WN#18: Don’t Let Polarization Separate Us Because We Are Better Together

This week includes topics as Leadership, Management, Psychology, Technology, and more. I hope you like it. 🙏

Hello again! I have to thank you for your patience in reading my writings. Today’s issue number eighteen, and I am already thinking about the number 20 as a milestone. I want to do something special in the twentieth issue, but I have no idea what to do.

What a strange week. First, working from home, I will always prefer to stay in the office. I am still not used to it, but I have to. It’s our responsibility. That’s why I decided to include today some surveys and researches about the topic.

I would be lying if I told you that the constant media hadn’t absorbed me about the US elections since Wednesday. It has it all: Joy, drama, plot twist, surrealism.

I don’t want to scare you. I am not going to write a lot about politics. But as you could read in the title, the first topic is related to it, but I hope it will be constructive. I found it interesting to read a little about polarization in groups.

This week I also decided to move some of the writings from the newsletter to the blog. I had it completely abandoned, and the newsletter is an excellent source of new posts.

Today my selection of topics includes Leadership, Management, Psychology, Technology, and more. While reviewing it, I found that maybe it could be heavier or more boring than usual. Please, let me know if this was the case.

As I always end this introduction, please, do not hesitate to add your comments or share your feedback. One of my goals is to learn from you. And if you like it, please share it. The more we are, the more we will share and have fun.

See you next week. Stay safe!


🤲 Don’t let polarization separate us because we are better together

In politics, as in companies, or groups, polarization and extremism can appear when like-minded people join, and it is not adequately identified and addressed on time. I don't want to focus on politics, but this week was impossible to hide from it, and the recent US elections and political situation is an excellent example of polarization.

I found that the following HBR article explains that after the 2016 election, research showed that 45% of Republicans and 41% of Democrats think the other party is so dangerous that it is a threat to the nation's health.

Fifty years ago, few people expressed any anger when asked how they would feel if their child married someone from the other party. Today, one-third of Democrats and nearly half of Republicans would be deeply upset. They also increasingly personally dislike those from the other party.

It doesn't only affect internally in politics, but also outside politics. It affects our lives and economies. Scholars call it affective polarization.

Partisanship has become a social identity. This kind of behavior creates homogeneous groups of people intolerant of opposing viewpoints. Like-minded groups can encourage extremism and provide a false sense of reality.

Groups can encourage, influence, and manipulate attitudes, and so media can. Two examples:

  • Social influence: Give money to a group and ask them to share with a stranger. Some people will give higher amounts to just not be seen as greedy by others.

  • Media influence: 93% of Americans believe that Arab terrorists conducted the 9/11 attack, but only 11% of Kuwaitis agree.

Psychologist Stanley Milgram demonstrated that authority figures could direct people to act in ways that hurt others. People follow orders issued by trusted authorities.

Sociologist Irving Janis identified like-minded people interaction behavior as groupthink, and noted that certain groups discourage alternative viewpoints, avoid discussions, and emphasize consensus.

The problem is not people being uneducated. The problem is that people are educated just enough to believe what they have been taught and not educated to question anything from what they have been taught - Professor Richard Feynman

In general, Polarization is typically regarded as negative, but in the following article, they reveal that if the power of diverse, polarized perspectives can be unleashed, it can positively influence quality productivity.

This HBR article explains that decades of social science research had found that the presence of diverse perspectives is beneficial for creative companies and teams. Diverse perspectives enable groups to search for a wider space of solutions to their problems.

Collectively, teams with mixtures of bias that are willing to engage and collaborate can yield superior performance. This reveals a “silver lining” of diversity and disagreement in these polarized times.

Truth to be told. Preventing toxic group polarization requires effort. You cannot believe that things will work for granted, you have to care about it. But how can it be prevented?

  • Include guidelines and policies in polarized teams, the violation of which could lead to an end of participation. In these cases, little increased oversight and bureaucracy might be beneficial.

  • Commitment to discourse and consensus. Strongly signaling such a mission upfront may induce self-selection from those individuals willing to cooperate for the common good. Common goals unite.

  • Ask for opinions outside of your circle to avoid polarization and enrich yours. It was a practice that also did, for example, presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt.

  • Brainwriting, or sharing ideas and thoughts in advance, avoids these mind-like near-consensus feelings and gives each member a voice, avoiding the domination by a few of them.

If we realize the other side has something worth saying, the arguments become smarter than the participants. We are better together.

👨‍💻 Remote work: Productivity vs Connectedness?

This year's Work From Home has changed or maybe evolved our way of work. We were demanding this change for years. We are now learning from these experiences and the tradeoffs that we didn't expect from the change.

This week I found several articles, pieces of research, or surveys regarding this topic. I am starting to share the following research from INSEAD, where 45% of people said that their connectedness got worse, but 31% said it improved. Far from having a consistent effect, it had created a divide.

They identified three key levers that predicted whether a team's cohesion was growing or devolving in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Harnessing the communicative power of new technologies. Teams that became closer and more connected harnessed technology's capacity to bridge divides and bring people closer.

  • Designing new interaction rituals for the virtual format. Compensate for losing these valuable informal interactions, consciously building in time to socialize and connect.

  • Leveraging the opportunity to show compassion and care. Instead of feeling helpless, members of successful teams are reaching out to help one another.

The article highlights that team relationships are highly vulnerable in Covid times.

Another survey noted that although 48% of professionals feel lonely during WFH, and 43% struggle with collaboration and communication, 45% of professionals want to work remotely. Interestingly, only 9% of the surveyed people believe that things will be as they were before.

And the last article that I want to share regarding this topic argued how the lockdown unlocked real work, increasing productivity from 15% to 40% in some organizations. Executives' concerns are about undermining cohesion, trust, and collaboration.

Their analysis concludes that the covid situation's urgency didn't allow organizations to prepare or adapt their complexity (add new roles, rules, processes) to the new model, relying then on the intelligent adaptation of their people.

Adjusting to the new situation and avoiding complicatedness, there was space for people to reset and refocus on value-adding work. So, the lockdown unlocked real work.

Having all this in mind, it seems that, as Google CEO said, the hybrid or flexible model will probably be the model of the future, giving the possibility to be on-site and remote, depending on the work and purpose.

🤫 The Power of Introverts

A tweet by Adam Grant reminded me of a draft post from my blog about a series of articles based on the book of Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

But let’s start with Adam Grant’s video, where he shared why introverted people would be better leaders.

At first, I thought that introverted wouldn't be the right adjective. I said humbly. Somebody who doesn't want to share the spotlight and feels threatened would be a self-centered person, but not just extroverted.

Returning to Susan Cain, in the following interview from HBR, also available the MP3 from the podcast, Susan makes a call to all the managers noticing them with the fact that a third to half of their employees are introverted, and that realizing this will help them to figure out how to get the best from them.

But why knowing this will help get better results? Because research demonstrated that they react and operate in different levels of stimulation. As she explains, the "one size fits all environments" doesn't work. So, again, the challenge is to get the best from everyone.

At that point, you would have noticed that when we say introvert, we don't mean shy or antisocial. Shyness is more about the fear of social judgment, and some introverted are shy, but some are not, or not in all circumstances.

Being introverted is about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. Extroverted people need more massive stimulus to feel at their best, and introverted feel better in quieter, lower-key environments.

Based on what I have shared, you could imagine that the office environment affects introverts and extroverts differently. Working with others is normal for introverts, but when you put them in a more stimulating situation like a meeting or brainstorming, it doesn't get the expected results.

So group work doesn't work equally for all the people, and this is important in the current moment where the more-agile environments push us to communicate, interact, and in the end, work together.

Susan defends that a crucial role of creativity is also solitude, as many great creative artists and other people understood it and cultivated solitude. We also read this before; in the first section of the newsletter, groups can influence and manipulate people's viewpoints.

Introverts have many capabilities, as the creative one as solitude and emotional introspection, but also have more persistence and concentration.

Albert Einstein, who Susan defends was an introvert, said: It's not that I am so smart. It's that I stay with problems longer.

But what about leadership? That is the point where we come back to Adam Grant. He researched with Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School, where they found that introverted leaders deliver better outcomes than extroverts when managing proactive employees.

So the point that Adam was referring to with "sharing spotlight and feeling threatened "was that introverts let extroverts get the best of themselves, listen to them, and adopt suggestions, allowing them to be autonomous and be proactive things their way, increasing their motivation. Introverted leaders create a virtuous circle of proactivity.

If you're interested in Susan Cain's work with introverts, you could see the following 19-minute TED talk.

Also, you could find the following link to her Google Talk interesting. It turns out that at this talk, most of the Googlers felt that they were introverted, with only five extroverts in the room.

🛒 Shopify is eating social commerce

Several issues ago, I shared a Stratechery article where Ben was discussing Platform Aggregators. Basically, it was using the example of Shopify and Facebook with their Shop Apps. Shopify was taking advantage of its platform for selling through it.

In the same newsletter, I was sharing another link from a16z’s Connie Chan saying that the next Amazon competitor would be a social and video app, using the example of live-streaming apps that are successfully running in China. I also wrote a post in my blog about that.

Well, last month we saw some news linking both topics. The first one was the partnership between Tik-Tok and Shopify for social commerce. The second is about Google deciding to build a shopping destination from Youtube, partnering with Shopify, and testing with them an integration to allow merchants to sell.

These movements are not by chance. Shopify follows its strategy as a platform aggregator and has made the most serious leap into social and live-streaming commerce.

📚 Most leaders have the knowledge but aren’t consistent

The following article is from 2018, when Tom Peters, management guru, and thinker, published his last book, The Excellence Dividend.

In the article A Blinding Flash of the Obvious from Standford Business, Tom shares that more leaders have the knowledge, but they aren’t consistent and pinpoints the most common infractions:

  • Execution: Poor cross-functional coordination and communication is the principal element in the delay of everything.

  • Excellence: Excellence is seen as a long-term aspiration, but it is about the present, the next 5 minutes, your next customer contact or employee listening.

  • Culture: CEO job No. 1 is setting — and micro-nourishing one day, one hour, one minute at a time — an effective people-truly-first, innovate-or-die, excellence-or-bust corporate culture. Culture is the game.

  • Employees: Leaders have to put employees first. That means hiring empathetic, curious people with good character, and developing them. Training is any firm’s single most crucial capital investment.

  • Leadership: Listening is the bedrock of leadership excellence.

⚙️ The root causes of technical debt

Following Wikipedia, Technical Debt reflects the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy (limited) solution now instead of using a better approach that would take longer.

The following article tried to explore the concept of Technical Debt. It ended up realizing that the problem with it is completely related to a lack of understanding and a lack of knowledge management.

If you develop a program for a long period of time by only adding features but never reorganizing it to reflect your understanding of those features, then eventually that program simply does not contain any understanding and all efforts to work on it take longer and longer.

You could also see this explanatory video from Ward Cunningham, who coined the term.

By chance, and related to this article, I saw this curious reply in my timeline with a non-technical explanation comparing software with a kitchen.

🧠 Emotional Intelligence is twice as big as IQ

The interesting tweet below, including a meta-study, shows the importance of founders' emotional intelligence when predicting venture success.

Ed Batista nailed it when explained that IQ is essential, but EI is a differentiator because it scales. A brilliant individual can only do so much on their own. An emotionally intelligent leader can attract, retain, and motivate a Team.

🐦 Some tweets that also deserve your attention

If you’re interested in newsletters or thinking of writing your own, this would be the podcast to listen to. In this episode, they interview Peter Cooper of Cooper Press, who manages a newsletter empire.

Interesting article from Lara Hogan and shared by Pat Kua, about the difficult conversations and everything that involves a situation when a teammate or colleague shares its grief.

Finally, Ed Batista built the following thread with 12 key points to keep in mind when giving critical feedback. The thread is a simplified and straightforward version of his article about the same topic.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I hope you liked it!

Please, do not hesitate to add any comments. I am open to any suggestions, so if you want to add a comment or contact me, I encourage you to do it.

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