Earlier this year venture capitalist Peter Thiel his announced support for Donald Trump and his run for the presidency. Mr. Thiel subsequently showed up as a speaker at the RNC in support of Presidential ticket. If you read the text of his remarks you he really wasn’t saying much that we haven’t heard before from a business leader here in the valley.
It’s funny the number of eyebrows that raised upon hearing Thiel’s position; that he believes policies in and around supporting business and innovation are more important when compared to the things he finds objectionable in both Trump and the Republican party.
Since Thiel’s sharing of his political leanings there have been grumblings as to whether or not he should be allowed to continue as a member of the Facebook board. Those grumblings managed to increase in volume such that Zuckerberg felt it necessary to address the issue directly. Zuckerberg argued the importance of diversity in thought and opinions. It’s certainly a valid- albeit hard to swallow – line of reasoning in this instance.
Zuckerberg and Thiel whether you agree with them or not, have decided to make compromises and to prioritize the things they find are important to them. And that is not a bad thing, at least, let’s give them the benefit of using some manner of values based process to arrive at their positions.
The point in all of this is that both individuals think and act in ways consistent with perceived values and norms at work in Silicon Valley. To be sure, it is reasonable to ask whether or not everyone (Zuck and Thiel included) is aware of and in agreement with these unspoken, informal norms. Based on the response from some in the valley when hearing of Thiel’s (and subsequently Zuckerberg’s) position it’s reasonable to conclude that not everyone received and subsequently signed on to the values memo.
If we want a place where there are certain non-negotiables around civility, if we want a place where how we speak of, treat and act towards members of our community originates from a place of decency. We will need to reconsider how aligned our perception of self is with our reality. That consideration may result in some discomfort. Assuming we can get past that discomfort, we then will need to articulate exactly what it is we want from members of this community. Finally, in order to hold ourselves accountable each of us will have agree to these values we perceive this community is collectively aspiring.
Self reflection is not a strong suit for communities like the valley. We might be well advised to investigate how other communities have managed their changes of sentiment in these areas. Before we do that however, we might be well served to admit that as part of the US business culture. We aren’t all that exceptional.
Grab your fork, and get ready for a little humble pie with some cod liver oil toping thrown in for taste. It won’t taste all that good, however, as our elders have admonished us, it will be good for you…