Juice your culture, because, as you grow, your culture will assimilate and mimic the traits of those you hire.
D’Souza was a diplomatic brat whose family moved every two years. The result was an ingrained learning curve and appreciation for those different from himself.
We learned how to love the world. There’s this great richness of diversity, yet people are far more similar than they are different. You’re not as likely to learn that when you grow up in one town, in one environment, in one culture or in one country.
This applies as well to those who change companies, since every company has its own culture and every manager a subculture.
Culture is a reflection of values, so the trick to good hiring is to know what which values in your own culture are truly critical.
It’s not important if previous cultures were similar to yours; what is important is understanding in which cultures the candidate thrived and how they compared to yours. As discussed Friday, skills and performance are not independent of environment.
The lesson I learned is that when you have to evolve that quickly as a person, you need to be aware of two things. One is personal blind spots and the other is personal comfort zones. Those two things can be real gotchas.
Good cultures foster personal growth, which requires personal awareness and a willingness to recognize what needs to change.
Finally, talent and attitude are far more important than current skills.
And you need somebody who’s got just raw smarts and talent and an innate ability to learn. Because the thing about functional expertise is that unless you’re in some very specific area, almost everything that we need to do our job becomes obsolete quickly, and the half-life of knowledge is becoming shorter and shorter. So do you have the personal agility to continuously renew those skills, to reinvent yourself?
Your team and therefore your culture are stronger when people crave new challenges that not only stretch their current skills, but are outside their comfort zone.
People who aggressively drive to constantly learn, grow and change are only a challenge to management when they aren’t given those opportunities.
When that happens everyone suffers; the individual; the team; the company; and you.
A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read allIf the Shoe Fits posts here
Those who believe that tech is a utopian-like meritocracy need to wake up to reality.
Silicon Valley is indeed a meritocracy for those to whom these criteria are not hurdles. But others—the blacks, women, and Hispanics whom it overlooks—find it an elite private club from which they are excluded. – Vivek Wadhwa (see the entire article series here)
According to Mitch Kapor, who founded Lotus and (for those of you who are too young to remember) sold it to IBM in 1995 for $3.5 billion, the idea that all it takes is hard work and a god product to be a success in the Valley is pure fantasy.
“There’s an admirable belief about the virtues of meritocracy – that the best ideas prove the best results. It’s a wrong and misguided belief by well-intentioned people.”
The idea that merit matters goes further down the drain when you see comments, such as the most recent one from Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame.
One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent. I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and can’t if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent. I just know it’s a strong pattern we’ve seen.
I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon. But you’re not allowed to ask prospective employees if they plan to have kids soon…Whereas when you’re starting a company, you can discriminate on any basis you want about who you start it with.
Kapor now runs Kapor Capital, a for-profit venture firm focused on funding minorities whose ideas are focused on improving opportunities for the poor through education, sees the world very differently.
“We have a responsibility to give people opportunities to do what they can do. It’s a fundamental tenet of democratic society. Libertarians who believe in a completely minimalist state, and don’t feel we have that responsibility, are harming humanity.”
I was going to call this post “How to Make Money,” but then I remembered the lyrics from Peter, Paul and Mary’s hit song and decided it was a much better title.
After all, diversity of all kinds is a war and it’s one being lost in companies every day, whether they are old line industries or the supposed meritocracies of the tech world.
And not just diversity in the form of race and gender, but in terms of management.
Funny how so many companies that don’t “get” the need for a great culture that spawns a happy, therefore productive and innovative, workforce also don’t get diversity in fact.
They all get happy and diverse in theory and in talk, but unfortunately theory and talk frequently never make it to fact.
The facts, however, speak for themselves.
Analyzing the performance of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” over a 28-year period, the author found that these firms generated higher yearly stock returns than comparable companies not on the list. They also systematically beat financial analysts’ earnings estimates, an indication that job satisfaction is an important variable that the market does not fully value. –strategy+ business (free registration required)
The figures highlight the rapid growth in the Hispanic and Asian populations, both of which have surged by more than 40 percent since 2000. Hispanics were 16.7 percent of the population in July 2011 and Asians were 4.8 percent. The black population has grown 12.9 percent since 2000 and makes up 12.3 percent of the nation. Non-Hispanic whites rose only 1.5 percent from 2000 to 2011, slower than the national growth of 9.7 percent, and are now 63.4 percent of the population.
It also turns out that hiring those pesky females in senior positions and putting them on your board pays off handsomely.
Over the past six years, companies with at least some female board representation outperformed those with no women on the board in terms of share price performance, according to the latest study by the Credit Suisse Research Institute. –Credit Suisse
But the stats I really love come from Dr Genevieve Bell, a Social Scientist/Anthropologist at Intel Corporation.
So it turns out if you want to find out what the future looks like, you should be asking women. And just before you think that means you should be asking 18-year-old women, it actually turns out the majority of technology users are women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. So if you wanted to know what the future looks like, those turn out to be the heaviest users of the most successful and most popular technologies on the planet as we speak.
So for all those stuck in the command & control past or believe, as Carl’s and TV advertisers do, that the world actually turns on 18-34 years old males I suggest you update your prejudices and get with the program.
Customer loyalty is a top priority no matter what you are selling—especially in retail.
Just ask Tony Hsieh, whose focus on Zappos’ workforce created the platinum standard of customer service that yielded a storied (and envied) level of customer engagement and loyalty.
The most important component by far is customer engagement. “Retailers should ask themselves, ‘how do I create a partnership with the consumer?’ instead of pulling one over on them,” says Harvard Business School senior lecturer José Alvarez. Many customers see loyalty programs as a way of being ambushed by the retailer.
Many retailers see smartphones as a successful way of engaging customers—but are they?
I have to wonder if they are taking into account the real numbers.
The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
I’m a long way from being any kind of expert, but it seems to me that basing a loyalty/customer engagement model on smartphones, let alone iPhones, doesn’t make much sense when viewed through the lens of actual usage and related income stats.
In the last decade, men, especially working-class and middle-class men, have had very different experiences in this economy from the women around them.
However, in case you hadn’t noticed, bias is alive and well in the workplace in many ways.
Considering the tremendous shortage of science and technology grads, one might think that bias would be a thing of the past. Ha! Think again.
Science professors at American universities widely regard female undergraduates as less competent than male students with the same accomplishments and skills, a new study by researchers at Yale concluded. (…) Female professors were just as biased against women students as their male colleagues, and biology professors just as biased as physics professors — even though more than half of biology majors are women, whereas men far outnumber women in physics.
Companies and higher education talk a great deal about diversity and many have diversity programs in place, but what they don’t (can’t?) address is the subtle bias that happens before anything happens.
Much of the talk about ending workplace discrimination focuses on gateways (…) But some of the biggest barriers to a truly diverse applicant pool and workforce may actually be occurring at the stage just before that…
Specifically, men with shaved heads were viewed as more masculine and dominant than other men. But it doesn’t end there: Two of the experiments showed that such men were perceived as taller (by an inch, on average) and stronger (that is, seen as being able to bench press 13% more) than those men who were well-coiffed. They were also viewed as having greater potential as leaders. (…) “The broad take-away is that perceptions about leadership and related traits like dominance can emerge from peculiar characteristics that aren’t really related to leadership at all. (…) There is evidence, for instance, that unconventional dress in women is viewed as status-enhancing. So women may have more of an impact just by engaging in unconventional behavior.”
Another way to look at it is that if spending $100 results in a bottom line increase of $1000, did you really spend the $100, or did you gain $900? That $900 that wouldn’t be there if you hadn’t invested the initial $100.
Any increased spending on diversity development is an investment and will be more than offset by the increases in innovation, productivity and revenues.
The real question is how do you define diversity?
Old diversity focuses on diversity of race, gender, orientation, creed and national origin.
New diversity includes all of the above plus diversity of thought.
Think about it, with a little effort a manager can create a diverse group who all think the same way—George W. Bush’s initial Cabinet looked diverse, but their MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) was homogeneous.
It’s far more difficult to put together a group of totally diverse thinkers. Managers tend to hire in their comfort zone and more and more that refers to how people think, rather than how they look.
So what can you do to ensure that you’re building a truly diversified team?
Here are five key points to keep in mind before and after hiring.
Avoid assumptions. People aren’t better because they graduated from your (or your people’s) alma mater, come from your hometown/state or worked for a hot company.
Know your visual prejudices. Everybody has them (one of mine is dirty-looking, stringy hair), because you can’t hear past them if you’re not aware of them.
Listen. Not to what the words mean to you, but what the words mean to the person speaking.
Be open to the radical. Don’t shut down because an idea is off the wall at even the third look and never dismiss the whole if some part can be used.
Be open to alternative paths. If your people achieve what they should it doesn’t matter that they did it in a way that never would have crossed your mind.
Most importantly, if you’re totally comfortable, with nary a twinge to ripple your mental lake, your group is probably lacking in diversity.
An interesting interview with Ed Schein, a senior professor at MIT and a “pioneer” on the subject of corporate culture, who now believes corporate culture is irrelevant.
The real answer to that is that Corporate Culture is no longer the relevant topic. I think the relevant topic is macro culture, nations, corporations, corporate culture (where all these nationalities and occupations play out), and micro cultures where you have problems in the operating room and in teamwork because you have multi-nationals, people from different occupations that cultures, all interplaying.
OK, I don’t have a PhD and I’m not a brilliant, recognized expert with an international reputation, but my initial reaction to reading the transcript of the interview was ’duh’.
Of course corporate culture is impacted by having multiple nationalities working together, but it was impacted when the workforce were all native-born, but from different regions or even neighborhoods.
As to the micro cultures created by each boss (leader in the accepted jargon), again my reaction is ‘duh.’
Every person is shaped by their MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™), AKA, values. Every manager (from team leader to department vp) creates a culture in their organization that is based on those values and it can be similar, synergistic or diametrically opposed to the cultures above.
All that said, I think it’s great when recognized experts put shape and definition to the things that most workers know by instinct and they do it with a level of credibility far beyond the reach of someone like me.
Here is the interview or you can read the transcript at the link above.
People want to spend their time with people like themselves, that is their comfort zone, and that is where they hire. Managers prefer to hire people
from backgrounds they understand;
working in areas in which the manager feels knowledgeable;
with experiences and education to which the manager can relate; and
with a resume that makes the manager’s decision look good even if the hire doesn’t work out.
Homophily has been increasing in most social settings, including the workplace, over the years and now young people have climbed on that bandwagon with a vengeance.
Instead of the adventurous attitudes that have always been the province of youth, they want to avoid discomfort; sidestep as many human vagaries as possible and spend as much of their time as possible with people like themselves.
Helping them avoid discomfort is a market nitch occupied by the likes of Lifetopia and RoomBug, in collusion with their universities, as well as open sources such as URoomSurf and, of course, the ubiquitous Facebook.
But some worry that it robs young adults of an increasingly rare opportunity for growth: exposure to someone with different experiences and opinions.
“Very quickly, college students are able to form self-selected cliques where their views are reinforced,” noted Dalton Conley, an N.Y.U. sociology professor…
It is not a lack in the diversity of race, nationality or even gender that is worrisome; rather it is the lack of diversity of thought.
What impact does a student’s graduation speech really have? 18 year old Justin Hudson’s had a giant impact on NYC Hunter College High School, Elena Kagan’s alma mater and the most prestigious high school in the country.
“More than anything else, I feel guilty,” Mr. Hudson, who is black and Hispanic, told his 183 fellow graduates. “I don’t deserve any of this. And neither do you.”
They had been labeled “gifted,” he told them, based on a test they passed “due to luck and circumstance.”
As a result, the third principal in five years resigned and shortly after a committee of Hunter High teachers publicly announced a no confidence notice to the president of Hunter College, who is the ultimate boss of the high school.
At issue is the entrance exam for the high school.
Mr. Collins [director of the Hunter College Campus Schools] acknowledged that the notoriously difficult test, which has math, English and essay sections and is given in the sixth grade, “isn’t a good indicator of giftedness, it is a good indicator of whether you will be successful at Hunter.”
Those who pass the test are typically from upper class families heavily focused on education and can afford extra tutoring as needed.
Luck and circumstance, as Justin Hudson pointed out.
But a lot of good things are happening across the educational board.
Schools across the country are abolishing ‘D’ grades, leaving kids with the choice of earning a ‘C’ or flunking.
New research from economists has proved the value of “great teachers and early childhood programs” on adult earning power.
Non-profit Teach Plus helps schools field teams of teachers willing to spend extra time mentoring and acting as leaders in school turn-arounds.
Of course, anytime Federal dollars are up for grabs the sharks circle and the money earmarked for education is no different— companies with no experience are touting their ability to change the course of education.
It would make a nice change if Washington wasn’t snookered by great presentations and white papers, but I’m not holding my breath.
Historically, Washington is the place where rhetoric wins the game and smoke and mirrors gets you further than substance.
If you’ll excuse the pun, it’s par for the course.