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Thursday, May 9, 2019 - 15:24

Déjà vu vs. Vuja de

Ever heard of Vuja de? I hadn't either. Until I began reading Adam Grant's new book, Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World. Grant, the 36 year old American psychologist and author who teaches organizational psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, has spent the last ten years researching the how's and why's, the in's and out's, of originality.

Déjà vu we all know. "Déjà vu occurs when we encounter something new, but it feels as if we've seen it before." But what's this vuja de? Vuja de is simply déjà vu backwards! "Vuja de is the reverse—we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insights into old problems." (p 7)

Take for example economist Michael Housman's effort to discover "why some customer service agents stayed on their jobs longer than others." Housman combed through data from over 30,000 customer service agents (for banks, airlines, cell phone companies, et al), and noticed that his team had included in the data regarding these employees the particular internet browsers the customer service agents were using. "On a whim" Housman ran the numbers to see if browser choice was related to job longevity or quitting. Stunned with the results, he then added the sales performance data of these customer service agents. His discovery? "After 90 days on the job, the Firefox and Chrome users had customer satisfaction levels that Internet Explorer and Safari users only reached after 120 days"(p 4).

Why would which internet browser you use say something about you? Simply because Internet Explorer and Safari are browsers that come as part of the package with Windows and Apple computers. If you use the Google Chrome or Firefox browser, "you have to demonstrate some resourcefulness and download a different browser. Instead of accepting the default [browser], you have to take a bit of initiative to seek out an option that might be better. And that act of initiative, however tiny, is a window into what you do at work" (p 5).

"The employees [in Housman's study] who took the initiative to change their browsers . . . approached their jobs differently. They looked for novel ways of selling to customers and addressing their concerns. When they encountered a situation they didn't like, they fixed it"(ibid).

Adam Grant's point? "The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists. Hence his déjà vu vs vuja de expression.

Maybe that's what we need when we come to "the old rugged cross." Vuja de—when "we face something familiar [the cross], but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insights into old problems."

How many times have you and I come to Calvary—reading the Gospels through again or partaking of the Lord's Supper again—and we have neither seen nor experienced anything personally fresh or particularly insightful about that encounter. (After all, we've read the story before [yawn]—we've been to the Table before [boring].)

What if the next time we approached the cross (in the Gospels or at the Lord's Supper) we asked the Spirit of Christ to lead us past our usual default setting and give us new eyes to see, a new perspective to comprehend. "Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified" (Galatians 3:1). It's that fresh clear portrayal that we need most.

Perhaps it's as simple as breathing a prayer as we approach His cross:

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth You have for me
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine.

        —Clara Scott

Perhaps in the realm of the Spirit, too, the most successful are the ones who in their browsing move beyond the usual default and discover God's "hallmark of originality."