Reading the fine print

Olusegun Oludare Written by Olusegun Oludare · 1 min read >

On Prof Owolabi’s first meeting with MEMBA11 executives, he admonished us strongly on the importance of listening to or reading instructions before making any effort to respond to any questions. He said, based on his decades of teaching experience, heeding this advice is a sure recipe for success in any academics or life. The advice immediately struck a chord with me, and I remembered an event in the past where this advice was demonstrated practically.

Different fun activities were organized to keep parents of prospective students busy and engaged while their children write the entrance examination to gain admission into a prestigious and highly competitive secondary in the Lekki axis of Lagos. The most interesting and memorable event on that fateful day was an exercise that demonstrated the importance of following instructions.

A question paper faced down, and an ink pen was placed in front of each parent. The conductor of the exercise reeled out the following instructions with a firm and assertive tone: “There are 10 questions on the paper in front of you and you are expected to attempt all questions in 2 minutes. Read all the questions before attempting to answer any of the questions”. She added that the parent who gets a perfect test score will be presented with a prize. She then checked her wristwatch and declared, “it is now exactly 10:30 am, turn over the question paper before and start. You are expected to stop at exactly 10:32 am.”

The first question reads, “what is your name?”. I laughed and without giving it a second thought, I scribed down my full name, not missing out on any of my religious and professional titles. The subsequent eight questions were as trivial as the first. It ranges from asking questions about favorite food, to the naming best family vacation spot. The twist however came with the tenth question that simply reads: “Disregard the first nine questions and hand over the unanswered question paper to the conductor to earn a perfect score”. At exactly 10:32 am, the exercise conductor stopped the test and went around to collect the question paper from all the parents in the hall. Most of the parents that took part in the exercise wished they had been given a pencil and an eraser instead of an ink pen.

So, if paying attention to instruction is that important, why do most people ignore it? While I can’t answer for others, I can certainly speak for myself. One of the major reasons I do not pay attention to instruction is because of the assumption of knowing what is expected of me. A couple of Do-It-yourself pieces of furniture I have attempted to install in the past have shown this assumption is baseless. After wasting several hours trying to figure out what goes where I usually find myself going back to the instruction manual for the solution. After listening to Prof Owolabi’s admonition and relating it to my past experiences, I pledged myself to deliberately read and understand or listen carefully to instructions before responding to any question during my stay at LBS and beyond.

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