The Man in the (Inclusive) Arena

April 13, 2017 in Notes from the Field
Adam Paulisick
Chief Product Officer

Blog post written by Adam Paulisick.

Most of the time when MAYA gets a call, it’s just after someone has tried something insane (as in Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results). One of the key ways we avoid falling victim to that insanity is putting equal emphasis on diversity of thought as we do effective design. As long as we see the problem differently, we typically get different and improved results.

Part of that commitment to diversity in thought is explaining to companies and organizations how to build environments that help their culture become a differentiator and ultimately produce better results, but we can’t do it alone.

Discussing the importance of diversity in the workplace with Director of Engineering, Leslie Miley. Source: Elizabeth Craig Photography

In that spirit, I recently hosted Leslie Miley, West Coast President of Venture for America and Director of Engineering on loan from, at The Shop - Homewood in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, Leslie had an incredible story that spanned across his time at Apple, Twitter, and other Silicon Valley standouts – but what hit me was his commitment to being the “man in the arena” (a reference from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 speech, “Citizenship In A Republic”) when it came to inclusive leadership and hiring, let alone office dynamics.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Building an Inclusive Arena

Powerful words delivered by Leslie, while not fully captured below, left us with some key takeaways for creating an inclusive corporate culture within an organization:

  • Drive diversity top-down from the CEO
  • Communicate fearlessly, but compassionately
  • Use inclusive and transparent hiring practices
  • Use a broad range of recruiting sources
  • Identify and eliminate bias in resume evaluation
  • Train employees who interview on how to interview
  • Set employee, leadership, board, and investor demographic diversity goals

Early developers who had been through programs with the Homewood Children’s Village found a new feeling of confidence for how they could be culture builders when the time came. Source: Elizabeth Craig Photography

It Starts at the Top

So where does the rubber meet the innovation road? Collaborating with Innovation Works to have over 20 CEOs meet with Leslie after the main event. Business leaders had the opportunity to talk through the key learnings and approaches available to build more inclusive companies; so the next time we meet, we can celebrate successes around our employee, leadership, and investor diversity initiatives. As Leslie put it, “Diversity – it’s not a box to check. It is a reality that should be deeply felt and held and valued by all of us.”

Want to talk about building inclusive cultures and creative environments?

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