There are many problems in the world.
Water shortage and contamination.
Hunger and poverty.
Lack of access to quality education.
When one is compassionate, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the human suffering and seeming intractability of these problems.
However, when one’s cognitive style is mostly analytical it is easy to avoid working on such complex problems since their magnitude is beyond any individual’s ability to solve them.
So, it is easy to adopt the attitude of “why bother?”
The sweet spot is to find the balance between the two. Emotion and Reason. Compassion and Analysis.
While individuals are naturally more inclined to prefer one cognitive dimension rather than the other, we are all a blend of both. The challenge is developing a balance within ourselves or within our systems to provide that balance.
I was inspired to read the story in the Oakland University (OU) news about Esosa Ekhoragbon, from Nigeria who moved to Michigan to pursue his master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering.
Currently, he is working in an Applied Wireless and Electromagnetic lab at OU, which “includes both an outdoor antenna range and an indoor antenna anechoic chamber used to test car antennas” according to Patrick Dunn’s article.
As you may know, modern auto antennae are necessary for more than simply catching your favorite tune on FM radio. It is used to transmit and receive data for GPS and phone as well.
Clearly, Mr. Ekhoragbon has impressive analytical skills that enable him to utilize the rigorous protocols necessary to test and improve the products to ensure that the communication the consumer demands is high quality.
Yet, he is not simply content on using his analytical tools to solve this technological communication challenge.
His heart won’t let him.
Coming from Nigeria, he witnessed suffering first hand on a level that we in the United State are often exposed to only through media.
Compassion allowed him to feel with those suffering and realize that he must act.
From the article:
But as in Nigeria, he’s also noticed broader social challenges – and works to address them. At home, he volunteered with the Girl-LEAD Project, which provides much-needed entrepreneurial education to young Nigerian women, as well as AIESEC, an international youth-run organization that provides young people with leadership development skills, and ImpactLabs Nigeria, a program that works with students to develop engineering solutions for targeted communities. And he spent his spring break helping homeless people in Los Angeles’ Skid Row as a volunteer with OU’s International Oasis program.
“Coming from a developing country, we have lots of problems, too. I see these things every day,” Ekhoragbon says. “But in America, some people don’t believe things like that exist. Being able to go [to Skid Row] and see for myself what was happening, I was able to do something and contribute to an extent.
While he likely won’t solve them all, doing something is an important first step.
And an inspiration for all of us- how do we integrate our compassion and analytical thinking to solve a problem?
Questions for Discussion
- What does “intractability” mean?
- Are you more compassionate or more analytical? How can you develop your skills in your less developed cognitive style?
- What is an anechoic chamber? How would one create one?
- What are some immediate problems in your community that you can use your personal skills to make a difference?
To read more about the great organization Impact Labs, which provides support for engineers who want to solve social problems. Read more about them here.
For more information about Esosa Ekhoragbon, please read Patrick Dunn’s article here.
Have you taken the 1000 Word a Day Reading Challenge yet? If you want to join me in encouraging everyone you know to read at least 1000 words a day this year- then read this post.