The Wolf Among Us
How are you fixed for culture?
The decisions you make today will be with you for years.
We often determine how we’ll handle a project, a product launch, or an event as part of a set of annual or quarterly initiatives. We’re driven by immediate needs to show results, whether it’s to our boss, a client, or investors.
And in the heat of those moments, as we’re pressured to deliver according to schedule, we may miss longer-term implications because of short-term needs.
A case in point is Facebook, which is back in the news, due to the Cambridge Analytica data dust-up and the U.K.’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. At issue is not only Facebook's questionable decisions about its data policy in past years, but how Facebook representatives “deliberately misled” the committee in testimony late last year.
The committee was so outraged with Facebook that they considered social network to be skirting along the criminal world:
“Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law.”
Even if we can forgive Facebook’s decisions in the years leading up to the election and attribute it to a lack of foresight or a result of a lack of coordination internally, it’s getting more difficult to overlook the transgressions above. The leadership has been given ample opportunities to come clean, and at every turn, they're guided by their moral compass, which is expressed through a series of delays, denials, and deflections.
“And those that deceive upon hope of not being observed do commonly deceive themselves, the darkness in which they believe they lie hidden being nothing else but their own blindness and are no wiser than children that think all hid by hiding their eyes.” — Thomas Hobbes, 1651
Even as Mark Zuckerberg continually expressed his idealistic desire to make the world a more connected place, the constant hunger for data and profits drove the company forward, ethics be damned.
This kind of “culture creep” occurs when an original vision is blurred while day-to-day operations consume what people think about and do. The urgent becomes essential, and can usurp even the most aspirational and high-minded mission in an effort to satisfy different stakeholders.
An internal group at Facebook called the Analog Research Lab (ARL) is trying to boost morale and provide evidence of a larger meaning of employees’ work at Facebook. But even they’re having trouble staying true to the mission:
“There’s a push-and-pull to doing the right thing, and doing the right thing when you have a lot of different things pulling at you is a really difficult task.”
Well, no. If the things pulling at you are all driving in the same direction, and your company’s culture is aligned around the same vision, doing the right thing should be no more difficult than putting on your shoes in the morning.
If, instead, you’re finding that you’re being pulled in different ethical directions, then you need to make a decision on what matters most to you.
It’s perfectly illustrated with this old Native American folktale:
An old man spoke to his grandson: “Inside everyone there is a battle between two wolves. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”
The boy thought for a moment. Then he asked, “Which wolf wins?”
A moment of silence passed before the old man replied. And then he said, “The one you feed.”
Management guru Peter Drucker once said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Well, Facebook’s culture continues to cast a shadow over its strategy. Or perhaps it's a perfect reflection of it.
When your company’s culture pulls you so firmly in one direction that your strategy is compromised — or worse, when your company’s operations pull you so firmly in one direction that your ethics are compromised, then it’s time to revisit your priorities.
Which one are you feeding?
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.