Fake it until?

As much as some mass media suggest honesty and genuine manners, this world keeps getting amusing at times. The recent joke around the sign language interpreter standing right next to world leaders during Mandela’s memorial service last week is both alarming and yet (granted, this may sound cynical) ordinary. Stories on protocol’s failures or mishaps are endless, regardless of the VIP level and the surrounding security measures. I have both witnessed and been a victim of it, while I was partly responsible for protecting a defined perimeter: it feels everything but great. Sarah Britten’s article nails the very point of this hypnosis-like tactic: eloquence.

Mastering a language and playing with its words, defying some intellectual consciences is an art in itself, and it is beautiful. That is not faking. Using this mastery with a disrespectful intent towards the audience is (as well as abusive). Some may see that as a marketing approach, to sell an idea, a skill or a product. Being in supply chain management, I tend to plan for the “what if” scenarios, looking for the little breaches before delivering a project: cracks in what potential service or product providers want to sell me. Google is not enough. Sitting behind a computer looking for information, sending and responding to emails certainly seems safe: it just does not cut it.

Bad choices make good stories, in South Africa and everywhere else. They also teach, hopefully, a lesson. Sometimes anyway. Working towards a strong guanxi is charming, reaching it is rare (depending on everybody’s definition of business, of course). Maybe that sign language interpreter was doing someone a favour, or that someone was a bit blind by his command of language: how ironic. All these words smoking one person’s ability (or capacity?) to choose to pursue and commit to a kind of contract: I am impressed.

Because I have been caught being drawn to stylish presentations in the past, and managed to pull them off before any unforeseen damageable consequences were to fail a project, I have shifted to the more incredulous side: still optimistic and… vigilant. It costs much less than repairing what insurance companies logically charge for. Learning to deal with any kind of facade has become essential in planning a project, no matter what the exposure is. It is a question of accountability, and reputation too. I get that being professional does not always require being fluent in a language, it sure helps. Speaking SAP, InDesign or Braille might be a bit more difficult to fake: you know or you do not. Risk avoidance, and, if necessary, damage control, have been on my logistics list for many years now. That being said, I am not holding my breath until another Rudy Kurniawan gets discovered.

Photo credit © PiersFearick – “Fake Santa”