Unethical or Genius?

perspective, group intelligence, team coaching, executive coaching, Yan Maschke, Cleveland Ohio

Recent Experience - Taxi Driver in Thailand 

My family and I took a vacation trip to Thailand with some friends from the U.S. over the Christmas holiday.

It was very hot when we walked out of the hotel looking for a taxi to a location that’s about 10 minutes away by car. There are several of us.

A taxi van was parked outside the lobby.

The taxi driver approached us and offered a price of 500 Baht each way (about US$16) for a total of 1000 Baht (about US$32) total. 

This is reasonable compared to taxi rates in the U.S., the group quickly agreed to the offer and we all jumped in the van.

First Perspective - Unethical Behavior

My analytical mind, however, started turning and calculating. Then it became critical. 

An earlier taxi ride of similar distance was only less than 100 Baht one-way when the taxi driver used his metering device in the car. 

This van driver is clearly taking advantage of us by over-charging!

He must have done that because he saw that we are foreign tourists. That’s unfair!

His behavior is unethical!

Since our group decided not to negotiate and we were already in the van, I couldn’t say anything and simply hid my resentment towards the driver.

It still bothered me the next day. 

Second Perspective - Pricing Genius

Just as I was going about my day, a random thought jumped into my mind: value-pricing

What the van driver did was simply “value-pricing”. He didn’t price the ride based on his cost (such as fuel cost, his time), he priced it based on perceived value by the customer. It’s not different from the fact that bottled water sells for many multiples of its costs at strategic locations when customers have a strong need and are not price-sensitive. 

Boy, This taxi driver is a marketing genius!

As my analytical mind turned a 180 on the driver, I marveled at how equally convinced I was on both sides of my arguments - for and against the taxi driver’s pricing behavior. 

Reflection - Better Engagement and Decision Making By Intentionally Taking on Multiple Perspectives 

There have been many times that I made a critical judgment and didn’t try to see “the other side of the coin”.

I believe very few things in life are absolutely right or wrong. More often than not, things are just different. Behavioral norms, expressions, viewpoints, cultures, even ethical standards. 

As leaders of people and teams,  we need to be able to see, hear, understand, and appreciate other people’s perspectives. We can then facilitate and guide a balanced analysis to make grounded decisions. We will be able to leverage group intelligence, get buy-in from people on the team, and they are more likely to move forward with commitment

Call for Action 

Think of a current business situation or a decision that needs to be made for your team or organization. 

What do you believe is the absolutely right way? What judgments or assumptions might you be holding?

What could be a possible way to look at it differently?

How would others on the team (could be a team you are leading or peers on a leadership team) see it?

How might you be able to engage your team and peers in this process of decision making?

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so.” ― Mark Twain

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