October 2021

Cross-Culture + Gin

This month's newsletter is from a guest contributor, Phoebe Tocco, who works with me at Cultural Synergies.

Hi, I'm Phoebe Tocco and I have been working with Dr Tom Verghese for a number years in the cross culture and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space. Tom has invited me to be a guest contributor to The Cultural Synergist, so I thought I would share a recent experience I had in which the challenges of cross-culture were highlighted.

I am really fortunate to be part of a wonderful diverse community of children and parents at the school my daughter attends in Melbourne. As a person who has spent many years living outside of Australia in different cultural settings, I value having this diversity of differing perspectives and experiences around me. Many of the group are intelligent, respected professionals who are well travelled and have vast experiences beyond Australia.

Recently, one of the parents from the group organised an online gin tasting birthday party (we in Melbourne were still in lockdown). As part of the online festivities, a visual Chinese whispers game was set up which everyone participated in. It required everyone to replicate the picture they saw for a few seconds, within a short time frame. It was a lot of fun to be a part of and for everyone to see at the end, the gradual deterioration of the pictures as time pressures (and presumably alcohol consumption) caught up. During the review of the pictures, it was noted by a couple of the group that one particular person was responsible in each sequence for the point in which the picture quality diminished significantly. While it was said in jest, I began to feel uncomfortable as that person was from a minority group and while it may have been light-hearted, I was aware that it could actually have an unintended impact. In my mind, I wondered how that person would feel having a group of people from the dominant culture singling them out. I also wondered if I was being hypersensitive due to my work in the space and if I called it out it would be attributed to that or me being 'that person' or being 'a downer' on the situation. It made me realise how difficult it can be even when we are in our own cultural space to raise issues.

While I didn't raise it with the group at the time, I did check in with the person a few days later to acknowledge that it may have caused some discomfort or embarrassment. The person was very gracious and insisted that these kind of things happen all over the world, which is true! My hope was that in reaching out, I at least provided some acknowledgement and awareness of the potential for the behaviour to be exclusive and that should it happen again that person knows they have an ally and someone who is understanding of a different perspective. If the opportunity presents I may try "calling it in" and asking some of the group about their own experiences and in what situations they might have felt excluded or culturally uncomfortable.

Can you think of time when you have felt challenged within your own culture? What did you do?


Book Recommendation:


Becoming Steve Jobs: How a Reckless Upstart became a Visionary Leader, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli

Becoming Steve Jobs breaks down the conventional, one-dimensional view of Steve Jobs that he was half-genius, half-jerk from youth, an irascible and selfish leader who slighted friends and family alike. Becoming Steve Jobs answers the central question about the life and career of the Apple cofounder and CEO: How did a young man so reckless and arrogant that he was exiled from the company he founded become the most effective visionary business leader of our time, ultimately transforming the daily life of billions of people?

Drawing on incredible and sometimes exclusive access, Schlender and Tetzeli tell a different story of a real human being who wrestled with his failings and learned to maximize his strengths over time. Their rich, compelling narrative is filled with stories never told before from the people who knew Jobs best, including his family, former inner circle executives, and top people at Apple, Pixar and Disney, most notably Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Robert Iger and many others. In addition, Schlender knew Jobs personally for 25 years and draws upon his many interviews with him, on and off the record, in writing the book. The authors humanize the man and explain, rather than simply describe, his behavior. Along the way, the book provides rich context about the technology revolution we've all lived through, and the ways in which Jobs changed our world.

A rich and revealing account, Becoming Steve Jobs shows us how one of the most colorful and compelling figures of our times was able to combine his unchanging, relentless passion with an evolution in management style to create one of the most valuable and beloved companies on the planet.