How To Be Better Than Google
[This is Part 2 of a 2-part series. Read Part 1 here.]
A Quick Foreword:
Between the time the first article in this series was written and the time when this article was written, there was an incident in Charlottesville, VA that dominated headlines nationwide. As a result, the first part of this article discusses the connections between what happened in Charlottesville and the firing of James Damore. The second part of this article presents solutions for businesses and entrepreneurs to help them grapple with the underlying problem at the heart of both events.
Between the Lines
Recently, a Google employee, James Damore, was fired for circulating a truly brave memo that dared to suggest “that Google has become an ideological echo chamber where anyone with centrist or right-of-center views fears to speak his or her mind,” and “that part of the tech industry’s gender gap can be attributed to biological differences between men and women.”1 Google more-or-less confirmed Mr. Damore’s first point by firing him.
Google’s political stance on “diversity,” and the corporate policies that flow out from that socio-political and philosophical stance, seem inextricably intertwined with other recent events. The concept that ties together all these events and issues is called “identity politics”–and, no, not all politics is “identity politics.”
“Identity politics is a specific political practice that originated in the new left during the last 1960s, was a subtext of the McGovern campaign in 1972 and the Mondale campaign in 1984 – described in a 1984 New Republic article by Sidney Blumenthal, “Walter Mondale’s Days of Rage” — was unintentionally given new life by Ruy Teixeira and [John Judis’s] book, “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” was codified by pollsters Stanley Greenberg and Celinda Lake in the wake of the Democrats’ 2008 sweep, and on the eve of the Clinton campaign, had taken hold among the various Democratic political and policy groups in Washington and New York. It consisted of creating a majority by specifically winning over the groups that had turned toward the Democrats since the early ‘60s, including blacks, Latinos, women (and single women in particular), and the young.” (Judis, 2016)
The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal, in the best article I have read about the recent violence in Charlottesville, pointed out that people using identity politics to serve their divisive political agenda are responsible for the violence in Charlottesville. People similarly using identity politics to serve their divisive political agendas are also responsible for other violent events in our nation’s recent history. These events include, but are not limited to:
- The violence committed by Antifa at Berkely, Oakland, and numerous other college campuses;
- The terrorist attack involving black radical Micah Xavier Johnson, who ambushed police officers in Dallas, killing five and injuring nine more;
- The DisruptJ20 riots in Washington, D.C.; and
- The Black Lives Matter riots in Ferguson, MO; Milwaukee, WI; Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA; and hundreds of other cities–literally thousands of events.
After the violence in Charlottesville, President Trump correctly condemned the “hate on many sides,” and later the White House issued a clarifying statement (for the idiots in the press and on the left who didn’t understand his initial statement) specifically naming “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” The media hated that Trump’s initial statement correctly pointed out the multifaceted nature of the hate that fueled the violence in Charlottesville, because it threw into stark relief the interconnectedness of the underlying problem–the poison of identity politics.
As The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal put it:
“…[T]he focus on Mr. Trump is also a cop-out because it lets everyone duck the deeper and growing problem of identity politics on the right and left. The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.
That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. ‘Diversity’ is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions, and the irony is that America is more diverse and tolerant than ever.
The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories. In practice this means allocating political power, contracts, jobs and now even salaries in the private economy based on the politics of skin color or gender rather than merit or performance. Down this road lies crude political tribalism, and James Damore’s recent Google dissent is best understood as a cri de coeur that we should aspire to something better. Yet he lost his job merely for raising the issue.
A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left. The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say ‘all lives matter’ without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.” (The Editorial Board, 2017)
Ideas have consequences. (Actually, that’s the title of a brilliant book you should read, but that’s a post for a different day.) The consequences of engaging in identity politics are significant and widespread. These consequences are not limited to politics. They touch on business issues, social issues, and, of course, legal issues. So, how can a business address the risks associated with identity politics in a preventive way? And how can that make your business better than Google?
Being Better Than Google
I believe that Google consistently drops the ball when it comes to refraining from using identity politics to advance its socio-political agenda. This is a huge failure, but Google can absorb just about any damage caused by such failure, because it is a de facto monopoly that doesn’t have competition that poses any real threat to its existence. A business shouldn’t treat people however it wants to, just because it can get away with doing so. That is unethical.
I want you to be better than that. I want your business to be better than that. So, here are some tips I believe you can use to make your business better (i.e. more ethical) than Google:
1. Respect Diversity of Thought. Real diversity is invisible. One of the most striking ironies of the new left’s approach to “diversity” (i.e. identity politics) is that, by fostering political correctness and engaging in groupthink, an ideologically homogenous society is created. This is the goal, yet it is sold to the unquestioning public in the package of “diversity.”
How diverse is a society that is only superficially diverse, yet consists of people who only think, speak, and act within a narrow ideological band? That’s not real diversity. Real diversity requires tolerance of people who are fundamentally different from us–different in the way they think, speak, and act–not just people who are superficially different from us.
2. Solicit and evaluate feedback from diverse sources. Create systems and processes to solicit ideas–even controversial or unpopular ones–from your team and / or customers. Many businesses use surveys, suggestion boxes, website contact forms, and the like to solicit feedback from a variety of sources.
Don’t forget to listen to your employees and your leadership team. They’re just as important as your customers, when it comes to gathering information about ways your business could improve. Feedback should be carefully evaluated. Don’t just collect it and forget it. Suggestions in the suggestion box don’t do you any good; you have to take them out, read them, think about them, and then take action for them to be useful.
3. Primarily focus on the merit and substance of ideas, not on who is speaking. Give people a chance to rationally demonstrate that their ideas have merit. You may not like the person giving you feedback, but that doesn’t mean the person doesn’t have a point.
Remember, that real diversity requires the courage to tolerate people who are fundamentally different from us–people who think differently, speak differently, and may act differently from us. If you’re just writing someone off because of who they are, without listening to them, you’re being intolerant. Don’t do that.
4. Test the ideas that seem most promising. Foster competition, and reward ideas that prove they have merit. How you go about doing this is going to depend greatly on the kind of business you have. In college, I worked in several restaurants. Sometimes, the manager would put $50 or $100 on a bulletin board, and the first person to sell all the specials for the evening would win it. Those kinds of competitions are valuable.
It’s equally valuable to figure out how the person who is best performing in your business is doing what they do, and then replicate that success, wherever possible, with the rest of your team. Competition is healthy. Find other ways to test your team’s and customers’ ideas and use them to boost productivity.
5. Remember: incentives matter. Pay attention to your employees’ incentives to help you create the kind of business you want. If your employees aren’t motivated to do more than just punch the clock and earn a paycheck, your management sucks. You really need to think about what incentives your employees have to consistently work to increase their own value to your company.
In other words, you need to create and maintain incentives for your employees to promote your corporate culture and go above-and-beyond their minimum responsibilities in their jobs. This might take the form of awards, rewards such as cash bonuses or additional vacation time, or some other kind of special recognition. Remember to use carrots, not just sticks, to get what you want from your employees.
6. Implement a written Diversity Policy that reflects your company’s values. Consider having each employee sign a written statement acknowledging that they have received and agree with it. This policy should be drafted by a lawyer. Don’t try to do it yourself.
Also, consider including a provision in their employment agreement indicating that failure to abide by the Diversity Policy could result in termination of employment. It is crucial that your Diversity Policy be centered around diversity of thought, not necessarily diversity of indelible characteristics of human beings (i.e. race, sex, age, etc.).
7. Use Preventive Law to protect and add value to your business. You need General Counsel for your business. A General Counsel attorney should work with you, using preventive legal techniques, to help you make strategic legal decisions that will improve your business’s stability and productivity.
8. Be open, honest, and transparent about your corporate values. This will cost you some customers and some employees. Everything worth having comes at a price, and the price isn’t always measured in pecuniary terms. If you want your company to have a specific kind of corporate culture, you should be honest about what kind of environment you want to create.
9. Don’t be ham-fisted about the way you implement and enforce policies. Nobody’s perfect. Be merciful and compassionate. If someone obstinately refuses to abide by your diversity policy take the appropriate disciplinary action, but if someone is not being intentionally disruptive to your corporate culture, consider taking the least drastic action necessary to get them back on track.
10. Make sure your responses to people and issues are proportional to their impact on your business. If a low-level employee makes a mistake, the stakes are usually lower than if a member of management or a stakeholder in your business makes a mistake. Frankly, lower-level employees are more easily replaced. That does not mean, however, that you should just fire and replace lower-level employees for the least little mistake. Remember, there is a real cost that comes along with hiring and training every employee. Make sure that your established disciplinary procedures take into account the real costs of enforcing your policies.
Judis, J. (2016, December 30). Last Words on the 2016 Election: Not all Politics is Identity Politics. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/100893
The Editorial Board. (2017, August 13). The Poison of Identity Politics. Retrieved August 15, 2017, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-poison-of-identity-politics-1502661521?
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