Greater Good vs. Individual Ambitions

Today I want to ask you a question – are you in something for the greater good, or are you in it for yourself? If the latter, would you admit it? Don’t be offended, it’s an interesting and valid question.

As most of you know, I have been participating in this month.

I get the sense, from corresponding with, and from reading the work of most of the bloggers, that most of the people who are participating are good, decent people who truly have a desire to help others. I am sure that’s what motivated them to become “self-help” practitioners in the first place!

Before I became a coach, I was in the field of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for 20 years. GIS people tend to think differently than most other people.  In general geographers tend to think of others more than themselves, tend to think spatially, and long-term (vs. short term) and see the whole picture, because they realize that everything is connected. That is really rare. As a member of the GIS community, I know that most people who got into the field of GIS are kind-hearted people who did so with the intention of helping to make the world a better place, because GIS software is an extremely useful decision support tool in this regard.

GIS people are not only smart, but they share knowledge, technology, solutions, and ideas. This is not true in other career fields – think about politics and how cutthroat it is – in general, there is a lot of short-term thinking and “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) mentality. Many people run for Congress now because it is such a cushy deal! Congress has an exclusive retirement plan (they don’t participate in Social Security), and access to elite medical care. In politics, an enemy today is a friend tomorrow. Not many politicians consider the consequences of their actions and what those actions will do to the next generation.  A lot is done for short-term gain rather than considering the long-term effects of policies. I would say that politics is at odds with GIS! I also know from my own experience, that most women tend to be more collaborative and supportive of each other (in most cases!), which is one reason I decided to become a women’s business coach.

So, now I ask you:

What career field or profession are you in?

What have you seen, from your experience?

Are the people in your field in it for the greater good, or are they in it for their own individual ambitions? (give some examples)

What about doctors? Are they in it to help people or for the money? How about for both reasons? Is there anything wrong with that?

Let me hear from you!

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3 Responses to Greater Good vs. Individual Ambitions

  1. Robert Young says:

    Great observation and blog post Karen.
    I am in GIS for both reasons and wonder what in the world the rest of the land surveyors are not much more involved.
    I know that I have given up a great deal and continue to alienate folks within my own companies as I insist that GIS is a MUST for all projects that my company is involved in whether the client wants a GIS product or not.
    I am in a very spatial business, land surveying and continue to be amazed at how little fire is in the hearts of many of the folks in the land surveying profession with when it comes to GIS. The bottom line of business it is much more profitable to create and use my own GIS than not to.
    Baskin-Robins ice cream is in business because it offers 31 flavors, and probably not many people like all of the flavors they offer. We are going to have differing opinions on many things especially since we still live in a free society and are encouraged to think for ourselves. That being said, when it comes to GIS, it just does not make sense to me that land surveyors would not want to use the power of GIS to store and manage all of the projects that they complete for their own use, not to mention the value that can be added to a client relationship when you can give them their data in a format that enhances their GIS. I am in a “for profit” business, and GIS adds a lot to my bottom line directly and indirectly.
    I never thought of the GIS perspective being one of those who are long term thinkers and want to do what is best for all, as not a selfish motive. I appreciate your perspective and would like to think there is truth to what you have presented.
    Another perspective is I see GIS as a way to do the “right thing” as the oatmeal commercial guy used to say, when he spoke about eating oatmeal as the “right thing to do.” If you are going to use tools that create centimeter X,Y,Z coordinates, why not store them in the proper location in a software and database?
    Why go to the trouble of creating geo-referenced data that is repeatable (with good metadata) to a centimeter or two and not storing it for sharing and using for the good of your company and for future surveyors to locate the precious evidence that create the location of a property boundary?
    Last of all, I am totally unimpressed with the political situation in our great nation. History says our future can go a lot of ways, and I pray each day that we wake up as citizens and realize that, “we the people,” have more ability to hold our elected officials accountable, and get as involved as we can to make sure we exercise our awesome rights and responsibilities to participate so the scenario you outlined can be a statistical outlier instead of the normal.
    Great way to start the new year!

    • Thanks Robert! Thanks for reading my blog. I appreciate your thoughts and for taking the time to write them all down. For those who don’t know, Robert Young is an RPLS – that’s a Registered Professional Land Surveyor – so he has a unique perspective on GIS and surveying. Thanks again!

    • I also wanted to say that you have to look at the roots and origins of GIS (ironically this relates to my post yesterday “Old vs. New” about the history of something being important). When I first got into GIS – back in 1989 – the field was much smaller than it is now. It originally emerged from the disciplines of landscape architecture, geography, ecology, wildlife biology, and natural resources management, rather than other more traditional venues (yes, GIS had a lot of potential for business, but those applications came later). 20 years ago, most people in GIS thought differently than others; they realized that GIS was a tool that could help “save the world.” If you are looking at GIS from the outside in, or discovered it later, you may not realize its true origins. Today, GIS has grown and is used in so many other fields and professions. I have met many (younger) people today who were advised to get into the field of GIS because “that’s where the jobs are”! So that is where the money aspect comes in.

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