The system for allocating a taxi to respond to a call relies on a seven second window. When the job comes in, the person in the office who takes the call types it into the system and hits ‘go’. The computer then allocates it to the first free taxi in the cue. If you don’t hit the ‘accept’ button within seven seconds, then it goes to the next taxi, and so on until someone gets there in time. All this i learnt this morning from my taxi driver, who was in his late fifties and somewhat anxious about change.
The gadget fitted in his cab was quite large, about the size of a bag of flour, and covered in buttons, none of which he knew how to work, except the ‘accept’ button. As he explained, this was the only important one: the others were all superfluous and, in this happy state of ignorance, he has worked and earned his living for many years. Until this week that is, when they are replacing it with a new, smaller, better, faster and (in his view) more complex gadget.
He was going from dropping me off to the office to have a twenty minute training session on how to use the new device, a session that he was viewing with the utmost suspicion. ‘I hate learning’, he kept saying, not referring to the process of picking up new knowledge i feel, but rather to the change that came with it.
‘What about my paper’? This sat at the crux of the issue. You see, to get your newspaper, you have to leave the cab for more than seven seconds, meaning you might miss out on a job. How to these short absences on the new system was at the heart of his anxiety (expressed as frustration). Indeed, he explained that he had nearly taken the week off to avoid the whole changeover process, but had reasoned that at least this way he would be in the same situation as everyone else, instead of coming back cold to a world that had changed.
The driver’s responses to change and to the need to learn, not to mention his desire to do it in company rather than behind the curve, are all interesting, speaking as they do in microcosm of many learning situations.
Within our learning methodology we talk about ‘context’, understanding the everyday reality of learners, and this is a great example: the cabbie’s reality was around buying a newspaper and hitting the ‘accept’ button. Conversations about IT infrastructure and what the competition were up to were of little interest. His reality was formed around being able to respond in a timely manner, that’s all. He had a variety of tips and cheats for being able to do so, honed over time. Anything done to change the system was, almost by definition, done to frustrate him.
The desire to stick out the week and learn with others, even though he hated doing it, also speaks of something we often feel, that you’re less likely to look like a fool if nobody else knows what they’re up to either. Worse to come back next week and be the only kid in the playground who doesn’t know the rules to the cool new game.
Interesting also that most of his frustration was expressed as a hatred of ‘learning’, whilst in fact, it was a fear of change, of the moving of the boundaries. Of making it harder to buy a paper and keep your place in the queue. When we are involved in change, it’s always valuable to consider how we are disturbing the everyday reality of everyone involved, and how real and challenging that change can be.