Saturday, July 6, 2019

From Bubble to Bubble

Photo of Rock Canyon, Provo, Utah

Read: From Bubble to Bubble by Sahil Lavingia

In Brief

Not long ago ago, Sahil Lavingia was living in San Francisco, CEO of a high-tech startup and hanging around with a lot of like-minded folks. For various reasons, he decided to upend his life and move to "the most conservative (and religious) city over 100,000 people in America."

I identified as progressive and they identified as conservative. While we agreed on so much, the language we used made it seem like we did not. It was as if we had access to totally different dictionaries.

That metaphor of "different dictionaries" is a potent one. Through multiple examples he shows how we share mostly the same concerns. We may emphasize different issues and often we talk about them in different terms; even when we use the same terms we may have different meanings. But with a modest amount of effort we find common ground.

Lavingia is still CEO of the same startup. And it's growing and healthy. His journey to learn more about people that are different from him is enlightening. Of course, it helps that Lavingia is a fantastic writer. But the best outcome would be for us to follow his example by sticking our heads into other people's bubbles.

Today, I only debate in person. Anything else is pointless, because it is too easy to walk away. I make sure we’re pulling from the same dictionary, and I make sure we’re aligned on the same goal, and not about making sure the other person converts to their side.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America

GehlPorter Site Logo representing a donkey (representing Democrats) and an elephant (representing republicans) stretching the country between them.

Read: Why Competetion in the Politics Industry is Failing America by Katherine M. Gehl & Michael Porter

Listen: America's Hidden Duopoly - Stephen Dubner interviews Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter on Freakonomics Radio

In Brief

There were three articles that provoked me to create this blog and they are represented in the first three posts. This is the most politics-oriented of the set. But, as Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter write, "This report is about politics, but it is not political."

In the Freakonomics Radio episode linked to above, Gehl and Porter tell their story of why they decided to analyze the political system as an industry. Using that lens has brought insights that haven't been found in other analyses. In particular, they argue that, "The political system isn't broken. It's doing what it is designed to do." Unfortunately for us, it's designed to benefit our major political parties and their industry allies rather the the broader public interest.

The problem is not Democrats or Republicans. Most individuals who seek and hold public office are genuinely seeking to make a positive contribution. The problem is not the existence of parties, per se, or that there are two major parties. The real problem is the nature of political competition that the current duopoly has created, their failure to deliver solutions that work, and the artificial barriers that are preventing new competition that might better serve the public interest.

In their analysis, they show that division and polarization helps preserve the existing party structure and is very effective in raising money.

Parties, then, compete to create and reinforce partisan divisions, not deliver practical solutions. The duopoly appeals to its partisan supporters based on ideology, not policies that work.

They conclude the report with a set of reforms that sit at the intersection of "Powerful" and "Achievable" though they point out that none of these are easy. For most of the reforms, there are existing advocacy groups that they recommend.

The website has two versions of the report. Though the Report Overview is a quicker read, I found it unsatisfying because I wanted to see the evidence behind the claims. The Full Report does an excellent job of that, every point, recommendation, and conclusion is backed up by solid evidence and research.

They are realistic in their expectations; this will take time. But they are adamant about the importance of reforming the U.S. Politics Industry.

Complicating the Narratives

Illustration by Michael Marsicano

Read: Complicating the Narratives by Amanda Ripley
Listen: Complicating the Narratives by Amanda Ripley, read by Allison Frost

In Brief

In 2018, Amanda Ripley spent three months learning how professionals deal with conflict. She interviewed mediators, psychologists, clergy, and researchers. She spent 50 hours in training for dispute resolution. She participated in experimental conversations where researchers study communication techniques to determine what works. The article she wrote is among the most important of the year, perhaps of the decade.

Ripley writes to her fellow journalists, but the principles she advocates are applicable to all of us. They are:

  1. Amplify Contradictions
  2. Widen the Lens
  3. Ask Questions that Get to People's Motivations
  4. Listen more, and better
  5. Expose People to the Other Tribe
  6. Counter Confirmation Bias (Carefully)

She summarizes by advocating for us all to "complicate the narratives" when we converse and when we write. Simplified messages sustain conflict. Complicated messages bring about greater respect and understanding.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

About This Blog

Photo of a white dove.

"That which unites us is greater than that which divides us." Many have said this or similar things. John F. Kennedy told the Canadian Parliament, "What unites us is far greater than what divides us." Pope Francis used the phrase when speaking to a Lutheran delegation. Richard Branson wrote an essay on the topic.

There is a growing community of people striving to bring about greater understanding and respect in the United States and around the world. They are doing some excellent research, holding events, doing training, and writing about it. But their voices are hard to find among the noise. This blog is my attempt to bring attention to their efforts.

The first three posts are an excellent introduction to the perspectives I seek: