Arvind’s project was part of a larger, office-wide goal of becoming paperless. He had been put in charge of getting a particular category of files related to his job ready for scanning. These were files that he presumably worked with all the time. Apparently, there was a great deal in the files that could be discarded. Arvind’s task was to go through each file and throw away all but the essential information, thus reducing the amount of material that would eventually have to be scanned.
So Arvind sat down with me and Emma (the other woman who had been assigned to help) to show us what to keep and what to toss from the files. It should have been simple.
He was very excited and happy and told us that his father had once taught classes at a prestigious university. He explained that, because his father had clearly been a very good teacher to work at such a prestigious school, he (Arvind) must also be a good teacher.
He showed us a sample file. It was full of odd-sized hand-written notes and assorted official-looking government forms - in short, pretty generic file stuff. Then he seemed to become confused. Emma and I tried to move things along by asking what became the defining question, “Are we supposed to keep that?”
Arvind would stare at whatever the “that” was and then mumble something incoherent. When we pressed him for an answer, he would get agitated and then start talking about something else.
After 40 minutes, I had a very foggy idea about what needed to be done, and a desperate desire to be done working with Arvind.