I had two reminders, during the past 24 hours, that it’s important to use humanity when expressing your perspective.

The first reminder came from Satya Nadella, who made a significant mis-step when addressing wage inequality between women and men (see link). Basically, he asserted that women who “shut up and work hard” build good karma and will get appropriate raises and promotions because the system will look out for them. This approach has not been my experience…the person who demands respect, raises, and promotions (regardless of work ethic or talent in many instances) gets the prize.

The second reminder came during a discussion with one of the Avaya CTOs, as he discussed Avaya’s Contact Center philosophy of “carbon based assets” vs. “silicon based assets.” Minimizing the role of contact personnel – thinking, living entities – to carbon based assets was slightly horrifying and more than a little emotionally tone deaf. The message was simple…we can trade out the carbon based assets which are expensive and faulty by using more silicon. I was left wanting to ask whether he’s learned anything from the customer service revolutions over the past 15 years.

We all battle biases about gender, class, and race…and we often don’t see the biases as the limiting mental models that they are. I’m just as guilty as anyone….it’s my mental model that the woman does the cooking in the household, so I organize the kitchen around my cooking needs and take on the responsibility. I assume Per doesn’t want to learn to cook, and just take over this role. Most of the time I don’t even question the cooking assignment, until I get tired or overwhelmed…and then Per finds that I snap at him about taking advantage of my bias.

My insight of the day is to use humanity and a questioning spirit when making biased statements. Humans are not carbon-based assets, nor are we living in a gender or race blind meritocracy. The biases we have, our mental models of the way our world works…they might not be the same as your neighbor’s, and we need to use gentleness and understanding when building consensus.


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