I”m someone who loves the new and novel. My preferences in the arts tend toward adventurous and experimental. I try to perform jazz, an improvisational art form, and I sometimes use theater improv in my work.
But here I am walking the streets of Moscow (something I love to do when I first visit a city), and feeling a bit uneasy. I walk aimlessly, so far so good, and then I check my map. The map is written in Western type and the street signs use the Cyrillic alphabet. There seems to be no link between the two. I come to a huge center for the arts. This should be catnip for me, but I can’t tell if this is the Moscow Center for the Arts, the Bolshoi, or what. I see pictures of artists, but I can’t read the announcements. Who is performing? What are they performing? When will these events happen? Not a clue. In other cities I find familiar words or even snippets of words that allow me to begin to make sense of what I am seeing.
I continue walking and notice how some excitement builds as I see a McDonald’s sign. (Really, I am not making this up.) Or an ad for Nokia. Or a Starbucks sign. My eyes open wide when I see words on a sign in English, “Terrace Open.” I find that I scan the environment for what is familiar and spend less time focusing on what’s novel.
I find this search for the familiar frustrating, funny, and ironic. It’s as if once I figure out what’s playing tonight, I’ll know significantly more about this new environment.
Thinking about this focus on the familiar begins to lessen my need to seek out every sign that I recognize. I grow less interested in the Britney Spears poster announcing a show and pay more attention to the posters that are unusual. Whew.
Makes me think about the focus of this blog (change management) and how this might relate to what I yammer on about. Stay tuned.