Big and fanciful

I learned yesterday that our conference complex can host 51 conferences at the same time, from small board meetings with 12 people to large events for as many as 3000 people in one room. Whoever came up with the concept for this place is a smart business man (or woman) and probably exceedingly rich by now.

The operations are smooth. The management clearly has invested much in staff development and empowerment. The staff is very friendly and responsive. Several people are assigned to support our workshop. In the morning a young man or woman shows up looking for the facilitator and then goes over the day with me – to make sure they are ready for our breaks. Then Mr. Lucky, presumably their supervisor, shows up to make sure I am happy and, I suppose, to make sure the underlings are doing their tasks correctly.  One of the underlings is a young girl who has ‘learner’ printed on her name tag. I asked her what she was learning: to serve you. She is.

Next to our room the senior management of a research company is holding a meeting. A slide show called ‘Way Forward’ was left on the screen during the lunch break. The concluding slide read: Change our organizational culture and then a bullet point below it explaining how they were planning to do that: Create a culture of obedience and the following of rules. I wish them luck.

This morning, on the way to the gigantic breakfast hall (only seen before in China) I walked by several conference rooms that had their occupants for the day announced on their doors: the Promotion Boxing team, the Management Lubrication Systems team. In the breakfast hall I found the ‘Do Not Harm’ team from the state-owned electricity and utility company. They were wearing jackets and baseball caps (the men) and coveralls (the women). The women wore the team’s objectives on the back of their coveralls, printed in large letters. That is how I learned what ‘do no harm’ meant: reduce injuries on the job; prevent fatalities, and a few other things that related to Safety First – old wine in new bottles. The men did not advertise their objectives.

Last night we went out for a celebratory dinner in a restaurant called Tribe, a carnivore kind of place. It is located in a gigantic entertainment complex (not far from our giant conference complex) that appears to be inspired by Las Vegas. You enter into a place that is permanently bathed in daylight – a condition created by a faux blue-with-some-clouds-sky painted on the ceiling. It’s a weird sensation when you come in from a dark outside as it looks but does not feel like it’s daytime again.

Insight are streets and avenues that pass by shops and restaurants, named and designed to make you feel as if you are in Brazil, Italy, France or deepest darkest Africa. A larger than life sized faux Michelangelo’s David was placed centrally in a faux Italian fountain. It was a slightly adapted version as David was wearing a large shawl covering most (but not all) of his private parts. I wondered whether this was his winter outfit or the response to a ‘no-nudity’ policy.

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July 2012
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