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Making fairness convenient

Modernity has caused us to care more about convenience than just about anything. We’ll trade privacy or agency or our ethical standards simply to save a few clicks.

That’s a shame. It’s nothing to be proud of. But it’s true. And so, if we want things to be more fair, it helps to make fairness more convenient. Here, for example, is an endless collection of stock photos from Christina Morillo. They’re free, they’re well done and they feature women of color and other under-represented groups. Suddenly, it’s a lot easier to find a photo that opens doors and sets a wider standard for what’s normal.

Or consider a company that moves its on-campus recruiting to a college with a more diverse student body. Or an orchestra that defaults to auditioning performers behind an opaque screen. Or a job interview process that uses projects instead of live performance in an unnatural setting. Or a library that uses ramps instead of steps…

The well-grooved pathways of habit often cause us to make bad long-term decisions. And often, people run out of energy, time or resolve to do what they know they ought to do, resorting to the easy thing or the practiced thing instead. We know we can do better, but in the meantime, making it more convenient to do work we’re proud of is a good place to start.

Fairness might not be more convenient in the short run, but diversity creates measurable value.

More in this episode of Akimbo.

The gap between good and famous

When there were gatekeepers, the gap was smaller. People who knew that they could create fame were careful (often) to bestow it on things and people that they believed had something to offer.

As the race for fame becomes ever more breakneck, though, that requirement is fading.

While it’s a convenient shortcut, the signal of ‘famous’ is no longer closely related to the desire for ‘good’.

Learn from what you find, if it helps

It’s possible that the author has a different upbringing than you do. It’s possible that the example on the screen doesn’t match your experience. It’s possible that you don’t like someone’s politics, but they’re currently doing something interesting…

If you can learn something, learn it.

It’s tempting to box off all the incoming, to divide it by provenance and to ignore any insight, wisdom or lesson that comes from a questionable/foreign/unfamiliar source.

But it’s free. Hiding from it means we can’t benefit from it.

We’re more likely to learn from diversity than we are from homogeneity.

Secession vs. commitment

Leaving (and the perceived threat of leaving) is a powerful negotiation tactic. When the customer/partner/citizen could bolt at any moment, we act differently.

Street vendors know that the prospect is already standing, already on the street, already on their way out the (invisible) door. It changes the dynamic between them, making the short-term the only term.

And commitment is a powerful creation tactic. When the parties involved know that they’re committed to a future together, it makes it more likely that they’ll produce a positive new version of how that future can look.

Monopolies create unwilling commitment. The customer is trapped. Brands with loyalty earn commitment, and it gives them the freedom to invest in even better work.

Nations are now discovering that shifts in loyalty and the transferability of assets are a real issue going forward. One option is to make secession more difficult, the other is to increase the likelihood of individuals choosing to commit.

It definitely benefits all concerned to know which path the people you serve are on. And to act accordingly.

Go outside

Before you make a big decision, walk around the block.

If it’s raining out, take the dog for a run.

End the meeting a few minutes early and go for a stroll with the team.

Instead of an afternoon snack, consider some sunshine.

The less convenient, the more it pays.

A hard habit to create, but definitely worth it.

When in doubt, go outside. Especially when it’s inconvenient.

(If you want to see this as a metaphor, that’s good too.)


PS We just opened applications for the April 2020 session of the altMBA. The January session is fully enrolled. I hope you can join us.

World tour 2020 (coming to a town near you)

Because sometimes, showing up in person makes the difference.

Public workshops and talks that might be near you in 2020:

In May, I’ll be in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Singapore.

Coming to HelsinkiStockholm and Oslo in September. And an afternoon in Amsterdam too.

In California, in February.

And in New York, in April.

In Bogota, in June.

And in November, it must be Madrid.

I don’t do long haul travel very often, and if you’re local to any of these, I hope you’ll consider coming. We’ll be hosting a discussion board to connect attendees as well.

Irritated is a choice

It’s a choice because you’re on this path by choice.

And it’s a choice because the act of being irritated involves the story we tell ourselves. People are rarely irritated by gravity, because gravity got here before us.

If you’re telling yourself a story that leads to you being irritated, you’re welcome to change your story.

Water towers

On the top of many apartment buildings (and on a hill in many towns) you’ll find a water tower, a large wooden or metal container holding tons of water.

Why bother?

It turns out that a pump that slowly and consistently pumps water uphill is way more efficient than the high-powered, high-capacity pump you’d need to meet spikes in demand. By using gravity to assist during times of heavy load, the consistent and more efficient pump gets the job done by planning ahead.

We all need a water tower somewhere in our work.

Only the hits

The economics are compelling. Start a movie studio, a record label or a book publisher that only markets hits. No clunkers. No filler. Simply the hits.

Easier than it sounds.

Why doesn’t a musician go straight to a “greatest hits” record and save everyone a lot of time and hassle? Why doesn’t a salesperson only call on people who are sure to buy?

Because no one knows anything.

You won’t know if it’s a hit until after you bring it to market. Dylan recorded 50 albums. Picasso painted 10,000 paintings. VCs fund hundreds of businesses.

Do your best. Then ship.


The thing about hot button issues

It’s not that they are buttons.

It’s that they’re hot.

They’re hot because they get pressed all the time. They’re hot because they’re seductive. It’s an easy button to push, so people push it all the time.

And that can get you burned.

It can short circuit the point you were trying to make.

It turns out that there are plenty of other buttons, often ignored, that people are eager to activate. Plenty of topics and fears and dreams and beliefs that are just waiting to be seen and engaged with.

We don’t need the risky shortcut of the hot button. It’s not going to work anyway.

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