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Here Right Now
#7: Expanding our empathy with Abadesi Osunsade

#7: Expanding our empathy with Abadesi Osunsade

Today our special guest, my colleague and Forbes ‘25 Black Business Leaders To Follow’ Abadesi Osunsade, directs our attention towards an amazingly powerful, personal and precious capacity - our empathy.

What are the limits of empathy and compassion, and can we overcome them?’

Aba is VP of Global Community & Belonging at Brandwatch, host of the highly brilliant Techish podcast and CEO of Hustle Crew. Sourced from her hard work and bitter lived experiences having to fight for fairness and equity in the tech community, Aba’s framing question for our discussion gets to the very heart of a whole world of pain we’re experiencing today. It also opens the door to considering perhaps our largest scale opportunity as a species: greater empathy.

In 2020, I can’t think of a more timely and important topic.

When you look at the headlines, when you doom-scroll your social media, perhaps when you walk around your neighborhood or city center, what could the world look like if expanded our individual and collective empathy? Would we need to fight so hard for Black Lives Matter and #metoo? Would the onus be so squarely on those oppressed? Would there be a need for drug policy reform or gender pay gap measures? Would we be treating the planet and its living creatures in the way that we do?

And in the workplace too how can we find the capacity and tools to better empathize? Amongst pandemic, with frontline working in PPE and office jobs now Zoom-meetings-only, with trying to be a good citizen, family member, partner, worker, and stay healthy while the economy judders and everything is disrupted. With a global recalibration happening, a climate crisis burning?

Tune in - I promise you that the breadth of Aba’s knowledge and reading, the clarity of her point of view and the energy of her delivery will command your attention.



Automated transcript

Will McInnes 00:01
Aba Hello.
Abadesi Osunsade 00:03
Hey, how's it going?
Will McInnes 00:05
Good. How are you?
Abadesi Osunsade 00:06
Yeah, I'm really good. Thanks. Looking forward to our convo.
Will McInnes 00:10
Absolutely. So we've recently started working together.
Abadesi Osunsade 00:14
Yeah, colleagues
Will McInnes 00:16
colleagues. So good to say Good to have you on board and to be working together. I'm love your energy and everything you're about.
Abadesi Osunsade 00:23
Thank you. Yeah, it's also think I'm in like week, nine now or 10. It's going going very quickly. But it's awesome.
Will McInnes 00:30
And for those that don't yet follow you on Twitter, you're kind of chronicling the journey.
Abadesi Osunsade 00:37
Even filming offend
Will McInnes 00:39
me see, me too. So on Twitter, you are, I haven't got your Twitter handle here.
Abadesi Osunsade 00:48
@abadesi. My first name last
Will McInnes 00:51
name. That's like getting the domain name. That's like, you've got
Abadesi Osunsade 00:56
I do also have So yeah, I
Will McInnes 00:59
yeah. So @ ABADESI, and I, before you joined brandwatch. But when we were talking about it, I started listening to your amazing Techish podcast. And was just inspired by how you and your co host, Michael, just the energy I was I was doing. At the time, I'd be pedalling away on a bike or an indoor bike, like going up a hill or something. And it was just funny, lively, and caustic moments at times appropriately. So just capturing like, the, the tech news of the day or the week, and there's been, there's been so much isn't there?
Abadesi Osunsade 01:49
Yeah, there has been too much. I think it's really interesting, like reflecting on tech news, when might you yourself have been a victim of the negative trends that are sort of like playing out in the industry, whether that's, you know, the fact that Michael and I chose to bootstrap partly because we wanted to build a sustainable business, but also because it's black founders, it's so hard to access capital, and then finding out that there's like some closed beta in Silicon Valley, that's just raised 10 million with 2 million of that going straight into the founders pockets. And you're like, wait a closed beta. So how is that proven itself? So yeah, I think as we report on stories, through the lens of our experience and our identity, it can get quite emotional, because there's some really personal moments where you're like, Ah, so I see that there are exceptions to the rules out there.
Will McInnes 02:36
Big exceptions. And it's been a kind of delight in a weird way, although perhaps the circumstances are different to how we wish they were, but to see Techish rise up, like you're, you've built a community, and that's really obvious in social media. And then to be featured, I think you were featured by Apple on the homepage of their podcasts or something like top business podcasts or something.
Abadesi Osunsade 03:06
It's amazing. It's incredible. I mean, like all things kind of like a company or a piece of art is like super analogous to all of those things where it starts as an idea in your head. And suddenly, it's something real, that's actually one of the first things I took two jobs to co brandwatch about, because it's just like, Yeah, one day, you have an idea. And then, you know, x months or years later, it's like a thing out in the world. But yeah, like when you use hashtags on Twitter, which I do all the time, I'm not sharing about that, just to see what people are saying, or, and it really resonates with folks who are very interested in tech or participating in tech, but are frustrated with the dominant narratives in tech. You know, they're frustrated with this, like, you know, either like squeaky clean image of like building the future, or this like super like homogenous face of what tech represents people like Mark Zuckerberg, people like to face loss. And it just shows I feel like the trajectory of of tech and how it's grown, that there was an appetite for this perspective, and this voice, and I'm really, really glad that we can deliver it. And it's amazing to also see the number of other like black tech podcasts and other sort of like marginalised and underrepresented groups in tech also stepping out and having a voice because I think we really, really need to if we want things to, you know, be more representative of society in general.
Will McInnes 04:20
Hundred percent agree. And before we dive into this incredibly interesting question that you've set, and I've written down and I'm absolutely loving the look of it. And before we get into that, I think there's one other lens that the listeners should know, which is, you're also running hustle crew. Yes. Tell us a little bit about that.
Abadesi Osunsade 04:43
So hustle crew is social enterprise that's been going for over four years now. It was actually started off the back of my own feelings of exclusion in tech. I'd been quite oblivious to double standards around men and women's experience of startups or black and white people's experience of startups until I found myself on their seats. I have like quite a lot of like microaggressions. And just really problematic behaviour that was like impacting my ability to do my job, I was in a commercial role trying to build partnerships expand this app and other regions. And it just kind of came to a head when I quit this job with no next move plan and started to think long and hard about why I had quit and what I wanted to do next. And I felt very strongly that I wanted to do something around increasing representation in the industry, I sort of reflected on the fact that every boss, I'd had didn't look like me, I'm like, What did that mean for, you know, when I was experiencing things that were happening because of how I looked like that was a serious problem. So I got that's how hustle crew started just as a community for the underrepresented in tech to effectively be a network for each other. Because I was like, you know, just because we didn't go to McKinsey, or like Oxbridge, we're kind of losing that fast track into some of the best tech jobs. And, you know, why don't we just, you know, find a way to recreate it, like, let's build this amazing network of mentors who have the connections, and let's give each other support on our applications and our CVS. And, yeah, we just really grew from there. And about, you know, a couple years into the journey, we realised it wasn't really enough for us as individuals, as professionals, to do all of this like work levelling the playing field, giving each other like, you know, help and advice. We also needed to work with the people really creating the cultures, we go into, to make sure that they had done their work of understanding our unique challenges and making their environments supportive of us. And that's sort of been the focus more recently, like in addition to the community actually going in to companies and teaching CTOs and CEOs, about structural oppression, about bias and also about their privilege and how their privilege can be a blocker to things like empathy and making equitable decisions. So it's been quite a rollercoaster of a journey. But I mean, the best thing about it is just seeing folks in the community who wouldn't otherwise have had that opportunity to get in front of a VC or be a product designer at Facebook, get into those roles. And, you know, just keep building that pipeline. And yeah, hopefully making the world a better place. I love
Will McInnes 07:09
it. And I'm struck by two things as I listen to you. One is, I've got a picture on a different wall in a different room. And it's just says, Yes, yes, yes. And when I that's what I feel, I feel like so much like, get it done. So much, so much. And you were talking earlier about starting something from nothing like from zero to one you are, you are you are making the changes you want to see in the world. And I massively massively respect that. Thank you. The other thing that strikes me is what a perfect segue into the topic, which is when we were chatting, where, where we got to, and what kind of came forth from you was this question of, what are the limits of empathy and compassion? Yeah. And, and even better for me, like, can we ever overcome?
Abadesi Osunsade 08:10
Like, the cynical side of me coming through? Like, what? And
Will McInnes 08:16
I just love it. I mean, so much material for us to work with there? What are the limits of empathy and compassion? And can we ever overcome them? And that to me, given given where we are in the world, given what's going on? And what a great topic, so how did you wind your way to that topic? I'm a big, I'm a big believer that things don't come from nowhere. And you've already shared with us just now, like some of your lived experience, and some of the projects that you throw your energy into. If we kind of rewind out of that, like, what, what's got you behind? What's got you this energy for that question?
Abadesi Osunsade 09:03
I think is like so much of my own experience navigating not just tech, but like the professional world in general. And even now as I gain seniority in the industry, and think about what kind of leader I want to be and you know, what kind of person I want to be in a large organisation and what kind of information I want to share what kind of qualities I want to demonstrate that people can, you know, follow them. I want to lead by example, as I'm thinking about all of these things, and I'm also thinking about what I had been hired to do and what I have been, yeah, really, like invested into deliver and a big part of that is helping us as an organisation, I'm speaking about Brad more specifically, but I mean, I do this at hustle crew to helping us as an organisation make more equitable decisions, you know, if the metric is belonging, how do we increase that in our culture across the board, especially in these times where we're transitioning to a remote optimise live and We all have different living conditions and different working conditions and different individual needs. And you start to think about how one of the biggest drivers of success when it comes to being a good leader, increasing sentiments of belonging, creating a more equitable company, as times are changing as human life is adapting one of the biggest indicators of success, there is going to be your level of empathy. How effective Can you be as a human being to empathise with the experience of others, especially when that group of others is an incredibly broad, disparate, diverse range of individuals and non talking age, race, gender, socioeconomic background, geographical location, you know, professional titles, skills, role personality types, communication styles, you name it, it's all in there. How can you empathise with each of those unique people and try if even possible to create policy systems strategies that accommodate all of their needs, in a, you know, equally supportive way? And on top of that, when you inevitably fail, because you're not going to succeed and hitting the right Mark? For all of them? How do you have enough compassion for those who are not satisfied with those who feel like you've let them down? How are you going to have the compassion and the humility to listen to them? take that on board? keep building, keep iterating keep improving? And also, how will you retain enough compassion for yourself because you know, one of the things I've really struggled with this year, just going through just like everybody else in this world pandemic, you know, I was laid off from my other job at the beginning of this year, my side hustle became my full time. So once again, I was out there recruiting, interviewing, doing all those things that you do, whilst also being a black person doing Black Lives Matter. You know, in a mixed race relationship, where my husband can't quite understand all the things I'm going through as a white man. How do you also retain compassion for yourself? Because, you know, I experienced levels of burnout this year. I didn't even know where possible like, I thought I done burnout. I was like, I know it. I'm familiar with that. We're friends were frenemies. But then I reached this new low. So yeah, I just thought bringing empathy and compassion into the mix would be important. Because I think these are things we're all thinking about a lot, whether it's in relation to ourselves, or the communities around us, whether that's our personal ones, or even our professional ones.
Will McInnes 12:24
Oh, man, there's so many places to go with this. Set it up. You've set it up so well, but it is. It is also dizzying. It's dizzying. And I don't. I don't think that's enough. Like it's not enough to say there's so much it's too much. You know, there's overwhelming, like, when I when I listen to you, there I think about so many of the schisms in society at the moment. So many of the, the tension points, the violence on the streets, the cancelled culture, whatever. Like, I think this thing about empathy, you've traced a bit like a physiotherapist you've traced the source of a lot of pain. Yes, absolutely. To a spot which is the failure on two sides of a coin to, to see to see the other side somehow. And then I think about myself and I think, where do I empathise? And where do I find it hard to empathise? And it strikes me that this is a very personal journey to create more empathy requires big change within many individuals, like how do you
Abadesi Osunsade 13:45
Yeah, I think about it. I really like the the idea of using like pain as an intersection of like, Where, where we fail to empathise. And I would just, like, add another emotion to that. And I think it's rage. I think there's just as much pain from not being seen and not being heard, as there is anger and rage. And you know, that's where the violence is, we don't act out from a place of pain, we shrink in a place of pain, but where we lash out and act out is from that fiery anger, that rage that comes from, you know, your whole existence being challenged by somebody else. And I think I often start with, like, really kind of the workplace because I feel like that's where I have the most confidence and competence when it comes to understanding when empathy breaks down or isn't engaged appropriately. What happens instead, and what happens instead is that bias wins, right? And there's all this incredible research around bias and how it manifests and I'm not talking, you know, unconscious bias, this like, mysterious thing that's like hidden somewhere in the depths of our brain. I'm talking about real life, ordinary things that are happening all the time and are proven in research, like the fact that a man can negotiate for a pay rise during a Job negotiation and meet very favourable results. And a woman can do the exact same thing and be described as aggressive, assertive, not a team player or even bossy. And, you know, this is something that's been shown in so many case studies and something I myself have even suffered. I remember getting a startup job once, very shortly after one of my best friends who just happens to be white guy. And he basically, like gave me the email template he used to negotiate and I copied it word for word, except I plugged in my numbers. And I immediately had a call from the VP of the startup going, how selfish of you, I thought you cared about our mission, I thought you cared about this. This is so this is a red flag for me. And I mean, I was just like, somewhere on the line of like laughing and crying, because I was just like, what do I take away from this, you know, the fact that my friend could use this exact same email template and get paid? And I've not done the exact same thing I'm being told off. So um, yeah, I think for me, it's just like, let's just start with what we've already seen play out in research, because at least that gives us something tangible to work with. And, and what that research shows us is that by virtue of being who I am, and looking the way I do, I'm navigating the workplace a certain way, and people are projecting things onto me, they're projecting stereotypes about women, maybe you don't see a lot of women CEOs, you don't see a lot of black and agency as I look like. So you immediately start to assume some kind of inferiority about me, just by virtue of the fact you don't see people like me on the cover of magazines, or like ringing the bell on the NASDAQ going public with their company. So immediately, before I even open my mouth, you're already assuming certain things now, whether you're like a stakeholder investor or something, what happens when that happens to someone like me over the course of my lifetime, you know, we see research about performance bias, we make assumptions about people's performance based on how they look, they've done all these crazy studies in the US, there are more CEOs named john, than their CEOs who are women. There are also more CEOs who are over six foot because we just think people who are tall are really good leaders. But if you correlate that against grades or performance, there's a positive correlation between height and achievement. So it's kind of like what are we doing here? So yeah, for me, just starting off with bias and recognising that our brains have to make millions of decisions on any given day, I think the last TED talk, I watched on this, it's something like, by the time we get to lunchtime, you've made 3 million decisions, very few of which are actually conscious and mindful. So, you know, it's, it's not surprising that we, we resort to things like stereotypes to make decisions, but they're really damaging, right? Like, in the US, you know, a cop pulls over someone, and they happen to be a black man. And suddenly, the chances of them dying, like go up. And so I guess what I'm trying to say is, the more we know about types of bias, whether that's bias against women in the workplace bias against parents, bias against black people, bias against poor people, bias against, you know, people with larger bodies, and like the faces we don't tend to see on movies, like all these kinds of bias, beauty bias is real, the more we know about them, the more we can start to challenge our own assumptions about the world and our own assumptions about life. You know, like, there are a lot of people who will say ridiculous things like, Oh, I just don't think women are funny. I don't really like know, any, you know, female stand up comedians, that, you know, that I like, and I'm like, okay, we'll just name five female standard comedians for a start. And then they can't even do that. And I was like, so what is the sample size you're dealing with to make a statement? Like, you don't think women are funny, or like same kind of thing. Like, I remember having this dude, it was like my guy friends. And they were just like, Oh, I didn't like this female directed film ever made such a song dance, big song and dance about it, but he did think it was that good. And I was like, Okay, well, like, here's an argument. This is a film through the lens of the female perspective, and your man and the majority of films you have seen or through the male perspective. So maybe, you know, you can actually enjoy this film as much because you can empathise with the protagonists, you can empathise with the views, like they don't feel realistic to you, because they're not your experiences. How about that? And he was like, Well, if that's the case, how commence films still do so well in the box office. And I was like, well, because when you are the gender that get to design and rule the world, you also get to pick what the main narratives and the main perspectives are. And the reality is as a woman, who spent the majority of my life watching films made by men reading books written by men singing songs, written by men sung by men, I have learned to internalise the male experience as part of my own in a way that men have not learned how to do I challenge my girlfriends, even my husband, how many books have you read by women through the female experience? Like how many albums Have you listened to and sung along to and hummed along to written and sung by women about the female experience, and they will struggle and I was like, and then you wonder why we ended up having a debate about how to appreciate this arch created by women or someone else who's experienced we have just not absorbed in a way that actually really specs it and dignifies it and you know, doesn't like judge it through a lens of like limited experience. I mean, I'm using this analogy of art because I think, again, it translates back to day to day life, right? If you're the manager of a team, and there's someone on your team who has a very different lived experience to you, and they start challenging the way that you communicate the way you bring the team together, the way you organise projects, the way you give feedback, it might be difficult for you to take that on board at first and even more. So if no one else on the team has objected to it. But then you have to go a bit deeper and kind of go Okay, well, like who is this person? What are they about? What's their cultural background? What's their perspective? What's their experience of life, this feedback must be coming from a place because their perspective is shaped by their existence and what they have seen and what they're used to. And instead of me dismissing this, because it's a outlier, or a minority perspective, maybe I should consider the fact that it's a minority perspective, because we don't have as many people like them on the team, but that doesn't devalue it in any way or make it any, any less important. And yeah, so bias, basically, biases, real
Will McInnes 21:13
biases, definitely rare, and hugely, hugely real. What I'm wondering about is, who, how large groups of people will make the effort that is required here. Because what I see as a white man, in many, on many dimensions privileged, in pretty much every dimension privileged, what I see in my social networks, I'm talking about human social networks, as opposed to digital that in some of the milder cases, there's resistance to embracing this complexity. And that's at the milder end of the spectrum. If we look at things like Brexit, if we look at, you know, in cell or if we look at radical populations of white Angry Men, which there are plenty, yeah. And how on earth will they move from that position to empathise? How on earth will they because what I hear this is just my take why here in the rejection of this human nuance, and less need for subtlety and open arms and much broader range on so many axes? What I hear from these groups is a flat out rejection. Yeah, complex. Like that's not the way it was. Yes, not the way I want it to be. I don't fit into that. This is fucking bullshit. Yeah. And it's right, rage and anger and bias. And, like, how, there's what we can control? Maybe that's where we need to go, because there's what we can influence but, but it's, I worry about, I worry about moving those people.
Abadesi Osunsade 23:18
Yeah. I think that's a really like, fascinating question. And like, definitely, like worth exploring, I think like the first thing. So I feel like there's two things I often think about when I think about this issue, right? How do you get people where there's just no incentive for them to do anything differently? Like, I've basically laid out this argument like, Hey, this is a system that like really benefits you and like, gives you like, loads of advantage and like, gives you a really easy ride on life, and then makes it really hard for me. And it's like, and your point is, right. So like, I totally hear you on that. And I think I have like, yeah, I have like two things I always think about here like the first thing is that the complexity is a fallacy as far as I'm concerned. That's the first thing I want to start with. I think. I think we like to think it's difficult because we want to feel like the barrier to changing our behaviour is the complexity that's what we want to believe we don't want to believe it's a it's the own shortcomings of our morality or stubbornness or or even our preference for a system that is inherently unjust, unequal, pretty messed up, but favours us that's cool, right? Like no one, no one in the Nazi times wanted to like step up and be like, Hey, no offence guys is actually working out pretty good for me, right? So, you know, that's the first thing I want to say like complexity is a fallacy. And the reason I feel it's so important to say that is because we have this incredible amount of innovation happening everywhere around the world right now. Like whether you're looking at things that Elon Musk is working on, whether you're looking at things happening in space, whether you're going into like the labs of PhD researchers and looking how they're like, changing the expressions of DNA and like all this kind of stuff, you can like, pick the sex of your baby, like whatever you can think of. We can probably do it and in order for us to like even Engage with that idea, we have to engage in the type of complexity, right? Like, we have to start understanding things. We're talking about like nano computers hitting the markets in a few years, like we're talking about autonomous vehicles and like the ethics of like, you know who they should swerve or who they should hit complexities here. And we're all engaging with it, right? Like we're all on tik tok, and what God knows what algorithms machine learning, we're there, we're down for it. So if anything, right, the complexity with which we're already engaging with technology, and social media, and like all these kinds of things, science biology, is already like, far more complex than the idea of me standing up as a human being who just happens to have different skin and genitals to you and saying, Hey, could you treat me? Like, I'm like you like, would that be? Okay? Could you pretend if it's easier that I look like you for a second? And then just talk to me? and behave around me? As if we are one in the same? Can you do that? Yeah, that's all I'm asking. And I think that's far less complex than putting you know, a VR controller in your hand and challenging you to like, solve this level of the video game. So the first thing I wanna say, is that, let's please abandon this idea that it's hard because it's really not. And then the second thing I wanted to say on this is that we have been conditioned through capitalism really, to see things in like a very, like adversarial finite amount of goods, infinite needs, Adam Smith kind of vibes. It's, it's just like, you know, the pie is only so big. And you're telling me that I now have to give you more slices of my pie? Oh, I don't know about that. I don't know about that. I guess what I'm trying to say is we're seeing this through the framework of what we will lose, right. And when I say we, I'm pretending to be a member of the dominant group. And I guess in some cases, I am right, but I'll stick to your example. So let's just say cisgender, straight white man of privileged backgrounds see this through the lens of what they will lose. But what's really unfortunate about that is that we are not seeing it through the lens of what we will gain, right. So sticking with the same group of people, like how liberating would it be, if they could live in a world where they were not judged for their financial status, not judged for the accolades and accomplishments that they've been able to achieve in their career not judged by the square foot of their house, or the litre size of their engine, the fanciness of their bikes, you know, the number of holidays and ski trips and boat trips. They've been on this last year, how beautiful and wonderful and liberating with the world be if they weren't touched by any of those things, what school their kids go to, how few divorces they've had, whatever, instead, they were just judged by maybe nothing, or maybe everything else that isn't those things. How much you make me laugh how much you make me cry, how much you care about me how seen and heard I feel when I'm in your presence, how connected to the true version of you You are and, and, and how full the range of emotions you express and share with me are? Imagine a world like that, or world where it was okay to cry, or world where it was okay to say, you know what may feel really shit today. I don't think I'm up for playing rugby. I don't think I'm up for coming to the privacy. We're just gonna sit on the sofa and watch James Curtis movies on repeat. And that's okay, a world where you don't need a six pack. You don't need to wear Patagonia, any of that kind of stuff where you can just do you. And that is amazing. And that is great. We're not seeing that part of it.
Will McInnes 28:39
You are so compelling. And off off off the microphone. I'm I'm laughing and got tears in my eyes. You are so compelling. And I'm just so delighted. I'm bet people absolutely loving listening. There were a couple of like profound moments in that. For me, one of them was you have totally flipped complexity complex versus simple. Yeah. And you've totally helped me see that. The best thing that we do when faced with complexity is to embrace simplicity. And you've totally changed how I think about that. You're right. There's no fucking complexity there. There's a much more simple alternative, which is just to go. Or I can just accept and I can embrace and I can seek to meet halfway Yeah, rather than have 100,000 different versions of how I think humans can be for example, totally so so that was genuinely and I'm embarrassed if if it reflects poorly on me, but that is profoundly helpful for me and I hope helpful for the people. The other is much more I guess familiar, which is you've pointed out that there's a scarcity or an abundance mindset play here. And we can so we can choose complexity, or we can choose simplicity and we can choose scarcity. Or we can choose an abundance. And in both instances, you have powerfully brought to life. The Case for simplicity and abundance was just beautiful.
Abadesi Osunsade 30:25
Thanks. So what I'm here for is I'm here for the reason I like to describe in a visual or like as real and experiential way as possible. What could be his because I think it's, it's just a way to illustrate what I ultimately see is the duality of our beliefs and our experience and why the world is like in constant conflict, and will probably always be as long as we exist in this version of reality, I'm happy to try and break through the matrix, if anyone else ever invents that opportunity. But I think there are two camps of people and like, there's a camp of people who believe that we are inherently good, and everyone's inherently good. And if you just like, give everyone a chance, or like multiple chances, they will eventually have that opportunity to show you that we are good, and we want to do good things. And we don't want to screw people over like, we genuinely care about each other. We're not, you know, Hobbes Leviathan, self interested feral creatures. And then those hubs, and everyone was else in that camp, who was just like, No, we are like self interested beings. That's how we are, you know, where we are in the world, look at what we've decimated and destroyed in our quest. And we we need systems and structures to stop the save us from ourselves. And, you know, in a way, like, I often think, like the left, right spectrum of politics is like, quite like a bit oversimplified, but you could kind of make the argument that like, on the more liberal end of the spectrum are people who are just like, you know, hoping for the best expecting the best and creating a system where people with the best intentions can, you know, manifest that with others in mind. And then on the other end of the spectrum, we're like, no, people are inherently selfish and self interested and very individualistic. So let's build a world that accommodates for that because people are nosy people are bad, we cannot let them do their own things, we do not trust them. And in a way, that whole idea of like scarcity, abundance, complexities, simplicity, is again, analogous to that spectrum.
Will McInnes 32:29
Yeah, that's really interesting. And, and what it was making me think is, I kind of need to get off the fence on that, because as you spoke about both sides there, I could, I could feel bits of belief in me rising up, like, I believe that people are essentially good. And I also believe that people are self interested. Yeah. You know, animals. And, And therein lies lies, I guess, the beauty and the challenge. When we take this forward in practical steps, what opportunities do we have, like, CEOs are more likely to be called? Well, there are more CEOs called john than there are women CEOs. There are there are, you know, if you're over six foot, if you have blond hair, if you have blue eyes, these are all these are all things that more often than not, you know, fortune 500 CEOs. Oh, yeah, also have the fantastic work in professional filarmonica. You know, orchestras. Blind tests have totally changed the membership of professional orchestras around the world. And even to the extent that they had to not only just put up the, the curtain behind which the violinist could perform, but then they realised that the shoes walking across were also a signal some people have people

Abadesi Osunsade 34:01

audition otherwise. stilettos and judged negatively.

Will McInnes 34:05

Exactly, exactly. So. So the lengths that are that can be required to make to make a difference. You know, they've been shown to be successful, but that's also to me, it misses the point of everything you've just said. Yeah, it's it's scaffolding, rather than a better way. How do we find how do we find more empathy within ourselves? Or how do we help these people who think they're going to lose out? Yeah, and or maybe that's not that maybe that's not that's not your job to answer. That's, but certainly, I'm taking the view on this podcast that we are on behalf of society asking ourselves that question, so yeah. What on earth are we gonna do about that?

Abadesi Osunsade 34:56

I think that's like, I mean, that's an endless list of things to do. But I'll kind of share the things that I think about a lot. And like it'll start with the individual, and then go on to like actions individual can take, I think the first thing that all of us need to do as individuals is remember that we have agency and we have power. And I think a lot of the time we can be made to feel powerless, especially the way the news cycle works, the way the media works. You know, you voted in an election in December here in the UK, maybe things didn't go your way and other elections coming up in the US, you know, whichever side of the vote you fall on, it's not going to go someone's way. And so I think we have to remember, truly, we do have power, you know, we live in democracies, we have elected officials to act in our local governments or local constituencies that we can write to who can do things for us. And the most powerful thing of all we have is our capital, we have money. Our system is called capitalism for a reason, where we choose to transfer that capital of the brands we support the company whose we support the charities we support, that is effecting change. So like the first thing I want to remind everyone is like, don't be mindless with how you spend because there is a lot of power in every decision you make, who you bank with, actually can even make some of the biggest changes of all where your pension sits with, you know, those all pooled into huge trillion pound or dollar funds that can either invest in things like poverty reduction, and sustainability, you know, climate change, or they can invest in really messed up things like violence, fossil fuels, exploitative industry. So let's not forget the power that each of us have with our money. And then the second thing is, let's not forget the power that each of us have with our words and actions. What do we choose to say? Or not say, when we're sitting at the power of the dining room table with our friends, and someone says something from a biassed opinion, where you know, there is data to challenge that when it happens in a boardroom in a meeting in an ideation chat, like any sort of thing where you know, that there is more data and research to add more balanced views and more perspective to that conversation. But you you choose not to do that you are failing yourself, and you are failing us as a society. So yeah, I do think it's really important for individuals to do this work. And you know, I heard this the other day, and I just thought was brilliant. I can't remember who said it now. But it was this idea of like, there is no hero that is coming to save you. Oh yeah, it was collected aka for. She's on Instagram as collection at cough also Twitter. She's amazing activist, actor, writer podcaster. And she said, No one is coming to save you. That is the most frustrating thing about human beings. We're watching all these Marvel movies thinking that you know, Captain America is coming. No, You are the hero. We are the hero, you are the protagonist in your story. Okay, so do that work and make the change. So those are the first few things I'll say. And then the next thing I'll say is like, beyond us as an individual and the mindset shifts we're going to make and the attitudes we're going to adopt, you know, what else will we do? And I think the other thing we need to do is just be aware of movements that are happening in the world right now and do our very best to understand them, like be informed about trans rights, be informed about women's rights, be informed about black rights, I don't care if you don't belong to any of those groups of people. You belong to humanity, you belong to society, you belong to a community, we have all agreed on a social contract. And if you don't want to be in it, then go move to a remote island and have fun there or get on Elon Musk's next trip to Mars. But while you are here, and we are all in this together, do the work because that is how you are a good citizen. That's how you are a good person again, like you are the protagonist in your story. You are the hero in this comic strip, no one is going to come and teach you no one is going to come and save you. You have to do that yourself. And the more you understand about this, the less scary and complex and alien it's going to be. If you learn how to make a sourdough starter and locked down, you can learn about the intersectional feminist movement. You could learn about black power you can learn about, you know what it's like to be a disabled person in society today. Yeah, so I think I think that's what I'd say. And then I'd also say

the world is an inherently unjust and unequal world and there is a lot of historical context behind that I was blown away while reading a column natives how lists all about British history my white male British husband actually knew. And there are a lot of people sitting in a place of comfort, resting on a lot of assumptions about their country, their country's history, their country's role in globalisation. colonisation. empires, it's willful ignorance. If you choose to not go deeper, it's willful ignorance if you choose to sit on those assumptions that you have never researched or challenge and argue from them using those as your arsenal in the war of information, right? Your weapons are broken. They're faulty. Go back in and review the stocks. Okay? Like, actually do a little do a little recon, do a little research, see if those facts are right. And because I don't, you know, I don't even actually maybe want you to start looking into movements beyond those of your own identity and culture. If you haven't done the research, you know, about you? Who are you in the world today? So you are white, British, Ron, white American? What is the history of white British men in the world? Over the last hundred years? 200 years? 300 years? 500 years? Tell me facts. Tell me facts about your people. I don't just want those like, rolled out, we invented this. We named that planet blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It's like what have you actually done outside your country? Like read about that? There's some ugly stories out there that you may not know you? Why are immigrants coming to your country? Like, what did you do to there's Go Go read about it, go check it out. And so yeah, I just think we need to channel our curiosity to places that will help us understand ourselves better. And once we understand ourselves better, we can start to understand the experiences of others better. But you know, we were saying just before we jumped on, like people always say like, oh, history always repeats itself. Yeah, history always repeats itself because we as human beings to ever learn. Like when we're presented with information that challenges our lived experiences, challenges, our values, we reject it. I mean, there's a tonne of studies that show that you can actually give someone information that challenges their view, like the earth is flat, I believe that is flat, or I don't believe in global warming. And they will believe that more strongly, when presented with evidence to challenge it, okay. So cognitive dissonance is real limitations of our knowledge and awareness is real, knowing all of these things, what will we do to challenge evolution and challenge biology, for the sake of a higher consciousness, a more enlightened experience a more connected global community.

Will McInnes 42:24


again, alive with excitement and possibility and, and also stuck. Where I am alive with excitement. And possibility is, it's a bit, I read a book by an Indian CEO who transformed his large organisation, and he divided the employees into three groups. And it was I can't remember the labels he gave them. But it's basically like the people who want change the people who are on the fence, and the people who will resist change. And what he said was give up on the last group, nice, there's nothing you can do for those people. What you need to do is focus on the people who want change, and you may also win over some of those on the fence. Nice. So why I'm so excited is because I'm in this and I'm a huge believer in everything that you're saying. And I'm trying to do my work and with my two boys with them, too. And that is good, because that is the to your point. That's the opportunity we have we can influence ourselves. Help is not on the way. We have agency, we have power, we have capital, and I bloody love that because it's empowering. The bit that where I'm stuck is do we just, it's those that don't want change. And I've been two minds. One is maybe it's just maybe a generation needs to pass but my saddest moments this year. Yeah. I've been have been looking at younger people. Yeah, you know, young, younger militia on the streets in America. And you know, one of our other colleagues wife has written a book about, you know, that the anger of, of predominantly white men online like these are waiting for a generation to pass. It's just I don't think that's going to be I don't think that's going to be enough.

Abadesi Osunsade 44:28

No, I I agree. And I think I think there is an opportunity in terms of information. And this is why I was saying, I understand that there are people who are not interested in the experiences of others, but they should challenge themselves to know their own experience in the world and in society a lot better. I think, in the US in particular, I mean, I saw an incredible comedian on Frankie Boyle's current BBC show, talking about how the US is having an existential crisis because it's its whole identity is about white entitlement which requires As the subjugation and inferiority of black people, when black people now stand up and rise against that, what do you do? As someone who by birthright was guaranteed superiority you rage, right? You Rage Against the Machine. So I think that's why it is really important for especially this demographic of people, however, they describe themselves who feel wronged. Right, the natural order has been wronged in some way, I think it's really important for them to actually start to read some actual books by accredited scientists, not subreddit threads and 4chan forums. Right, I think they should actually like, read about the history of their people, and the history of their country. And because, you know, they're they're intelligent, they like information, they claim, you know, intellectual superiority. Well, I challenged them to use that intellectual superiority to dive deeper and find compelling historical, biological, socio economic reasons for why they deserve to be at the top, I'll listen, I'll listen, but I don't think they're going to find them.

I do think that there are people who are not as stubborn in belief as we think they are. I think, you know, going back to this idea of like abundance versus scarcity, I think, you know, one of the, one of the effects of patriarchy is, you know, this idea that people have to cling on to their gender role as they perceive it to be in society, and their gender role might be a very tough, you know, very tough guy, no weakness, no emotions, no anything. And everything is being bottled up into, you know, a very non nuanced rage, anger, brute force. If given the invitation to expand that. I do think like, you will find there are a lot of people who are who are willing to listen and unwilling to understand, but no one has given them the invitation to or created the space for them to do that. So yeah, I feel like even the most stubborn people who are unwilling to change, maybe just haven't been pitched the change in the right way.

Will McInnes 47:15

I strongly agree with that. I think that wherever we are as as a global society, if that even exists. We are still so early in the foothills of just growing up. Yeah, accept accepting who we are. If you mentioned in many of the many of the things you rattled off earlier that had me that spoke to me directly. You You mentioned rugby, you mentioned six pack you mentioned like and I think about I think about rugby, which is a sport I've played and have a strong affinity to and it's only in recent times that the first gay rugby players come out. Gay rugby referees come out and credit to them. They're there. These people are huge role models, Gareth Thomas, Nigel Davis, but that's like so we're so behind the curve in terms of just, you know, normal percentages in popular. So so I think that, I think that we have, there's always a lag isn't there, I think of a rope. And I think if you put a you put a kind of a whip crack through a rope, and you watch that curve, go through it, and, and through society on many dimensions, in many areas different these Waves of Change are travelling at different speeds and reaching different places and, and there's much work to do. The other thing that came up for me when you were just finishing there was thinking about the documentary, the work, I think it's called which is about therapy for, for prisoners in the American prison system. And basically, the work is a deeply profound documentary I recommend to people, but getting these hard, tough, professional criminals and gang gang members and who've been incarcerated to open up about their experiences and to reveal their vulnerabilities is just so so beautiful and tragic and profound. And I've thanks to my mum, I've often looked at communities of tough men and thought, you know, she always used to say with football hooligans, like I think they will just want to hug the ability to like put your arm around your mate football game ago. Yeah. And then hug is probably like it's it's the glue that binds that group together. But but the the human connection. Yeah, is right, right at the centre of it.

Abadesi Osunsade 49:41

Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, we we forget going back to capitalism, that there are lots of very rich people that profit from our insecurities, our weakness and our loneliness. Just because you're alone doesn't mean you're lonely. Just because you're lonely doesn't mean you're alone. And yet, we are made to feel like we are the only ones and And I think there are a lot of people who are, you know, in the spotlight for the wrong reasons right now, when we think of our global community, whether that's like, all right, whether that's like anything, and you know, again, like not to, like justify hate in any way, but I just think to your point about like how few gay high profile athletes have have stepped out, and how few people basically have challenged the male gender norm, there's still so much work to do in that to basically like, unlock people's attitudes towards themselves. And how can you expect someone to have compassion and empathy for another person when they don't even have compassionate empathy from themselves when they still are acting out a role that they feel the pressure to be? And they perhaps do not even know who they truly are? Right? Like, how would you ever afford someone the licence to be seen and heard when you don't let yourself be seen and heard? So there's so much work to do there? I'm certainly not an expert on it. Like I would there's a lot of really interesting men doing work in this space. But yeah, I think you're totally right, there's like, the minute we can unlock that the acceleration of change will be incredible.

Will McInnes 51:12

Love it. And I love that you're finishing there with a reminder that despite the great challenges, our greatest opportunity is ourselves. And units of one, you know, multiplied up makes makes for a huge shift and bringing it back to empathy for for ourselves and then empathy for others. And these are not again, these are not in opposition. In fact, one is a doorway through to the other. Thank you so much for the conversation today. So yeah,

even more exhilarating, then on you it would where would you stay? Are people here interested to follow you to hear more to keep up today? I know you're Where should Where should we point people and

Abadesi Osunsade 52:01

please definitely check out my podcast to tech edge, especially if you're interested in the tech sector. You can follow me on social media. I'm everywhere just at avid se. And if you'd like to hear more about how you can make your organisation or your community a more equitable and empathetic place to be please check out hustle crew where hustle and you can read all about our services there.

Will McInnes 52:26

Thank you. You are a legend and I'm really glad you came on the podcast.

Abadesi Osunsade 52:30

Thanks for having me. It was really fun, really fun chatting. I yeah, it's fun to be a philosopher for a bit.

Here Right Now
Here Right Now
Here Right Now explores the future that’s already here.
Every week a special guest brings a new perspective on how a facet of everyday life is changing right now. Through their expert eyes we go deep into emerging new trends around the world.