‘Uncut Gems’ Cuts Deep

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “Uncut Gems Cuts Deep.”

Yesterday, we went to see the new Adam Sandler movie, Uncut Gems….Ratner’s life is full of shlemazel of his own making. While he has a good wife, kids, and extended family (maybe with the exception of his loan shark uncle), a fancy-schmancy home in the suburbs with a newly renovated pool, his own jewelry business that even caters to some big-league sports players, and a shiksa girlfriend on the side (who seems to love him), Ratner is never satisfied or happy and is always pushing for more!


In the movie, Howard Ratner was driven by greed and made bad life choices, and to me, it was a shame that the he was portrayed as a Jew, which can feed the vicious cycle of discrimination and hatred that has often been anchored around money. With the vicious machete attack on Chanukah at a Rabbi’s house in Monsey this week (after a slew of other anti-Semitic incidents, including an attack on a student for wearing a yalmulke on the NYC Subway to beatings and tire slashings of Jews in Brooklyn), we are reminded that there is once again a resurgence of prejudice and hate against Jews, but also that it’s the light of Chanukah that “drives out the darkness,” and that money and materialism are a mere shabby substitute to finding true security and success whether you work in the dense NYC Diamond District or live in the sprawling suburbs of America.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Selling By Customer Stereotypes

Saw this displayed on the wall inside a Free People clothing store…


It categorizes their female shoppers into 4 types:


1. Candy (hearts): Sweet, girly, flirty, whimsy, and femme  


2. Ginger (cherries): Sexy, confident, edgy, attitude, and mysterious


3. Lou (baseball): Cool, tomboy, laid back, tough, minimal


4. Meadow (sunshine): Flowy, bohemian, embellished, pattern, worldly


So this is how they stereotype their customers “to be helpful”?


Interesting also that they don’t see that people can be complex with: multiple traits that cross categories or even in no category at all.


Moreover, people can have different sides to themselves and reflect these in different situations. 


Perhaps in an effort to market and sell more, what they’ve done is reduce people to these lowest common denominator of idiot categories.


And what makes this worse yet is that it seems to be based just on snap judgment of how someone looks coming into the store and all the biases that entails. 


How about we look at people a little more sophisticated than this and treat them as individuals, with real personalities, and not just as another empty label?  😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Best Mother’s Day Present Ever

Women Can Be Anything

So today is Mother’s Day–one of the most important days of the year. 


My mom passed away from Parkinson’s Disease almost 2 1/2 years ago, and I miss her and my dad every single day (more than I can say or even come to terms with)!


I see lots of gifts being bought and given today to the mothers of this world, especially flowers, chocolates, and cards.  


But what would be the best gift we could give all our collective mothers?


That is simple…EQUALITY.


Whether it’s the glass ceiling that keeps women underemployed, left out of certain professions altogether, underrepresented in management and the executive suite, and paid 79 cents on the dollar for what men get…it’s not fair and it’s wrong!


Women can do what men do as good and sometimes better, and generally they complement men in the workplace and make us more productive, more innovative, more balanced. 


Diversity in thinking brings us better decision-making and more success in business and in government, 


Like in the photo, women can be architects or enterprise architects–they can also be vice president or president. 


Women should NOT have to endure any type of domestic violence or sexual abuse or discrimination…for G-d’s sake, we are enlightened!


Forget the flowers this Mother’s Day and give your mom a present that she will really love and cherish…a promise and commitment of respect and equality for women today and every day of the year. 😉


(Source Photo: WSJ by Andy Blumenthal)

Every Day Is Women’s Day

Women's Day

My mother taught me well, every day is women’s day!


Little did I know that March 8 is also designated International Women’s Day.


Today is the 10th, but I still saw a lady on the Metro carrying a balloon down the escalator celebrating this special time. 


Overall, even in the 21st century, it is appalling to say that women are not only still under-appreciated, but highly disrespected, and worse physically and emotionally abused around the world


Just this week, I read about another horrible rape in India of a 16-year old girl who was then set on fire and burned alive over 95% of her body–what crazies out there do this to women?


In Afghanistan, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for being a girl and wanting to go to school.


In other places in the world, terror groups like ISIS and Boko Haram abduct and make sexual slaves of women


In Germany, migrants sexually assaulted literally hundreds of women on New Year’s Eve. 


And in Brooklyn, New York, 4 out of 5 suspects in a rape of an 18-year girl in the park go free without bail


This doesn’t even touch the more mundane matters of pay inequity and equal opportunity issues where women still only earn 84% of what men earn in the workplace.


As if any normal person should even need to be told this, I remember some progressive teacher in yeshiva telling us that women being disrespected or hurt could be your mother, sister, wife, or daughter, so DON’T do it or tolerate it!


While gender stereotypes still prevail about women being solely the homemaker and rearer of children, at least more men are now open to sharing or taking on these roles as well. 


I think for women, it’s still a grossly sick and inequitable world out there and it’s a true mark of shame on anyone who perpetuates these abuses. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Hey Abrham!

Hey Abrham!

Thanks Starbucks for writing Abrham on my breakfast purchase this morning.

Apparently, religious sterotypes are alive and well with you.

How about a little sensitivity training for your staff or do you guess biblical names for all your customers?

Don’t worry though, it turns out that is my Hebrew name (and I’m Jewish and proud of it), although it’s spelled like this: Avraham. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Not Bias, Just Plain Old Hatred

Not Bias, Just Plain Old Hatred

I read a book review in the Wall Street Journal on Profiles in Denial by William Storr about David Irving the notorious Holocaust denier.

He is a “‘revisionist’ of all things World War II,” but apparently is particularly keen on Holocaust denial, as someone who according to Wikipedia is an “anti-semite, and racist who…promotes neo-Nazism.”

The Holocaust denial goes deep for Irving and even upon visiting Majdanek concentration camp, he tells his group “This is a mock-up of a gas chamber. Those cylinders are carbon dioxide not carbon monoxide…There are handles on the inside of these doors,” so the prisoners could let themselves out.

Actually, the door was locked with huge bolts right on the outside and was sealed airtight, but to Irving it’s as if these didn’t exist.

The book discusses how cognitive biases such as confirmation biases help people “find confirming evidence for our beliefs, ignoring or rationalizing away all discriminating evidence.”

But I think this is really beyond the point with someone like Irving, who according to The Guardian is a discredited British historian and Nazi apologist” and was actually jailed for a “three-year prison sentence in Vienna for denying the Holocaust and the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”

The State Prosecutor said of Irving “He’s not a historian, he’s a falsifier of history…this is about abuse of freedom of speech.”

Judge Peter Liebtreau called Irving “a racist, an anti-semite, and a liar.”

So this is no simple bias or mind game for Irving, but apparently a convenient way for him to pursue his hatreds under the guise that everything was and is really okay.

So rather than “Never forget,” is is far more beneficial for those that would wish it to happen again that they lull people to believe that it never even was to begin with.

Interesting that another famous Holocaust denier is no less than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who claimed the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered, was a “myth” (Washington Post).

By the way, Ahmadinejad also said “9/11 was an inside job.”

People like Irving and Ahmadinejad are not about confirmation bias, but rather about distortion of truth to further their own evil destructive aims.

In the case of Ahmadinejad, it’s that he wishes to see Israel be “wiped off the map” (New York Times).

And in the case of Irving, he has said, “there will…probably be another holocaust in the next thirty years…oh, and if the Jews are lucky, there will be a David Irving or Adolf Hitler [may their names be obliterated] to protect them” (The Independent).

Oh, G-d forbid!

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Leadership Is Not A One Personality World

Myers-briggs

An article in the Federal Times (13 November 2011) called “To Change Government’s Culture, Recruit Leader, Not Loners” was very unfortunate.

According to the author, Steven L. Katz, “Government in particular, attracts, rewards, and promotes people who want to be left alone.As a result we have a government of loners…seen in the scarcity of people with a healthy balance of substantive and social skills who are needed for leadership, management, and bringing projects large and small to completion.”

Katz identifies these “loners” as Myers-Briggs ISTJ–Introverted Sensing Thinking and Judging. Moreover, he proposes that we consider “more people who test in the range of Myers-Briggs ENTJ–Extroverted Intuitive Thinking Judging”–to assume the leadership mantle instead.

In other words, Katz has a problem with people who are introverted and sensing. In particular, it seems that the introversion type really has Katz all bent out of shape–since this is what he rails at as the loners in our organizations. What a shame!

Katz is wrong on almost all accounts,except that we need people who can communicate and collaborate and not just in government:

1) Diversity Down The Toilet–Katz only acknowledges two Myers-Briggs Types in our diverse population–ENTJ and ISTJ.  He is either unaware of or ignores the other 14 categories of people on the continuum, and he promotes only one type the ENTJ–1/16 of the types of people out there–so much for diversity!

Further, Katz makes the stereotypical and mistaken assumptions that introverts are shy and ineffectual, which as pointed out in Psychology Today in 2009 (quoted in Jobboom) “Not everyone who is shy is introverted, and not everyone who’s charismatic and cheerful is extroverted.” Further, shy people are ‘routinely misunderstood as cold, aloof, or stuck up.”

Katz missed the point as taught at OPM’s Federal Executive Institute that all of us have something to learn, teach, and a preferred pathway to excellence.

2) By the Numbers–Contrary to Katz’s implication that introverts are a small and social inept portion of population that should shunned, a report in USA Today in 2009 states that ‘50% of baby boomers are introverts” as are 38% of those born after 1981 with the onset on the modern computing age, Internet, and social media. Interestingly enough, Katz is even dissatisfied with these Millennials who according to him: their “dominant form of communication and relationships is online and on cellphones.”

Moreover, according to a 2006 article in USA Today quoted on Monster.com, “Introverts are so effective in the workplace, they make up an estimated 40% of executives.

Included in these successful introverts are people like “Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Diane Sawyer, Andrea Jung, and Bill Nardelli”–Sorry, Steve!

3) Situational Leadership Is Key–While Katz is busy searching for personality type scapegoats to government problems, he is missing the point that Myers-Briggs is “neither judgmental not pejorative” and instead “helps assess the fit between person and job” (Reference: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Organizations: A Resource Book).

In fact, according to a recent study published in Harvard Business Review (4 October 2010), introverts are not only incredibly effective, but are “the best leaders for proactive employees.” Moreover, HBR points out that “Both types of leaders, the extraverts and the introverts, can be equally successful or ineffectual…”

So for example, Introvert leaders (who are “more likely to listen to and process the ideas”) tend to be better leaders in a situation with a extroverted team, while extroverted leaders (who “end up doing a lot of the talking”) tend to excel with a more introverted one.

However, the ultimate key according to HBR is “to encourage introverted and extraverted behavior in any given situation”–that is to use situational leadership to lead and manage according to the situation at hand, and not as a one personality type fits all world!

Katz is right that communication and collaboration are critical skills, but he is wrong that there is only one personality type that gets us all there.

(Source Photo: here)