It’s been a week since the infamous manifesto by a Google engineer became public, and five days since he was fired for it. This situation has become a catalyst for many to speak up: How tough it is for a woman to make it in Tech. How people with more conservative points of view are feeling marginalized at Google. Frustration with the boys clubs and bro culture of Silicon Valley. Disappointment with the failure to move the diversity agenda forward in a significant way, despite intense efforts. How it was fair to fire the guy. How it wasn’t fair to fire him. Lots of versions of the truth…
The problem with telling the truth is that it’s never the whole truth.
You may not agree. Maybe you’re an expert in a certain field with lots of scientific proof to argue your case. However, this “manifesto misery” is the perfect example of a situation that has spiralled out of control because we are trying to strip the truth down to one single point of view and hold onto it tightly. Things have become black and white over night and turned into a zero sum game where the focus has changed from merely expressing one’s point of view to winning the argument.
Does polarization serve us well in an industry where “making the world a better place” is supposed to be our purpose?
I have been asked on multiple occasions about my point of view on this issue, as an ex Googler who, until recently, worked closely with senior leadership on many people and culture related projects.
I am trying to understand where this engineer is coming from, and why he was fired for what he wrote. I can relate to the outrage this manifesto has caused. And I see how everyone is now stuck in the drama of whose fault it is, and how we are supposed to fix it. Unfortunately, when we get triggered, it’s hard to act from our wisest selves.
I don’t think I can add any additional value by commenting on the content of the manifesto, or on Google’s decision to fire the engineer. Clearly, the manifesto has brought to the surface what has been bubbling up all along in many companies, and Google has been caught between a rock and a hard place. Instead, I would like to explore what we may learn from this.
From drama to choice
I wish for all of us, not just in Tech, but for society in general, that we can learn to step out of any given drama, and try to look at each complex situation from many perspectives, so that we can create more choices for a better way forward.
Rather than getting stuck on pointing the finger and blaming the other side, I wonder how we can get more curious. How can we enter a dialogue where people are willing to listen without judgment, and are encouraged to speak their minds in a way that’s truthful and passionate, but not combative?
How can we make space to reflect how we really want to show up? So that we can find the most productive way to come together and move forward as a collective? How can we identify the opportunities that are presenting themselves now so we can partner with what’s arising, rather than holding on and adding to the pain of the past?
It starts with ourselves. We are the energy that moves our teams, workplaces, communities. It’s time to pay attention to our inner world. Rather than making snap judgments and projecting outward, here’s an invitation to slow down and pay attention. Even if this may trigger one of the core fears in Tech, where speed to market is the key to success. What if we let go of the “fast at every expense” pressure and consider the “go slow to go fast” possibility?
The technology that makes the world a better place
is right inside of us. It’s not that hard to access, but it takes a lot of ongoing practice. We can learn to optimize how we are in touch with our minds, hearts, and bodies. In silence and reflection, we can get clarity about who we want to be. We can touch what connects us all, our common humanity. From that place, it’s much easier and more joyful to cultivate curiosity for different points of view, and empathy for others. All of a sudden, making the world a better place is not just achieved through developing the next hot product. It’s about our inner development. It’s who we are and who we are becoming. The practices we are engaging in today determine who we are in the coming years.
Who do you want to become? And what practice(s) are you engaging in to make it happen?
I have taken inspiration for this blog post from my coach and teacher Alan Seale and his “Four Levels of Engagement” model. For more, check out Alan’s book Create a World That Works, which is a must read for leaders and visionaries.