Commentary

Google’s James Damore is Not The Conservative We Need

Aug 10, 2017

Like many of you, I’ve been thinking about James Damore, the former Google engineer and part-time memo writer, who is currently seeking a new job. Already popular in certain circles, I have no doubt he'll find a number of welcoming communities where he can confirm his now explicit biases.

Let’s put aside the fact that he believes that women are biologically unsuited for certain technical roles. Or that his argument would have been universally derided if he had chosen to explain instead the socio-organic reasons why black and brown people are also underrepresented in tech. (And now, increasingly, in finance.) Or that he writes with the palpable sense of disappointment of someone who just realized that the unassailable power he once believed was promised to him isn't coming after all.

Damore’s ideas were not original; they weren't even particularly interesting re-treads. But he seems to believe they are conservative ideas. This strikes me as a secondary tragedy and an important opportunity.

Conservative thinking -- about free markets, regulation, globalization, compensation, entrepreneurialism and beyond --speaks directly to the systems that drive wealth and opportunity. When isolated from dangerous notions of biological or racial supremacies, they are the fundamental underpinnings of big business as we know it.

Spend five minutes at any Fortune conference and you will see for yourself that these ideas are not being suppressed. Instead, they are evolving in vital ways, particularly as people with various perspectives find themselves with seats at the table, and the pressing issues of inequality, climate change, conflict and forced migration compel business leaders to bend capitalism beyond its previous scope. This is where inclusive behavior has an essential role to play.

For inspiration, I’m going to hand the mic to Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute. Now, his ideas about poverty eradication are reason enough to spend some time with him. But in his 14-minute TED talk, he asks people who identify strongly with a particular ideology, be it conservative or liberal, to stop making “the other person” an evil actor. He urges all of us to find new ways of framing our thoughts, specifically in the small interactions and everyday conversations that make up the majority of our work lives.

This is just one of his suggestions:

I'm asking you and I'm asking me to be the person specifically who blurs the lines, who is ambiguous, who is hard to classify. If you're a conservative, be the conservative who is always going on about poverty and the moral obligation to be a warrior for the poor. And if you're a liberal, be a liberal who is always talking about the beauty of free markets to solve our problems when we use them responsibly.

Signaling some openness is a gracious strategy for these binary and increasingly violent times, particularly if it happens to be true for you. By playing against ideological type, it becomes easier to build a world based on blended wisdom, instead of simply racking up a rhetorical win for your particular team. Worst case scenario? You'll have more friends.

On Point

Jamie Dimon doesn’t know how many black people work at JPMorgan Chase

Dimon said on CNBC this week that his firm has “done as well as almost any corporation out there,” in terms of increasing the representation of black employees at the company. But, according to an excellent analysis conducted by Bloomberg News, the percentage of senior black executives and managers actually fell over the past five years. Other firms aren't doing much better: The analysis found that both Citigroup and Goldman Sachs Group have both seen similar declines. Dimon did cite some recruiting and retention efforts, though admits they can be challenging. “A lot of African Americans didn’t grow up in the same neighborhoods as white people,” he said. “Whites are maybe less comfortable with them.”

Fortune

Diverse teams really are better!

Re-reading this seminal piece on the inherent strength of diverse teams feels like a warm, human-resources-approved hug during these troubling, retrograde times. It offers a fairly comprehensive review of the many studies proving the power of diverse boards and teams, so it’s perfect for bookmarking. One point, in particular, stuck with me: diverse teams think better together. A study of mock juries found that diverse teams raised more facts during deliberation, helped each other to understand the evidence more thoroughly, and were more likely to stay objective.

HBR

Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is the most profitable film of 2017

And no, it’s not just because the actors worked for free. (They didn’t.) Peele expertly leveraged a $4.5 million budget into a $252 million worldwide gross, giving his production house, Blumhouse, a 630% return on their investment. Only one other film has come close, and it’s another Blumhouse joint. Split, by M. Night Shamayalan, has earned a 610% return so far this year. While creatively risky films with tight budgets seem to be paying off, they often come with revenue limits, The Wrap points out. While everybody wants a minion doll, nobody will want a Get Out tea set anytime soon. Creepy.

The Wrap

Kendrick Lamar has the answers you need

There is so much to be enjoyed in this Rolling Stone Q&A with Kendrick Lamar. The artist, as always, is candid. “I can't tell you the shit that I've been through without telling you the shit that I've been through,” he says about the lyrics he writes and the man he’s become. While he tells good stories – about ghostwriting for Dre, working with Bono and Beyonce, his epiphany while sitting in Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell – it’s his profound philosophy of authentic creativity that got me sitting up a little straighter. “A wack artist uses other people's music for their approval. We're talking about someone that is scared to make their own voice, chases somebody else's success and their thing, but runs away from their own thing,” he says. “Be you. Simple as that.”

Rolling Stone

The Woke Leader

We don’t know why AA works

Not that it works for everyone, mind you. But this thorough piece from Wired’s Brendan I. Koerner, explores the astonishing history of the program while raising important questions about why it has lasted some 75 years. “Is it the act of surrendering to a higher power? The making of amends to people a drinker has wronged? The simple admission that you have a problem?” Experts have no idea. “These are questions we’ve been trying to answer for, golly, 30 or 40 years now,” one researcher told Wired. But some believe that the mere fact that it asks people to gather in groups is part of the answer.

Wired

Jokes about stereotypes may not be funny, but they mean something

Jason P. Steed, an English professor turned appellate lawyer, put his PhD dissertation to good use on Twitter by posting a fascinating thread that helps explain the social function of humor. Turns out the standard “just joking!!” disclaimer, specifically when it comes to jokes about racial stereotypes, really isn’t about being funny at all. “We use humor to bring people into - or keep them out of - our social groups. This is what humor *does.* What it's for.” No kidding.

Twitter

Why Somalis feel so at home online

Somali people are among the most displaced people in the world, explains writer Najma Sharif, with some 800,000 people living abroad, and up to two million more displaced internally. But many have found the internet to be a second home, a loving place to keep their spirits aloft and their culture alive. “Social media was like an extension of the motherland, connecting millions of Somalis to one another.”

Vice

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