November 16, 2019

Tolerance 4.0 [(2 + 2) v (1 + 1 + 2) v (1 + 2 + 1) v (2 + 1 + 1)]

But these names have already lost their shine, lost their luster. They are like a snake skin that becomes lifeless just before it is shed. So it is with the name Pesełe. It slips off the girl like an oversize shirt and underneath the name Helena is already growing ripe, thin as of yet, like skin that forms after a burn – brand new and almost transparent.

Olga Tokarczuk, The Books of Jacob

We want to be ourselves


The boundaries of my freedom are where another person’s freedom begins. This excerpt from Józef Tischner’s book has for many years been a good reflection of my worldview. Analyzing the idea of the International Day for Tolerance and incorporating it in the context of our organization has faced me with difficult questions. Do I really abide by this principle? And whether the organization, which we are all responsible for, does the same?

Filip’s (Polish spelling) father was a pilot and was acquainting his son with the secrets of aviation. His airborne adventures excited the boy’s imagination, who would proudly tell stories about them to his friends at school. From a very young age he would go climbing in the mountains. No doubt he would be staring into the distance on many occasions dreaming of these unusual achievements someday being his own. Freedom and independence were the values that he held dearest. He never thought anyone could ever take them away from him.

I grew up in a large Polish city. The first referendum I ever participated in would decide Poland’s accession into the European Union. I graduated from university abroad. I speak several languages. I have friends from over 30 countries. I am responsible for a company which employs people from 12 countries. I travel a lot. My friends, close friends and acquaintances are in different relationships, have different preferences and ideas for life. We talk a lot.

The likelihood that at age 34 I would have a liberal worldview, that I would be tolerant was then quite high. And that is indeed the case. Racism to me is repugnant, nationalism a warm gun, discrimination of minorities is unacceptable and violence atavistic.

At the same time, I don’t think that we are all the same and have the same opportunities.
I consider patriotism and national values to be important elements of social identity. In my view, the voice of the majority is a direct reflection of the main idea of a democratically organized state and a struggle for one’s rights is one of the pillars of development.

I think it is relatively easy for me to be a tolerant person, especially when it comes to social issues. No one is taking away my freedom because I have a strongly liberal approach to its boundaries. I also believe that one of my characteristics is an appropriately balanced approach to social structures, which stems from my interest in history. Its essence, despite periodic drawbacks and fluctuations, has always been progress which strives for the constant liberalization of norms and the protection of an individual’s rights. Progress ought to be cared and sometimes even fought for. To defend what we have is to foster future change.

However, my perspective changes when I consider the issue of freedom in an organization, in capitalism, wherever human nature is faced with the necessity to impose order, meet deadlines, work something out not in the realm of ideas but tangibles, measures and evaluations.

The twin World Trade Center towers used to arouse extraordinary emotions even before they had been completed in 1973. At the time the tallest building in the world, they appeared in 473 movies quickly becoming a worldwide icon. Superman flew around them; the towers also served as backdrop for Gordon Gekko’s dealings in Wall Street. They symbolized success, prosperity and the opportunities that a free-market economy has to offer.

According to textbook definitions, leadership means striving to attain common (conscious or not) objectives – which benefits all parties to the relationship. A leader has to be able to communicate in a clear manner with people involved in an organization’s activities and constantly create space for cooperation necessary to realize a strategy that is oriented towards the future.

Tolerance on the other hand is:

1. respect for another person’s views, beliefs or preferences that are different from our own;

2. the ability of a living organism to sustain without harm certain chemical, physical and biological stimuli;

3. a number determining acceptable deviation of a certain technical value from its nominal value.

10 years of running a business has taught me that one of the best ways to get to know each other is to work together. The number of issues, tasks, decisions and correlations makes it very hard to hide one’s negative traits, which we all subconsciously try to do. I work with many extraordinary and extremely talented and ambitious people at Admind. Oftentimes and in many respects they have been a source of guidance for me. It is because of that, among other things, that I regard every success as common.

Becoming a leader you meet your own, your coworkers’ and your partners’ expectations. It is then good to have honest intentions, be prepared for criticism, misunderstanding or impatience, which – adeptly expressed – allow you to discover new aspects of different issues. However, if we wish to set the direction of progress together, we need to exert ourselves more. It is perhaps easier for us to go out on a march and openly protest than to work out a reasonable solution to a complicated problem in a meeting which lasts many hours. Yet, every wise organization and every mature society requires both of these attitudes. Then, cooperation and tolerance of differences result in assuming responsibility. They become the essence of personal and professional development.

Daily trainings, mastering new skills. In high school Filip met friends who became his companions through thick and thin. Together, they rebelled against the established order, spent evenings talking about the ideas that guided them. They were inspired by a dream of freedom and they looked for ways to express it.

WeChat has over a billion users in China. It allows them to enjoy the possibilities that Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Skype, Uber, Slack and Apple Pay have to offer beyond the reach of the Chinese firewall. WeChat is multifunctional. It allows its users to read a newspaper, do shopping, pay the electricity bill, make a hospital appointment and also buy an insurance policy. Precise geolocation, matching, like on Tinder, or increasing creditworthiness are a standard. Via WeChat you can report a crime to the police and even file for divorce.

The application was created by Tencent, the second largest tech corporation in the country, which since 2011 has been supported by the Chinese government. The company closely cooperates with the state in designing digital IDs and massive facial recognition systems. This in turn, along with the fact the authorities have full access to every conversation and with the help of artificial intelligence results in a closed circuit.

It’s 2019. We celebrate the International Day for Tolerance. How will the values associated with this day be perceived by machines? For now they are just tools but soon, having autonomy and a quantum intellect, they will become the dominant element of social life.

Will they tolerate us as we are? After all, most of our ideas for life are mathematically flawed. When we don’t understand something, we instinctively reject a certain behavior without a deeper reflection. We seldom analyze.

According to FutureBrand Country Index, lack of tolerance is one of the three main factors hindering a given country’s development. It is not hard to imagine a machine which, appropriately programmed, will spot our manifestations of intolerance as instances of civil inefficiency or even sabotage of progress.

The book Good to Great presents the results of one of the widest reaching research into lasting development factors of top companies. Jim Collins, along with a 20 strong team, examined thousands of businesses which, in the years 1965–1995, appeared on the Fortune 500 list. He sought to answer the questions: “Can, and if so how, standard organizations become great and achieve a lasting success?”, “What makes a business exceptional?”, “What kind of transformation does a business have to undergo in order to achieve a certain status and the satisfaction that comes with it?”. Additionally, the researchers set out to single out only those organizations which have registered uninterrupted growth for at least 15 years. In the end, out of several thousand remained 11.

The Collins Model provides an answer to the question what makes a business exceptional by citing the following factors:

Leadership at level 5 – the leaders are calm, distanced, hidden in the shadows of their organizations. They are characterized by a combination of modesty and professional strength.

Confronting a hostile reality – leaders don’t lose faith. Each of the singled out businesses adopted the following rule: you must keep unwavering faith that ultimately you can and will prevail regardless of the difficulties you may come across. At the same time you must be disciplined enough to deal with even the most unfavorable circumstances and face reality whatever it may be.

First who, second what – leaders of such businesses begin by finding the right people, appointing them to appropriate positions and getting rid of the unsuitable people. Only then do they consider where it is that they wish to set course for. They alter the maxim which says that the people are a company’s main assets by adding: “the right people”.

Technological turbocharging – exceptional businesses do not see technology as a value in itself and yet oftentimes they are pioneers in introducing new, carefully selected technologies that facilitate their work and lasting development.

A culture of discipline – every reasonable business has its own culture. However, few have developed a culture of discipline. If you have disciplined people, you don’t need a hierarchy. When you maintain discipline in your thinking, bureaucracy is redundant. When there is discipline in people’s actions, there is no need for excessive control.

What is more, all of the 11 businesses that were singled out focused on one fundamental objective breaking it down into three constituent parts:

  1. be the best in the world at what they do,
  2. bring out in their employees a passion for achieving this position and
  3. make extraordinary profits from this over the long term.

Years later, the nonconformist idea which drove Filip and his mates began to take shape. Years of practice would finally yield the desired effects. They were granted a US visa. They would travel there on a number of occasions. They took their first photos of World Trade Center from a rented helicopter flying over Manhattan. The operation that they intended to conduct required the coordination of many elements and very careful planning. Filip’s team meticulously analyzed the securities in the building. After some time they managed to forge IDs of the construction workers, which gave them a free run of the buildings. When it came to the very day, they were ready.

People often shape their own identity in contrast to others. They destroy other people’s identity to build their own. What are then the advantages of intolerance? It certainly rallies around a given idea. It may give one a sense of community. In a way, it protects. Likely, it boosts the sense of self-worth of an individual or a group. It helps to self-determine. It sets boundaries and so, it shapes.

Some speakers of Polish may associate the word diversity with diversion. Intolerance stems from fear. People are afraid for themselves. They are afraid that they may not understand something, that someone will deceive them. They fear for their material and imagined goods, for values without which they may just prove to be aimless biological entities. We are afraid of them; they are afraid of us. It goes back further than the coal mined by the Welsh miners in Fall of Giants. The same coal that is so fiercely defended by the current anachronistic government. It is the opportunity to speak against something that gives you a chance to make a stand.

But tolerance gives you the same thing. I defend someone. I believe in something positive. Somebody needs my help. I want to express myself and show who I am. “I tolerate” and “I don’t tolerate” are two sides to the same coin. The obverse and the reverse both have our face.

On August 7, 1974, Philippe Petit did a high-wire walk between the twin towers of World Trade Center at a height of 417 meters. He spent 45 minutes in the air. His exploit can be seen in the Oscar-winning movie Man on Wire. The New York District attorney dismissed all charges against him. In exchange Petit was obligated to give an artistic performance in Central Park.

How many of us can look in the mirror in the morning and say: “I accept myself 100%”? This simple test shows just how many intolerant people there are. A tightrope walk may have a metaphoric meaning. It is a change of one’s own identity, a venture out of one’s comfort zone,
a showdown with one’s weaknesses, fears and convictions. It is also an act of courage and an expression of our striving for freedom – which sometimes is so precarious. We all know what happened to the World Trade Center. By destroying our identity someone is building their own. There is a huge difference between how this symbol is perceived in Lower Manhattan and in the valley of the Nile, where the reference point is the pyramids. Leaders must be aware of that.

Building a business or one’s own success is a long-term process. I believe that one of the key elements of this process is that every one of us change individually. In order for this change to occur we need to create proper conditions. We need to have awareness, the proper tools, knowledge and most of all the will to effect this change day by day. The results will surely vary just as we ourselves are various – after all it is one of the most complex processes that one can imagine.

Me and my peers currently live in a very homogeneous European country. In fact, we have never experienced racism or colonialism. We have never been refugees. We enjoy full freedom of movement, access to education and modern infrastructure. This is huge positive capital. There is still a lot to be done but let’s appreciate what we have. Let’s support people who have the courage to step ahead of our times, speak up and take action on behalf of issues that are important for the future of all of us. Let us cherish nonconformist postures, readiness to learn and get to know another human being.

The tolerance of the future probably won’t differ much from the tolerance of today. However, it is us who should dictate the pace of change in the world where goods, values and rights are not equally distributed.

True tolerance breeds greatness. What else contributes to greatness? Certainly independence. Jay-Z does not make a phone call to Madison Square Garden to ask if he can organize a concert summing up his career. At the same time every word that he utters publicly affects the way millions of teenagers around the globe think and the performance of at least several companies listen at NYSE. Independence balances out responsibility – leaders always operate in a space from–to. Striving for independence is energy and assuming responsibility is strength. These two components create true value for an organization, for ourselves and sometimes for the entire world. Who possesses them shall walk over every abyss.

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