Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Work and the Culture of Crossing an Asian Street


Traffic and pedestrian flow in Asia is very different than what we’re used to in most of America.

We step into traffic. Traffic stops. From every direction. We don’t have to worry about crosswalks or curbs or sidewalks. A pedestrian in the road has the expectation that traffic will stop. We will get our way. Should we get hit, it’s the fault of the driver. Never pedestrian responsibility.

Step and go. Everyone will stop. You can walk lazily and unimpeded. No challenge. Everyone arrives.

Everyone gets a trophy.

In most of Asia it’s not this way way at all.

Street-crossing is a calculated dance, navigating a cacophony of tuk-tuks, bicycles, motorbikes, alongside the occasional car or truck. It’s like live Frogger. In the busiest of cities, there is the occasional (and mostly optional) traffic light with a pedestrian crossing. But in the little central-Cambodian town I’m currently visiting, it’s about the art.

Anyone who tries to cross streets here with the expectation of stopping traffic is in for a rude awakening, and some bewildered horn-honking.

One method isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s about street-crossing culture, really. I’m not sure there are any more or few incidents of pedestrian casualties either way.

Operate within the culture.

Our work is a little different. We have to make our own culture.

Sometimes work flows unimpeded. Traffic stops. We’re in the zone. We arrive without challenge to the other side.

But, I’ve found most work projects more closely align with street-crossing in Asia. It requires calculation and risk. Creativity and cooperation.

You do arrive on the other side, heart-beating and harried, but wiser and ready for the next challenge.

Working without expectations of stopping traffic leads to more creativity for working within what often feels like convoluted systems. Within the culture.

Achieving goals.

Making a difference.