Got the following email yesterday from MNB reader Barrie Carmel:
I have been reading MNB since the beginning. I have written to you and been posted in "Your Views" quite a few times over the years. You know I am a fan who makes MNB required reading for every team I have ever led.
Every day for the last week and a half, I have been waiting for you to say SOMETHING about the terror attacks in Israel or the escalating antisemitic and Islamophobic behavior in America and around the world. You have always been brave and at least taken a chance to find a business lesson in whatever noisy topic is happening in the world. You are a thoughtful and insightful writer who always has a way of making people THINK about things...even when they don't agree with you. Why are you silent now?
I am guessing that a large portion of your audience is either in shock, afraid or angry (or all of the above). Be the thought leader I have always believed you to be...find a business lesson in this madness, give people something to think about.
The complexity and confusion is paralyzing people or causing them to say something stupid or insensitive. Just in case you are in that paralyzed group, here is a list of ways you could talk about the topic as it relates to business:
Elite university students...is this really our future?
DEI...how do you talk about this with a diverse team who may have disparate views? how do you make sure your teams feel empathy...because I assure you that a lot of people are NOT alright.
Innovation Nation...Israeli startups are facing unprecedented labor losses since as much as 30% of their staff has been called up to the reserves. (See WSJ for articles). Remember that these are the same companies that brought the world Waze, SodaStream and ingestible cameras for diagnostic purposes.
Front-line employees speaking out in the company name...Starbucks is a fine example of how your team can get you into a mess.
Quote some of the outstanding examples of companies that have found a way to make a statement without provoking.
Just please, say something. The silence is deafening.
These are all fair criticisms. I've thought about it a lot since the initial terrorist attack by Hamas that killed so many innocents, but quite frankly, it seemed inadequate and inappropriate to draw business lessons from what is happening now in the Middle East. I'm not afraid of criticism, but I also don't want to pander in any way, nor do I want to indulge in oversimplifications or appear to be performative.
I think you make good points about how leaders deal with teams that have diverse views. We're seeing that play out on college campuses right now. And the impact on "innovation Nation" is still to be seen, though it almost certainly will be deep.
Antisemitism isn't just academic to me. My wife is Jewish. Which means my three kids are Jewish. I used to joke that in the Connecticut town where we've lived for 39 years, there were four Jews in town - and they all lived in my house. (Doesn't seem so funny now. BTW … the town where we live is the same town that served as the locale for the book and movie, "Gentlemen's Agreement," which were about this subject.)
I accept your criticism. There may be a moment when I can cite what is happening now in the Middle East as a business lesson. I hope it is soon. But not now, especially if I feel like I am exploiting military and humanitarian crises.