All Posts By

Anandhan Tender Software

Three Cheers for Gillette in Confronting Unacceptable Macho Sexism

By | Symmetra | No Comments

Gillette’s latest video advertising campaign for its men’s razors with the title: “We believe: The best men can be …” has evoked howls of outrage in some quarters for being a demonisation of the male gender as intrinsically bad and incapable of refraining from intolerable behaviour. It is suggested that the video is simply an all-out and totally unjustified attack on masculinity and a negation of positive male attributes such as self-reliance, assertiveness and stoicism.

The video depicts instances of unrestrained toxic male aggressiveness and offensive behaviour and effectively calls upon responsible men to reject this type of behaviour openly and unequivocally. They cannot excuse or condone it or as the narrator says: “men can no longer hide from bullying or sexual harassment.”

Release of the video prompted a huge amount of online interest with most people taking a strong view either in support or against. A number voiced strident opposition to either the fact that Gillette had chosen to wade into the swirling #MeToo debate at all and others opined that the tenor of the video was implacably hostile to the male gender as a whole. Some well-known personalities such as broadcaster Piers Morgan and actor James Woods were incensed to the point where they said they would stop using Gillette products.

The Gillete advert generated the further criticism that the manufacturer was guilty of taking an opportunistic ride on the wave of anger flowing out of the #MeToo movement and this was a cynical attempt to stir a public debate.

In our view, Gillette is to be commended for taking the undoubtedly risky step of linking its product with a stated position on a highly controversial but undeniably important issue which needs to be confronted by both genders. Most marketing and advertising campaigns have up until now, studiously avoided contentious social issues . In so doing they have presented hopelessly idealised and artificial images of genders and the way they behave. When they have touched on issues pertaining to gender, race age and sexual orientation this has often been accidental and occasioned by importing unconscious biases into advertising material which has offended one group or another.

But there are good reasons for manufacturers to show that they are alive to the issues that are of concern to their customers and the community. As a spokesperson for P & G,  the owner of Gillette stated;

Successful brands today have to be relevant and engage consumers in topics that matter to them. “

The frenzied response from some conservative men’s groups to the advert is inexplicable and in many ways, disturbing. Gillette does not condemn men as a gender but rather points out that bullying and sexual harassment, which most reasonable people agree are obnoxious, can and ought to be combatted. This is not a crusade for women alone but should be an enterprise in which men would want to join. Only a high level of insecurity and immaturity could prompt any man to rebel when called upon to acknowledge and speak up against socially- subversive behaviour.

As George Monbiot writing in The Guardian noted:

The notion that men should be distant, domineering and self-seeking is often described as toxic masculinity, but this serves only to alienate those who might need most help. Its proponents describe their behavioural ideal as traditional masculinity, but conceptions of maleness, like conceptions of the family have changed from century to century.

Moreover, two documents recently released, one being the American Psychological Association, Guidelines for the Treatment of Men and an Australian Study by the Queensland University of Technology into notions of masculinity have shown very convincingly that conceptions of masculinity which emphasise dominance and aggression are as harmful to men as they are to women. It leads not only to violence against women but violence against men and according to the Australian study leads men ‘….to consider suicide, drink excessively, take risks and drive dangerously.’

If nothing else, the Gillette advert has given impetus to a public debate which is important and pressing. It will give many men pause and grounds to reflect. If its message is taken to heart it will help to reduce the corrosive atmosphere which prevails in some Australian workplaces and public institutions. If it does that it will have achieved something valuable.

How Artificial Intelligence will Stimulate Cognitive Diversity in the Workplace

By | News & Knowledge | No Comments

Artificial Intelligence (AI): a branch of computer science which enables a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour and which through artificial neural networks is capable of learning through experience.

The arrival of the technological wave created by artificial intelligence has elicited a huge number of assessments and predictions as to what this means for the future of work. Some people embrace AI unreservedly as embodying huge potential for good, while others see a dismal future for a large part of humanity, predicting dire consequences as machines surpass humans in overall intelligence and render much of humanity redundant.

A widely held perception is that the changes likely to be wrought to our societies and workplaces by the advent of AI will be nothing less than revolutionary-destroying or replacing in a short space of time much of what is familiar and creating entirely new systems and ways of solving problems.

This has given rise to a great debate as to whether to welcome the great opportunities afforded by AI or to fear it as representing a force which we will be unable to control.

In a speech given in November 2017, the late Steven Hawking, while emphasising that embracing AI may be initiating or even inviting unforeseen perils, said the following:

“I am an optimist and believe that we can create AI for the good of the world. That it can work in harmony with us. We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management and prepare for its consequences well in advance “

Since AI is already a presence in many workplaces, we need to understand the long-term consequences on our workforces as tasks pass from workers to machines. More particularly, how will increasing implementation of AI systems affect the drive to make our workplaces, demographically and cognitively more diverse?

Many progressive organisations and businesses have recognised and embraced the notion that establishing teams composed of people who possess diverse thinking styles enhances the capacity for innovative ideas and creates material benefits for the organisation. Will the power of AI render workforce demography irrelevant and eliminate the need to diverse thinkers who collectively generate the bulk of innovative ideas?

This is not a hypothetical question or an issue to be reserved for future deliberation.  The influence of intelligent technology is changing the commercial landscape at a bewildering pace. Entrepreneurs are seizing upon the powerful learning ability of algorithms to look for ways of disrupting entire industries. A notable example here is driverless cars in the transport industry. At the same time, companies are seeking opportunities to radically remodel all aspects of their operations so as to gain competitive advantage while labour experts have concluded that many job categories will simply disappear as their functions are superseded by computers applying algorithms which do the job much more efficiently.  

On the jobs front, a McKinsey report found that 30% of work activities could be automated by 2030 and up to 375 million workers worldwide could be affected by emerging technologies. The OECD has taken a different approach focusing. on “tasks “rather than jobs”. It estimated that 14% of jobs are highly automatable and another 32% have a significant risk of automation.

More recently, a somewhat more optimistic view has been taken of the way that AI will be integrated in our workplaces. Experts who spoke at the MIT Sloan Summit (2018) indicated that while machines can undoubtedly perform some tasks better than humans, they cannot generally perform all tasks needed for a job. A similar view is to be found in a comprehensive analysis from McKinsey Global Institute (May 2018), where the following assertion appears:

“Accompanying the adoption of advanced technologies into the workplace will be an increase in the need for workers with finely tuned social skills-skills that machines are a long way from mastering”

Thus instead of an outright contest to see whether humans can resist an invasion by AI there will very likely be partnerships or collaboration on a broad scale in the workplace between AI machines and humans.

An insightful and cogent appraisal of how AI could be leveraged to be married with soft skills possessed by humans comes from a report published by TATA communications (2018). This report also adopts and endorses the premise that humans and AI systems can, and most probably will, interact in ever increasing ways in the workplace.

It bases its theoretical approach on the highly regarded work of Professor Scott Page , especially in his latest publication, The Diversity Bonus which postulates that the more diverse the participants, the more opportunities to discover insights and novel approaches. Accordingly, the authors of the TATA study set out to ascertain how this principle might work when one or more of the participants is an AI machine.

The study surveyed more than 120 business leaders across a range of industries to gauge current interest in and understanding of, AI with particular regard to the impact of positive trends within their organisations.

 

Four themes about the future role of AI emerged from the study and each one has implications for optimising cognitive diversity within the organisation:

  • The structure of work will change and require greater agility and flexibility

Today candidates are hired for a specific role. In future candidates might be hired on the assumption that they will fill multiple roles over their career. Roles will move from being task-based to strategic, requiring more expansive cognitive skills. Since roles will be changing multiple times over the course of  careers, each candidate will have to employ diverse cognitive skills to manage the different roles and AI can be used to map the diverse talent opportunities available within a company .

  • AI has the potential to help individuals become more agile, curious and nimble.

As time is freed up through the use of AI, workers’ time will be available for more creative tasks and more opportunities to think in non-linear ways. Team members will have  time to debate and seek fresh ways of approaching and solving problems. The more diverse the totality of contributors, the greater the likelihood of coming up with innovative solutions.

  • AI has the potential to enhance human collaboration

AI could facilitate team composition, organisation and communications such as offering new and alternate ways of approaching a team session,( especially those where various members are dispersed across diverse global locations) and utilising its ability to translate multiple languages used by participants. This means that diverse thinking from many sources across the globe could be merged and cross-pollinated in real time more efficiently

  • AI has the potential to enhance cognitive diversity within groups

Leaders often make judgements on their own about strategic and operational matters. AI systems could help to source expert advice from other areas in the organisation  efficiently, breaking down silos and bringing together a diverse set of viewpoints.

 

Most crucially, the overarching conclusion is expressed thus:

With autonomous processes becoming more scalable, original and diverse ideas will create competitive advantages. By building diverse teams through a combination of workers and machines, the number of new cognitive skills will be multiplied, increasing the ability to turn a problem around, look at it from different directions and deploy different skills to find creative solutions.”

Having said that, it will be up to organisations and their leaderships to lay the groundwork by pushing ever harder to employ and promote employees whose thinking styles differ from the conventional. Companies and organisations will reap the benefits of AI to the maximum if the workers who interact with it possess the diversity of cognitive skills  to discover the myriad ways in which AI can be used to the advantage of the organisation. If this is done, workers will be able to employ to the maximum the humanistic skills which still distinguish them from machines and to get the best outcomes from the diverse thinking when humans and AI machines work in concert.

 

 

Reference: Skill Shift-Automation and the Future of the Workforce

Delivering Through Diversity

By | News & Knowledge | No Comments

V Hunt, S Prince, S Dixon-Fyle, L Yee – McKinsey & Company Report – January 2018 

This new research report by McKinsey is a follow-up to their 2015 report “Why Diversity Matters” and extends the mounting body of evidence supporting diversity as a means to better organisational performance. Significantly it is an attempt to determine whether the perceived benefits of diversity are simply localised phenomena or whether they are more generalised benefits which apply regardless of where an organisation is situated. The 2018 report expanded in scope and numbers on the 2015 report and while the earlier report had found statistical evidence showing that diversity had financially beneficial effects the later report shows that the benefits are even larger.

The report is divided into two distinct parts. The first is to assess whether diversity in organisations can be shown to be of benefit regardless of a country’s ethnic makeup, its geographical situation and its state of economic development. Data was drawn from more than 1000 companies in 12 countries.  

The report first measured both profitability and value creation in relation to the degree of gender diversity. It found a positive correlation between gender diversity at executive level and both profitability as well as value creation; a 21% difference in profitability between most diverse and least and 27% when it comes to value creation.
 
The difference is even more emphatic when ethnic diversity is considered. When executive teams are more ethnically diverse organisations are 33% more likely to outperform their peers( no figures are given with respect to value creation).

 

The noteworthy conclusion is that both gender diversity and ethnic diversity are correlated with better financial performance across geographic regions, although there are some variations between different countries. However, the report also notes that in all the countries surveyed there remain substantial challenges to achieving meaningful diversity goals with regard to both gender and ethnicity.

The second part of the Report focuses on the now widely accepted proposition that both inclusion and diversity are necessary and complementary ingredients for businesses to achieve long-term benefits.

It sets out 4 imperatives for a coherent and successful inclusion policy.

  • Articulate and cascade CEO commitment
  • Define inclusion and diversity priorities
  • Craft a portfolio of D&I initiatives
  • Tailor the strategy to maximise local impact

The authors of the report conclude that there is ample evidence to show strong correlations across the globe between gender, ethnic and cultural diversity and better financial outcomes. They concede that it is a hard road to achieving sustained diversity and inclusion but for those companies and their leadership willing to undertake the task, benefits will undoubtedly accrue.

 

Read the full report: Delivering Through Diversity

Why the Typical Performance Review is Overwhelmingly Biased

By | News & Knowledge | No Comments

B Jones and D Rock – Psychology Today – May 2018

This article offers an interesting new perspective on how to mitigate the biases which creep into performance appraisals.

Biases infiltrate themselves into many of the decisions we make daily. Recognising this means we need to guard against the harmful results flowing to ourselves and others in the course of making consequential judgements and decisions.

Performance reviews have garnered a good deal of attention over recent years. Much criticism has been levelled at the traditional way performance reviews are conducted, which often do not constitute an objective appraisal of an employee’s performance.

Well-known biases that impede proper assessments in traditional performance reviews are: the “halo effect” which bases the entire review on one criterion to the exclusion of others; the “crony effect” which distorts the review process because of the closeness of the relationship between appraiser and appraised; and the “recency effect” where the person reviewed is appraised simply with regard to the most recent action or behaviour.

The authors note that despite the well-known difficulties with performance reviews, some 57% of companies they surveyed in the USA were not doing anything to remove biases in these processes.

Many observers who have written about the biases which come into play in performance reviews have suggested simply that the appraisers alert themselves to the difficulties and do their best to overcome their impact. But since many of these biases, by definition, operate at an unconscious level it is almost impossible for a decision-maker to address them on their own in real time.

The solution suggested in this article is for managers to solicit the views of others in the organisation. Collective opinions are much more likely to get closer to an objective assessment which may turn out either more favourable or less favourable than that which the manager alone would have given.

This is a useful approach to performance reviews because it introduces an element of systematic checks and balances against unconscious biases rather than leaving it to the individual to ward them off.

 

Original article: Why the Typical Performance Review is Overwhelmingly Biased

The Other Diversity Dividend

By | News & Knowledge | No Comments

P Gompers and S Kovvali – Harvard Business Review – July/August 2018

Statistical data in a number of areas gives support to the view that harnessing the benefits of diverse thinking brings about positive real world results

While there are good grounds for believing that diverse organisations tend to generate a broader range of ideas, more innovative thinking and ultimately better outcomes, it is not always easy to find specific examples where increasing diversity in and of itself generates greater profits.

The authors of this article have fixed upon the venture capital (VC) industry for their field study assessment of the impact of diversity in decision-making teams on financial outcomes. Their reasoning is that small tightly-knit teams of venture capitalists work together in a non-hierarchical structure sharing the decision-making. It is relatively easy to track the results of decisions taken and to compare them to competing organisations.

Most VC teams are white-male dominated, but where diverse group members have found their way into such organisations their impact has been noticeable. The authors derived their data from publicly available information to determine the extent to which certain VCs were not homogeneous but included members with diverse traits based on gender and ethnicity as well as “acquired traits” such as schooling and work history.

The authors assert that a clear causal relationship was established: the higher the level of diversity in the team, the better the investment performance. Where all team members came from a similar school background the success rate of acquisitions was 11.5% lower and where all members were ethnically homogeneous the success rate was reduced by up to 32%.

An interesting observation is made by the authors as to the stage in the development of a new corporate acquisition when diverse thinking is most advantageous. The advantage becomes evident not when the choice of investment is made, but later when investors are called upon to shape strategy, recruitment and other efforts. In a highly competitive and uncertain commercial environment, diverse thinking comes into its own.

Despite all this, the authors note that the VC industry is still remarkably homogeneous with overwhelming numbers being white males coming from the same university – Harvard. As with other industries, they suggest that a concerted effort is required to break the mould of the typical venture capitalist.

 

Original article: The Other Diversity Dividend