Yes or no?

I wanted to share a personal experience of mine that happened a few months ago.

I was connected to a group of local university students who were doing a module related to Organisational Behaviour. They had some questions about how we as a company made decisions, what the processes were like, and what I think could be improved about some of it.

I don’t exactly remember the questions, but mostly I remembered answering like this: “It depends, because …”

And what I noticed was that whenever I finished answering their question, they would say: “Ok, we understand where you are coming from, but could you please just also give us a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question?”

It struck me then, on how much of what we’ve gone through in our education system still puts us in a binary, multiple-choice world. How we were trained to have only 1 correct answer in selecting (a), (b), (c) or (d). How we expect that things would be as easy as a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

In reality, it doesn’t work like that. Issues and decisions are rarely that straightforward. For example, do I think that the working processes in the company is great today? “Well, it depends. Working with team A is smoother because of X, Y, Z. However, working with team B poses some difficulties that could be better managed because of P, Q, R.”

Except in Science and Math (and moral values), I am not a hardcore believer of having right and wrong answers. It’s a matter of trade-offs, and it is about people’s own personal beliefs, and values, that shape why they think one approach / idea is better than the other. Does one think Mark Zuck’s stance on Trump’s social media posts was right? It depends; for freedom of speech, or to prevent the promotion of use of violence from a political leader? (I am no expert in this matter but I suppose I can have my own views)

I don’t think our education system is bad. It has its merits. But I feel expecting rigid and structured responses to questions that don’t have a straightforward answer results in a mismatch of expectations, especially as students graduate to the working world. And I think our education system could better afford allowing students to express their point of view in a more fluid, less binary manner. But I also understand that going toward that direction will mean that it’s very subjective to what the professors perceive, and it makes it harder to assign a fair grade to the students.

See? It’s not always black and white. And that is life.