Thursday, July 26, 2007

On the subtle differences

My second blog post and I'm already off-topic.

Since moving to California from Ottawa, I'm slowly adapting to the subtle differences in the culture in which I'm now immersed - back bacon is Canadian bacon (or sometimes just "ham" - I haven't figured out if there's a difference but it all tastes good with pineapple on a pizza), a bathroom is a washroom (or is it the other way around?), and I now conduct my financial affairs in plain view in the bank (quite the opposite of Canada, where your bank manager leads you down a hushed narrow hallway to her office and locks the door behind you).

But the part I'm enjoying the most, and having to adjust to at the same time, is... it's OK to be frank. Especially in business.

This morning I was in LA at the Growth Capital Conference. Question period rolled around, and naturally, the moderator asked people to be brief.

In Ottawa, this means the audience member who gains control of the microphone has full licence to monopolize the next 10 minutes of the 300 other people in the audience by a) blathering on about their business - "Hi, my name is so-and-so and we're a leading provider of blah-blah to to Fortune 10000 companies" b) compliment the panel and c) pontificate at length about their views of the subject, before d) making a veiled attempt at a question that is really another comment.

And everyone listens politely and doesn't interrupt because that's what good Canadians do. We're so darn nice.

This morning however, you were strictly prohibited from touching the microphone, so that it could be yanked away should your lips start flipping off-topic. A few people were brave enough to start their question with "My name is X from company Y" before the moderator blurted "Could you get to the question PLEASE?"

If you're from Canada you're probably thinking "How rude!". Maybe... but it was certainly more respectful of my time. In the end, the Q&A was one of the most informative, insightful, and productive I've ever attended. And we got out on time.