Just a few years ago, a controversial theory in EvoPsych--Evolutionary Psychology--suggested that every human was hard-wired racist. The thinking goes, during the cavemen ages, people who ventured deep into foreign territories and met foreigners--who looked different--were more likely to be enslaved and killed. Those who survived were those who killed a foreigner as soon as they saw one. Therefore, we are all descendants of racists, and therefore, we too are--genetically--racists.
Then how do you explain the success of eBay's business model? If we are so full of prejudices, why do 125 million (and growing) trade online with people they cannot even see, in a site created by a French-Iranian descent?
It seems like EvoPscych itself has been experiencing an evolutionary of its own. As Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma and Game Theory suggests, racist cavemen tribes might originaly get stucked in Nash Equilibrium where each retaliated when a member of its tribe was killed. But soon enough the people with common sense realized that a Pareto Equilibrium laid in armistice and cooperation. So they set aside their prejudices, reached the Pareto Equilibrium, and prosper ... while those without this common sense perished during the next harsh winters and dry spells.
So, we are all descendants of cavemen with common sense. Of course, evolution is not yet complete, and this is why United States is bombing Iraq and European Union won't tear down its walls on the Turkish borders.
In short, I believe that it is misunderstanding that breeds racism, and not the other way around.
The Wall Street Journal, December 7, 2005
Untranslatable Word in U.S. Aide's Speech Leaves Beijing Baffled
"In late September, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick spoke to a packed house of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in New York. The speech's punchline: 'We need to urge China to become responsible stakeholder' in the international system ... There was only one problem: What does it mean? The Chinese language has no corollary for 'stakeholder'. Some scholars translated it as 'participants with related benefits and drawbacks'. That implied China's interests might suffer if it attempted to meet Mr. Zoellick's 'responsible stakeholder' challenge ... The dustup in China over 'stakeholder' recalls the consternation that followed President Bill Clinton's proposal of U.S. 'engagement' with China amid a rough patch between the two sides in 1995. Chinese who spoke English were befuddled by a word that could mean 'both an exchange of fire and a marriage proposal' ...": Neil King Jr. and Jason Dean
Yes, we grew up in so many different languages and cultures, and it can be confusing. But if California can propel a Pierre Omidyar into a $60 billion business and 8,600 innovative jobs ... why can't we all?
A friend once said to me, "If you want to go see Europe, take a vacation ... heck, two vacations and go backpacking." I'd like to think that she just didn't want to see me go (hey, this is my blog, afterall; I'm allowed to think all I want). Another friend said something along that line: "You don't need three years unless you're really trying to scoop out all the alleys of Amsterdam and Paris". Now he is just plain jealous that he did not get to go (again, this is my blog ... any disagreement are welcomed and can be posted as comments ...).
I told them that by traveling, you get to see all the amazing Renaissance architectures, beautiful sunsets, and spectacular sceneries. But you'll never really get to understand the people. To walk the walk and to live the life simply are two totally different things.
Harvard Business Review, December 2006
Managing Authenticity: The Paradox of Great Leadership
"People want to be led by someone 'real' ... But while the expression of an authentic self is necessary for great leadership, the concept of authenticity is often misunderstood, not least by leaders themselves ... Authentic leaders remain focused on where they are going but never lose sight of where they came from. Establishing your authenticity is a two-part challenge. First, you have to ensure that your words are consistent with your deeds; otherwise, followers will never accept you as authentic. But it is not enough just to practice what you preach. To get people to follow you, you also have to get them to relate to you ... Authentic leaders know how to strike a balance between their distinctiveness and the cultures in which they operate. They do not immediately seek out head-on confrontations because they recognize that their survival as leaders (and, by extension, the survival of their initiatives) requires a measured introduction to, and adaptation of, the organization's established business networks and social relationships ... All authentic leaders are complicated and contrived. Many Americans revere the late Ronald Reagan for this authenticity as president--but he was also the first professional actor to make it to the White House.": Rob Goffee, Professor, London Business School, and Gareth Jones, Visiting Professor, Insead / Fellow, London Business School
That was the whole challenge. Sometimes, it is still confusing to me that the same people who expected me to bring great things would not listen to my ideas that sound "too American". And the same people who embrace "diversity" would take offense each time I took inspiration from my multi-cultural experience. There's just that fine line that is difficult to see.
But great leadership is the leadership that unites people with different background, cultures, and interests to work together towards a common goal ... the leadership that creates the next eBays, Googles, and Toyotas. This is not easy, and I still make almost as many errors as I make trials. But as Goffee and Jones added: "... The good news is while some people seem to be born with these discernment skills, others can, in fact, learn them. We have found that individuals who have had a great deal of mobility early in their lives possess these skills to a higher degree than those who have stayed mostly in one place ...".