This Week in Culture

The Peak of Innovation and Yet We’re Moving Backwards: Lessons In Change Management 

Meta’s new AI council is composed entirely of white men

I have terrible news, world. The most innovative minds in the most innovative field about the most innovative technology in the history of man are stuck in the past. Meta formed an all-white, all-male AI advisory council.  What decade is this again?  

Well Kate Crawford wrote a great piece about this for The New York Times called, Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem.  

Oh, wait a minute, that was published in 2016 

So what is going on here? What on earth are they thinking? Did Meta just not think about it, or did they consciously decide to keep things the way they are? Either way, it’s a huge problem. 

I could go into the details about how a lack of diversity leads to problems in AI but that article has been written a thousand times. I want to talk about the insane lack of adaptability these so-called innovators are demonstrating. 

Meta and OpenAI need strong change management to navigate the complex landscape of AI development. This means not just appointing diverse advisory councils, but creating an environment where diverse perspectives are heard and acted upon. That would be change from the past. Change they’re resisting, like all the out of touch industries they look down upon. Without effective change management, we are all at risk. 

OpenAI has a new safety team — it’s run by Sam Altman

For example, OpenAI recently formed a new safety team led by CEO Sam Altman and two board members, Adam D’Angelo and Nicole Seligman. This move came after several key AI researchers left the company, citing concerns that safety had taken a backseat to shiny new products. The new team is supposed to oversee critical safety and security decisions, but with the same insiders running the show, it’s hard to see how anything will change. 

Former co-leader of the Superalignment team, Jan Leike, pointed out that safety at OpenAI has been sidelined. The Superalignment team, which aimed to steer and control AI systems smarter than us, has been dissolved. Meanwhile, OpenAI’s new safety board doesn’t address the core issues raised by the departed researchers. 

It’s another example of how these companies are struggling with genuine change management. OpenAI needs to bring in fresh perspectives and genuinely address safety concerns, not just shuffle the same people into new roles.  

This isn’t just about Meta and OpenAI. This is a long standing issue across every industry. I guess I just thought the AI folks would get on board with the future of work. Wait is Butker on the board? I look forward to our future AI overlords telling me to get in the kitchen. 

Seven years ago, I wrote about the problem of all-male panels in my article for the Sacramento Bee. Back then, the Sacramento Business Review asked me to do research then took my research and gave it to a man to present at their local event. When I pushed back, I was given seven reasons why this was the right decision and was asked to “yield politely.”  I was chastised for publishing the article and have yet to receive an apology from the organization.

All-male panels lack diverse perspectives, limit quality of message

I guess I would have thought that 8 years would make a difference. It hasn’t.  

Excluding women and people of color from key roles has always led to problems. Remember when clinical trials didn’t include women until the 1970s? That led to medical research that overlooked women’s health needs. The same thing is happening with AI now. Without diverse voices, we’re building technologies that don’t serve everyone. 

To build AI that works for everyone, we need diverse leadership. This means not just having diverse people on the team, but truly listening to them and valuing their input. Companies need to rethink how they build their advisory boards and leadership teams. 

And the members of the boards should speak up. Demand more diversity on the board rather than accepting your check and buddying up to Zuckerberg. Think.  

Patrick Collison, Nat Friedman, Tobi Lutke, and Charlie Songhurst. Why aren’t you speaking up? Are you trying to fail? Aren’t you embarrassed? 

Meta’s all-male AI council and OpenAI’s insider-led safety team are steps backward for tech and innovation. They show a lack of agility and adaptability in the supposedly most agile field. As AI continues to shape our future, the voices guiding it need to be as diverse as the communities it serves. Only then can we create AI that’s truly innovative. 

Elsewhere In Culture 

Starbucks is set to resume union negotiations as it confronts issues at its stores

Starbucks’ union negotiations highlight how crucial workplace culture is for creating a harmonious and productive environment. Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan has emphasized the need to improve store conditions, like staffing, scheduling, and equipment upgrades, to enhance the work atmosphere and boost employee satisfaction. By focusing on these areas, Starbucks aims to improve not just operations but also create a more supportive and stable environment for its workers. This aligns with the union’s demands for better pay, benefits, and working conditions, showing how essential employee well-being is for the company’s success. 

This situation at Starbucks offers a valuable lesson for other companies. By acknowledging and addressing employee concerns, businesses can build a culture of transparency, mutual respect, and ongoing improvement. This approach not only boosts employee morale and retention but also leads to a better customer experience, as happy employees are more likely to provide excellent service. Starbucks demonstrates that prioritizing workplace culture and engaging with employees can drive both business success and a more united, supportive work environment. 

Samsung Electronics’ union threatens first ever walkout next week

Samsung Electronics is on the brink of a major shake-up as the National Samsung Electronics Union (NSEU) gears up for its first-ever walkout next week. The union, representing over 28,000 workers, is demanding higher wages, better working conditions, and more transparent bonuses. Despite a recent 5.1% wage increase from the company, the union feels it’s not enough. They’ve been protesting outside company offices and chip production sites, making it clear they’re serious about their demands. Samsung says they’re willing to discuss these issues sincerely, but so far, the union isn’t satisfied with the company’s efforts to find a middle ground. 

This looming strike highlights the crucial need for companies to really listen to their employees and address their concerns to maintain a positive workplace culture. For a giant like Samsung, which leads in memory chip production, keeping its workforce happy is vital for continued success. Ensuring fair pay and transparent communication can create a more supportive and motivated work environment. As Samsung faces this challenge, how they handle it will be a key indicator of their commitment to their employees and the overall health of their workplace culture. 

If you want people to genuinely care, you need to change their beliefs, not only their actions.

I’ve been approached by countless CEOs and leaders, all expressing a shared frustration: despite reminding, urging, and implementing perks and benefits, they face a stark lack of genuine engagement.

This is precisely what we refer to as the “Action Trap.” The Action Trap occurs when leaders find themselves in a continuous cycle of implementing new processes and systems (taking new actions) to change results, rather than addressing the underlying experiences that lead to those results. Our beliefs stem from our experiences.

So, if you want to instill a new belief, you need to create a new experience.

That’s the key to making people care.

How do you ensure your company’s culture is continuously embraced and adopted? On this week’s #CultureLeaders podcast episode, Alim A. Dhanji, CPO of Equinox, shared with me strategies for creating meaningful experiences. Discover how Equinox ensures to refresh and energize their team, welcoming new members and reinvigorating existing ones with their core values. Tune in to the full episode here: 
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