Clear Direction that Lacks Opportunity Stems from Confirmation Bias

Clear Direction

If We Stay” by Justin Caruso & Ivy Adara 🎵 

Everybody wants clear direction.
We don’t always get it.

Whether we are the ones that establish direction or the ones that execute it, clear direction gives us stability and purpose. When direction feels like falsehood, what’s on paper is not palatable.

For example, Google charging $99 to convince employees that they will feel safe and have flexibility when returning to office by offering the ability to sleep on campus isn’t clear direction to employees.

It is a metaphor for the Industrial Revolution and row housing.

Remote Work Was Here All Along

Google’s direction may have intended “Come back. We will all be friends.”

But organization around that direction and lack of respect for historical context will prevent some who have lived from doing that. Companies like Google can certainly try by continuing to say “would you kindly.”

I wouldn’t recommend it.

Life will always give multiple directives. For some, remote work, was the opportunity they needed for their children. My mother, an audio engineer, worked from home in the early 90s in the suburbs of Nashville to start her business.

Her recording studio was a room over our garage.

That helped her raise twins on her own and still work. I used to pick up the land line while she was on with clients. She’d have to explain who this squeeky voice was. “Hun, please get off the phone I’m on a call with a client.” was said more than once.

She worked hard enough to buy her own recording studio on music row in the late 90s across from BMG, but it was an hour from where we lived in normal traffic, and an hour and a half from my school. Down the street was Starstruck Studios, Reba’s place. Reba really wanted to put a helipad on the building. No one else on music row wanted that at all. It would have been a privilege at the expense of other businesses.

In middle school, I slept on an air mattress in a room with padded walls (it was used for recording). We hadn’t bought a new home – we didn’t have the whole building. I used to keep trinkets in boxes I could hide quickly so it didn’t look like we lived there. Deflate the air mattress. There was a computer in that room. I sat in a folding chair and played Pyramid Solitaire on Flash game websites. Did my homework on a fold out table. We were still driving all over for school. School became the most important.

We lived in the studio on music row for a bit. Multiple couches were pull out beds. When the tenant moved out upstairs she got the full place – her dream. Some days she worked so late at the studio, I’d fall asleep on the couches upstairs. Promised her I wouldn’t use Napster (she saw this coming a decade before) or Torrent – I may have been the only kid in school who wasn’t. All she wanted was to find the right home for us, affordable, close enough so we could stop sleeping at the studio and she did.

Conversations around fully removing remote work don’t resonate with me because I’ve lived otherwise – and seen what it’s given people to build towards owning real estate, their destiny, their careers. When I too owned my own business I was hybrid, sitting in traffic for two hours on days I went into office after I moved, and finally went full remote right before Covid. And I loved it.

I look at things like what Google proposes and I shake my head knowing that my mom didn’t want me to sleep at her work, rather she was doing her best.

She did everything she could to make it comfortable so she could move me closer to opportunity too. Do the kids also get to sleep in the Google hotel? Is there a kitchen where they can heat up food while their mother works? I remember how important it was for her to pick me up from school. Sometimes, when we were too far, my brother and I were the last kids to be picked up. We got really good at playing Uno with the lady who ran the program.

I read things like that Gizmodo article and I think – where are the kids? I remember I visited so many places in San Francisco and always thinking “Where are the kids?” Never wanted to move there. Never saw a world where I could afford to. To live. To thrive. To grow a family.

I always thought – How far are they from their parents? Wondering if companies ask – Do children have two parents? Remembering sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. I remember in Seattle seeing the day cares near the Amazon offices. Wondering how much of my future depended on me: sucking it up.

It feels like companies think about tax credits and hope it works out: Not even knowing there are things like the 30% tax credit in Georgia that doesn’t care about your real estate and only cares that you pay people who work in film or games.

Life sometimes doesn’t give you clear direction.

But usually – it’s people who give clear direction without clear opportunity perhaps driven by not knowing what exists beyond the periphery of location bias.

Culture As Clear Opportunity

What is put on paper, in an email, or in a presentation can be taken as clear direction and we find, the organization of such direction and the actions can say the opposite.

For example, I may write a 12 month goal for an organization and yet still have employees say “this is vague” or “I don’t understand the direction.”

I may re-iterate that goal and expect that as long as I have repeated it, as long as I have clear communication that I also have clear direction.

And I may wonder, “Why do people still say that I am not giving clear direction?”

There are many reasons this could be, but one I want to highlight is clear direction is something best made from clear opportunity. Opportunity that meets the needs of those responsible for executing the direction as informed by diverse perspectives.

To get to clear opportunity, there is a mess that has to get (1) identified and then (2) cleaned up transparently by someone who is accountable for it. And finally, (3) it has to be clear it also includes real opportunity as informed outside the periphery of bias.

Absent those three things you only have 1 AND 2 but not 3. 3 can only come from truly reaching out, saying what the problem really is, and asking from employees their ideas without trying to confirm your own.

I hope companies continue to look at what Google and Amazon are doing and evaluate that against the direction they’ve given. I believe culture, as driven by feedback from employees over my own personal beliefs, is the utmost importance to maintain – and that it should be done carefully.

Header Image by CDD20 from Unsplash.