Saturday, September 20, 2014

Inside the Mirrortocracy

I don’t remember how I found this pair of articles (here and here), but they compose a really interesting take on hiring in the tech industry and probably generalizable to a lot of fields that have “cultures.” (You will understand the quotes in a moment).

If you are familiar with the idea of identity-resonance (which I blog about a lot both here and at EID)
One form of identity resonance is in-group resonance.  We feel more comfortable with people who we have things in common with, often based on race, belief, gender, age, or archetypes like clothing, music, food.   It makes sense that this would evolve because it is much easier to predict what someone will do when you can model their thinking in your own mind.  It is also safer because in-groups evolved from our tribes, which helped us defend against out-groups (other tribes).  So it is natural and visceral and in the ancient areas of the brain, which makes it often unconscious.

The Mirrortocracy articles apply this to hiring.  There is a lot of research, some covered in the articles, that an applicant is more likely to get considered, interviewed, and hired when you share these in-group attributes with the hiring manager.  They often don’t even know they are doing it.  But it leads to unfortunately insulated and isolated companies because these similarities also mean you probably think alike.  Less innovation.  Less creativity.  More susceptibility to Groupthink. Less ability to recognize and deal with large changes in your industry.

This happened a lot in the dotcom book with startups.  Everyone walked around in their jeans and t-shirts and played foozball.  They were 20-something white males.  Perhaps they could have used a little more diversity.  The same thing can happen in the 3-piece suit worlds of investment bankers and lobbyists. 

This is where the term mirrortocracy comes from.  If you look like what your management sees in the mirror every day, you advance.

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