick learner. He showed like no one other before that he could completely empty apple trees. On top, he seemed to posses some sort of natural gift in distinguishing apple varieties. But... Jack was no talent at all in communicating. When asked to explain to his colleagues his way of working, he kept telling with a nonchalant attitude that picking of apples was no big fuss. On some occasions he addressed his audience with a technical and confusing story: "...different shades of green, not alike to the color of the leaves..." - nobody could make any sense of it.  After a while, small conflicts started to occur around Jack. He didn't seem to cope with neither guidelines, nor procedures. Somehow, he seemed convinced that his own way of working was more efficient. His colleagues caught him several times staring for minutes to a single tree, only to pick a handful of apples, way too few compared to the organization's expectations. On some days he didn't pick a single apple, instead he seemed to lose himself in low priority activities like pruning. "They're not quite ripe enough" was a much heard excuse. This continued for a couple of weeks until he was that much behind schedule that he had to perform working days of 14 hours or more during the last week of the picking season. It was close, but eventually he did meet his summer's end deadline. Jack was satisfied about his own work. After all, he had been able to finish it in due time and he had picked the apples when he thought them to be at their best.

Not long after, Jack received his evaluation. It was judged that his (quality) work was suffering badly of his compulsive need for perfection. He had failed to achieve intermediate quota during the season, which led to conflict with the rest of the team. Next to that, his learning of the company's policies was slow, which had already caught attention of higher management. Disappointed and full of disbelief, Jack lost his enthusiasm and openness to collaborate with the others. This behavior led to a negative spiral which would soon mean the end of his career.

In Orchard, where red-green color blindness was common amongst the population, nobody could relate to the young man and his rebel attitude. And Jack...  born in Orchard, was never taught to name the other green he observed. His wonderful view on the world remained invisible and it proved a too large obstacle for him in acquiring the, on the job much appreciated, visible competences.


© Copyright 2018 TJL Vermeiren. All rights reserved.

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