November 3, 2017

Learning about building better teams.

I’ve been thinking a lot about (and speaking about, and working on) building diverse and inclusive teams, these days. Of course, I don’t have all (or really, any) of the answers, but I am convinced that we all can be doing better than we are right now, no matter how far ahead we may think we may be.

Do you have some thoughts, ideas? Have you done things that have consciously made your workplaces more inclusive, or fostered a better sense of belonging within your team

If so, let me know. I’m eager to learn, but most of all, I’m eager to put that learning into practice. Let’s talk.

A few things to read and explore:

In praise of Cookie Monster, the literary muppet, Tim Carmody:

Cookie’s idiosyncratic pronouns and truncated consonant clusters are a ruse. He’s easily the most verbally adept, best-educated character on Sesame Street. He teaches children the alphabet and vocabulary, and of course doubles as Alistaire Cookie on Monsterpiece Theatre. The growly voice, googly eyes, and outsized yearnings mask the heart of a scholar.

Cookie is all of us who always get underestimated, just because we refused to always change how we talk and how we act because we went to school. But we love those sweet leatherbound books, too.

If I Were/Was Your Girlfriend, Tim Carmody:

This is an amazing song about intimacy, fantasy, the limits of gender roles, the limits of gender flexibility, a man’s full catalog of shortcomings and possibilities. This is also a breakup song, about heartbreak and desperation. It’s a song about a man putting the pieces of the past together and hoping they can add up to something more than they were.

Card catalogs and the secret history of modernity, Tim Carmody:

Card catalogs imagine an endlessly growing collection of books and other documents. It imagines institutions capable of standardizing the treatment of those documents. And it imagines a democratic public, scholars, students, and amateurs with both the urge and the ability to seek out such materials. The card catalog is everything that is the best of the 19th and 20th centuries. And they look beautiful, and smell fantastic.

I Come From Athletes, Nikki Giovanni:

Of course, the penis will soon be extinct because it has been so often misused. Like the tonsils and other useless organs, one day men will wake up and it will be gone. I have no idea what will take its place but anything that is useless or misused will be eliminated. Segregation should have kept them on their side, but they kept coming.

Civic Tech: On Google, Sidewalk Labs, and Smart Cities, Bianca Wylie:

While it’s tempting to think we simply need more and better data to resolve our most pressing urban problems, it’s not true. The fundamental problem is one of values. Values inform political leadership. Political leadership decides how to spend money and how the private sector will participate in that spending (and taxing). That’s the work to do on inclusive cities: align spending at all levels of government to address our most pressing problems, whether that means climate change, gentrification and affordability, and so on.

Throwing around words like affordability and inclusivity in projects like Quayside can be misleading and even dishonest. Tech is a distraction to this value-driven work. Unfortunately, tech’s impact has become too powerful to ignore as it bleeds into and changes civic, cultural, and democratic norms.

An Oral History of David Pumpkins’, Jesse David Fox:

While these guys are out doing the sketch at dress, I’m sitting next to Lorne under the bleachers. Lorne is giving notes on the composition: Is that lighting weird?” Can those doors open a little faster?” Can’t we just get to it?” I’m looking past him as he’s giving me these very serious notes, and I’m nodding and saying yes.” Meanwhile I just see Tom Hanks being like, I’m David Pumpkins!” and these guys dancing and slapping each others’ asses.

Some Of The Times I Didn’t Consent, Hannah Keyser:

For men, that perspective is based on a culture that treats sex as something for them to win, accumulate, accomplish. Pushing past the point of predictable resistance is, in that understanding, a measure of merit. This gamification of sex teaches men to be opportunistic and to err on the side of getting what they want; it rewards them for it. The number on the scoreboard ticks up. This sounds overtly sinister, but it plays out in ostensibly innocent ways as well. Persistence is portrayed as romantic, or at least not pathetic. The object of all that attention stays out of focus, or out of the frame entirely.

There’s An Elephant In Harvey Weinstein’s Hotel Room, Bim Adewunmi:

In an industry as white as Hollywood, the racially problematic attraction question” is part of what reduces the shelf life of black actresses as a matter of course, causing many of them to get half as far in twice the time it takes their white counterparts. To be deemed fuckable” is not the honor a certain kind of man (and woman) believes it to be, but the ideas of fuckability are entrenched, and they serve to exclude black women very early on in the conversation — while dooming the women who do go on to get the roles to gross sexual harassment or assault. Of course looks don’t matter, except when your job absolutely sort of definitely depends on it. And of course, women who aren’t pretty” get harassed, assaulted, and raped every day. But remember: It’s a power thing. And this gruesome, growing story of decades-long abuse helps us to contextualize that power by identifying the people who abuse it as well as its trickle-down effect.

How Movie Theaters, TV Networks, and Classrooms Are Changing the Way They Show Gone With the Wind, Aisha Harris:

With more and more people becoming aware of the movie’s most offensive elements, could it ever go the way of The Birth of a Nation or that other iconic example of searing, dangerous agitprop from across the ocean, Triumph of the Will? The most recent time TCM played The Birth of a Nation, Tabesh told me, was in 2013 as part of a series supplementing the 15-part documentary The Story of Film, and he [doesn’t] think he would do it again.” For the film’s 100th anniversary in 2015, the channel consciously didn’t play it to honor or celebrate it in any way.” German law, meanwhile, prohibits Triumph of the Will from being shown except under particular circumstances with an expert present to provide context. It’s been easy to cast those films aside entirely—they wear their white supremacy on their sleeve.

Why the Fight for Better Transit is Part of the Fight for Racial Equity, Dera Luce:

Imagine not being able to move about your own city to access work, school, food or health services. Lack of public transit maintains inequality. Creating the infrastructure for accessible and reliable public transit is easier when there are actually people utilizing transit and supporting it financially. Use transit. Talk about transit. Let officials and legislators know transit is important.

Streaming & Transience, William Schuth:

Like our utilities, a walled-garden streaming media platform will not provide fresh output when it goes under. Unlike utilities, which charge by rate of consumption, most streaming services charge for access to the pipe, but are agnostic about the amount consumed from it. In this respect, a streaming service is more like a subscription to cable TV or a magazine, where the subscription fee ensures unfettered access to a product for a designated period of time. Unlike one of these subscriptions, however, nothing produced by the streaming service can be saved for indefinite enjoyment after the service itself goes away.

LeBron James Is the Greatest Living Athlete (and Here’s Why), Mark Anthony Green:

It’s the Ali Test. It’s a people’s-champ-ness one needs. It’s the ability to turn fans into followers and followers into consequential action. To be able to legitimately have an effect on the way people live in the world, as corny as it sounds. And LeBron, more than any other living athlete on earth, has that in him. The fact that he’s putting over a thousand kids through college is commendable. But when assessing his imprint and the potential of his reach, it seems relatively small. Like a 30-point game. He’s reaching for something bigger. Something that most athletes eschew and that LeBron himself wasn’t always inclined to do. It’s not like he was out there his rookie season stumping for candidates. But things have changed. It’s a different world now. Which is why I figured I’d test out the upper limit of his ambition.

The Secrets of Sleep, Jerome Groopman:

For most of us it is the mind, rather than the body, that disrupts restorative sleep. Kryger explores in depth psychological conditions that are associated with disordered sleep, as well as psychotropic medications whose side effects can prevent a restful night. He allows for the need to medicate at times with sleeping pills or melatonin, but prefers cognitive behavioral therapy, a technique that involves teaching patients to mentally prepare themselves for slumber by devising ways to bypass the thoughts that keep them awake.

The useless design features in modern products, Zaria Gorvett:

Despite the rise of digital technology, the cockpits of the most high-tech airplanes are still laden with analogue dials, levers and knobs. They no longer connect to flying systems directly, instead simply linking to computerised ones. Old-school pilots expected old-school controls, which meant that the next generation learnt on this style too, and so on. The result: the controls of modern aircraft look very similar to those from the 1930s.

These Cheese Scientists Are Fighting to Save the Dairy Industry, Clint Rainey:

That Taco Bell is developing its cheesiest products ever in the midst of an historic dairy oversupply is no accident. There exists a little-known, government-sponsored marketing group called Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), whose job it is to squeeze as much milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt as it can into food sold both at home and abroad. Until recently, the Got Milk?” campaign was its highest-impact success story. But for the past eight years, the group has been the hidden hand guiding most of fast food’s dairy hits—a kind of Illuminati of cheese—including and especially the Quesalupa. In 2012 it embedded food scientist Lisa McClintock with the Taco Bell product development team. She worked with the senior manager for product development, Steve Gomez, to develop a cheese filling that would stretch like taffy when heated, figured out how to mass-produce it, and helped invent some proprietary machinery along the way.

The finished product is mega-cheesy: With an entire ounce in the shell, the Quesalupa has about five times the cheese load of a basic Crunchy Taco. To produce the shells alone, Taco Bell had to buy 4.7 million pounds of cheese.

The fax of life, Sarah Kliff:

In the medical sector, the fax is as dominant as ever. It is the cockroach of American medicine: hated by doctors and medical professionals but able to survive — even thrive — in a hostile environment. By one private firm’s estimate, the fax accounts for about 75 percent of all medical communication. It frustrates doctors, nurses, researchers, and entire hospitals, but a solution is evasive.

José Andrés Fed Puerto Rico, and May Change How Aid Is Given, Kim Severson:

Since he hit the ground five days after the hurricane devastated this island of 3.4 million on Sept. 20, he has built a network of kitchens, supply chains and delivery services that as of Monday had served more than 2.2 million warm meals and sandwiches. No other single agency — not the Red Cross, the Salvation Army nor any government entity — has fed more people freshly cooked food since the hurricane, or done it in such a nurturing way.

Happiness Is Other People, Ruth Whippman:

Self-reflection, introspection and some degree of solitude are important parts of a psychologically healthy life. But somewhere along the line we seem to have gotten the balance wrong. Because far from confirming our insistence that happiness comes from within,” a wide body of research tells us almost the exact opposite.

Absolutely love this set of stamps by China Post celebrating important technology advancements in the country:

China Post Office Stamps

That adorable kid who knew more about flying a plane than almost everyone who has ever been on a plane? Well, he got the chance to be a pilot for a day:

Holdout houses around the world, holding strong as development happens all around them:

Holdout houses giving the finger to redevelopment

Holdout houses giving the finger to redevelopment

And a few more:

→ Weekend Reading