On Thinking Differently (spoiler alert: You won’t get credit for it)

Earlier this semester, a friend and I went to a final exam’s “paper-checking”, which is a Hong Kong  (or at least a HKUST) term for reviewing your graded paper to see where your mistakes lie. We found that both of us answered a 10-point question correctly, but neither of us received the points. All we had was bold scratches across our answer, indicating that our answer was wrong.

The thing is, it’s not. It’s an answer perfectly copied from the textbook with the exact same term (“accounting profit”), but the professor just wanted us to word it differently. Although we still think we answered it right, that’s not the point of this story.

What we discovered was that the TAs (teaching assistants) gave out a few brownie points for all the students who mentioned the term “opportunity cost”. We argued that the term “accounting profit” is wide enough to include “opportunity cost” in its scope. The professor agreed with us in a sense that neither terms deserve points. But “opportunity cost” gave the majority of students points and not us.

People from the same background tend to have different frameworks of mind. As I see it, my friend and I were both Indonesian, and so the natural explanation that came to us when answering that question was “accounting profit”. However, the natural term that came onto the majority’s mind was “opportunity cost”. Neither terms were correct, but one earned a few points. The professor told us that the TA argued for giving “opportunity cost” some points, because otherwise a lot of the students will get 0 for that question.

What I learned from that conversation was that you don’t get credit for thinking differently. Your unique thought does not create enough impact to make a change, and so people would not acknowledge it. The only way to make people notice of your difference is when you execute your unique ideas.

That’s the only way your ideas will make a difference.

Blueaholic is listening to: Rihanna & Kanye West & Paul McCartney – FourFiveSeconds

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