When it comes to working in Jordan, in a field that will often require a great deal of research, getting information is tough. As one management consultant told me recently, you have to “hustle”. The media sector is shackled to the wall with all the access to information laws designed to keep them off the government’s back when it comes to things like accountability. Though these laws and regulations affect an entire ecosystem that needs access to information. From consultants, to researchers, think tanks and NGO’s, the list is endless.
Then there’s the people. Jordanians generally don’t like sharing information. Be they individuals or corporations; everyone likes to keep to themselves. It’s because every Jordanian, no matter what their socioeconomic background, knows that information is power.
If you look at either your average ministry in the public sector, or your average organization in the private sector, employees typically know that what they know is key to their success in the long term, and a sense of job security in the short turn. So often times you’ll have a situation where if an employee goes away on vacation, a void of information is created and everyone has to wait until he or she comes back so they can fill that void. They keep the information of their work, the secrets of all their operations, all to themselves. It could be as simple as knowing where the sugar is kept. If the guys who knows is away then everyone will be drinking bitter tea for a week. Information is never shared. Because if three other people know it then those three other people can easily replace you, and you become a little bit more dispensable (and chances are you probably know you occupy an undeserved position and were never really all that valuable to begin with).
The idea is to protect what you know and use that as a safety net. You become an important part of the machine.
While it’s just one man’s opinion, this is not necessarily a baseless conclusion. How many of us have been to any type of organization, be it in the public or private sector, where we are told to wait or come back another time because the person who “handles that” is not available?
This is the environment researchers or any one whose job involves any degree of research, must survive in. A country where no one likes to share information. Where everyone keeps what they know to themselves.
Forcing us to hustle.
To pull teeth.
To knock some heads together.
And the result is information that is not entirely accurate but is a reflection of the information environment available. Whether it’s a journalist trying to find a story or a researcher analyzing the business environment and economic indicators for a potential foreign investor. Information presented is proportionate to information available.
People and organizations have a right to look after themselves, but there are certain limits. There is a certain responsibility, or even a sense of loyalty to an idea that is larger than the self. People often times forget they are part of a society, and organizations also tend to forget that they too are part of a larger mechanism.
When we start thinking of how we can bring what information we have to the table to benefit that mechanism as a whole, then I think it will in turn, be beneficial to us as individuals.
Like an ecosystem.