The 69 position and its power to propel careers and promote world peace

The natural arch phenomenon

During one of my office lunches, I and my colleagues from France, US, UK and Mexico (I was Indian) were sharing a lot of jokes and interesting stories. Suddenly, one of the French guys opened his laptop and showed us this sketched picture of a natural arch and asked us what it was (this is not the exact one, but it was something similar)

The British guy confidently told that it was the Dorset beach of UK. The Mexican thought that it looked like the Arch of Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. My American colleague was of the opinion that it was somewhere on the beaches of California. My French colleague who popped up the question then turned onto me. And saw me grinning! I was confident that they had got it all wrong as I knew the correct answer. I proudly said, “It’s Étretat and it’s not far from our office; just about 30 minutes’ drive”.

Then the French guy showed us this picture from Google on his way to give us the answer. And lo! To my pleasure and the others’ amazement, it was indeed Étretat.

And then he googled further, this time on the answers that were given by my other colleagues, and showed us a few more pictures. This time around it was my turn to be amazed!

This was UK’s Dorset beach — the answer given by my British colleague

This was Mexico’s Arch of Cabo San Lucas — the answer that came from my Mexican colleague

And this was the American colleague’s version — The Natural Bridge on the beaches of California

So, whose answer was the correct one and who got it wrong? All of them now look similar if compared to the sketched picture.

The fact is: all of us were correct!

“It’s like the number 69”, my Mexican colleague said. “If you and I stand opposite to each other and I write down number 6 on a paper, from the opposite side it will appear as number 9 to you. We are both right from our respective positions”

He was absolutely correct. We were all looking at the picture from our individual perspectives; from what we were exposed to in our lives till that point of time. Although from a chopper view we were all on different pages, from each one of our vantage points, we were all correct. This exposes the great importance of seeing an issue from others’ perspectives.

69’s tremendous power to propel us in our careers

This simple yet powerful activity opened my mind to a whole new perspective. My mind guiltily flashed back to all those situations in my life when I had criticized someone or misunderstood someone or flew off the handle just because the other guy was not on my page. At the same time it laid in front of me an amazingly vast range of possibilities that could help me in improving myself and my career.

  • Flexibility: Appreciating and understanding this 69 phenomenon can develop our flexibility to a great degree. Deeply ingrained in our cultural roots, values and ways of working that may have led to our previous successes; we may end up being too rigid with our own ideas and methods whereas the other person’s ideas perhaps are far better. This was one of the key reasons behind Euro Disney’s initial failure in Paris because the Disneyland group directly applied their American way of management without considering the intricacies of the French way of working.
  • Diversity/Working in a multicultural team: I work with people from different cultures and countries. And people from different cultures may have different accents, different working styles and different ways to approach a problem. If we are not patient enough and if we do not appreciate this diversity factor we will never be able to work constructively in an international or multicultural team. And the pace at which the world is getting globalized, the sooner we learn this, the better.
  • Clear communication: To avoid falling into the 69 trap we need to make sure that we and our audience are on the same page. If I am talking about Étretat, I need to make sure that my audience understands that it is definitively Étretat that I am talking about and not about Dorset, or the California beach. Otherwise it will result in serious inefficiencies and accidents in our projects. So, confirm and reconfirm whether the guy on the other side has understood you clearly or not and vice-versa. In today’s virtual working environments, this is the key to success. Read my article on communication skill that I learnt from a barber
  • Putting oneself in other’s shoes: The 69 phenomenon has taught me the importance of viewing a situation from others’ perspective and accordingly market a product or a service or ourselves. For example, I consider my international experience as my strength. But it may not be so for a particular job. So, in the interview it is better not to brag about my international experience and rather focus on what the interviewer is really looking for. Or imagine designing a software or website from the user experience perspective!

And it’s power to make the world a better place

Today, if we look at issues like terrorism, violence, and racism, it all arguably boils down to one single factor and that is intolerance. Intolerance towards the other person’s religion, his eating habits, his culture, his way of wearing clothes, his sexual preference (I am not taking any stand on LGBT here, but I do not support violence against them) etc.

Drinking in certain religions is prohibited; drinking in my social culture is not considered that proper, but in the French society having wine is deeply rooted into their culture. It’s our number 6, but their number 9 and we need to understand that (and vice versa).

This is the reason I love the number 69. It has the power to help us become a more flexible person, a more considerate person and a more tolerant person. Let’s strive to understand that we all have our respective natural arches. Let’s appreciate the diversity. Let’s find out a way to make peace.