Even though I was just at a barcamp a few weeks ago, I couldn’t pass up the chance to attend TDWCamp yesterday, a barcamp for web workers organized by Olivier Chambon, author of the blog Travailleurs du Web. I wanted to mingle with some of Web Worker Daily‘s audience, and to hear from them firsthand about their interests, needs and concerns. And besides, it’s always gratifying to meet and exchange with people who understand your way of life… We web people are still on the fringe. For the time being.
GTD was a hot topic. One of the participants pointed out how very anglo-saxon the whole concept is, and a few of us had a brief discussion about why French web workers might have a hard time implementing GTD practices. You see, Americans are culturally conditioned to categorize things with ease and to act quickly and efficiently (with minimal reflection). That can be a good thing or a very bad thing, but that’s what GTD is all about. The French, on the other hand, are heavily into reflection.
Pascal Baudry captures the essence of the cultural phenomenon that allows us Americans to get things done in his book French and Americans: The Other Shore (available in French and English):
American culture is a binary one. Within its context, a statement must be either true or false. Americans are quite uncomfortable with nuances of gray, whereas the French thrive and even delight in the oceans of ambiguity that they purposely preserve. In fact, Americans are mentally wired in such a way that, when placed in a situation of uncertainty, they will create a new sub-category within which a statement will be either true or false. If that result has still not been achieved, a new sub-sub-category will be created, and so on, until the final taxonomy is a completely binary one.
So, when the GTD group seemed to be seeking concrete answers and specific instructions for implementing GTD, I told them it was mostly a question of mentality, knowing full well that this would be their biggest challenge. But this web generation is mentally flexible, and the web is the ultimate melting pot, so maybe it won’t be so hard for them after all.