Article: Blogosphere: The Changing Perception of Time


Blogosphere: The Changing Perception of Time

Do behaviours change with time and place?
Blogosphere: The Changing Perception of Time

Our behavior is shaped by our underlying values. Values are the basis of our notions of right and wrong and the choices we make


“I am an old timer. I have been working in this company for a long time.” How long do you think this person could have worked with that employer? Your spontaneous response to this question represents the “cultural generation” that matches your way of thinking about time. A cultural generation represents all those who share a common world view. On the other hand, we have the popular definition of generation which defines an offspring and the parents as different generations. In societies, where changes are slower to happen, the familial generations and cultural generations overlap. Hence the rules and assumptions that are used to govern one generation are also valid for governing the progeny. The rapid and constant changes in the environment have made even siblings separated by a few years belong to different cultural generations with different drivers and behaviors.

Our behavior is shaped by our underlying values. Values are the basis of our notions of right and wrong and the choices we make. Our environment in our formative years has a very significant impact on the values we learn. This environment is made up of our parents, teachers, peer-group and even the media we are exposed to, which define our values. Our values today are influenced far more deeply by the media we have access to. From the time when we had Doordarshan as our only television channel in India and the government ran All India Radio as the sole source of our news and entertainment, we are now a nation where we have hundreds of options to get our news and opinions from. Cable television now places global images, information and norms of behavior that only the well-traveled rich had access to previously. The mobile phone is driving global content into the remotest corners of the country. This exposure to diverse influences changes behaviors that would have otherwise remained stable over decades.

Social behavior and norms of behavior are shaped by how we view time. Societies differ on what is the acceptable age to get a driver’s license, cast a vote, get married, drink alcohol or even take up arms to defend the country. From time to time, the societies even review these perceptions of time and what may follow is a change in law. In India, the voting age was reduced from 21 years to 18 a few years back. When some sections of the citizens view time differently from the way the law defines it, it raises interesting situations. For example, even though in India the minimum age to get married is 18 for girls and 21 for boys, there are unwritten rules that will tell the couple whether they married a bit too early or late.

Technology changes our perception of time. The arrival of email has made its users learn to use a keyboard while before we communicated through letters. Today the postal system is referred to as snail mail which is a reflection of how our perception of time has changed. From video games to digital cameras, we have all got used to finding out instantaneously the effect of our actions. Technology has been changing at a rapid pace as well. The smartphone that many carry in their pocket has more computing power than the early versions of the mainframe computer. Every time something in our environment changes, we have to retrain ourselves to adapt to it. When we need to continuously adapt our behavior, we progressively devote less time to each such change before we move to adapt to the new change that is replacing the current one. Even as we are getting used to the previous change, there is another shift and then yet another. This continuous shifting has now irreversibly altered how we view time. This has shrunk the perception of time. Each short-lived change has modified how long we need to wait before we get impatient.

When our perception of time changes, organizations are the first to feel its impact.
Challenge No 1: Making policies that are based on tenure
Challenge No 2: Deciding how Long it takes to learn a job
Challenge No 3: Defining what is the right time to do what
Read in detail about these challenges at

Abhijit Bhaduri works as the Chief Learning Officer for the Wipro group. Prior to this he led HR teams at Microsoft, PepsiCo, Colgate and Tata Steel. He is on the Advisory Board of Wharton’s prestigious program for Chief Learning Officers that is run by the Univ of Pennsylvania.

You can read more by Abhijit Bhaduri at



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Topics: Watercooler

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