On catching prey

We’re going fishing. In the mountain lake live two tasty fish species of the same population. We have two baits at our disposal. An experienced fisherman says that with the older bait we will catch one species – the other one doesn’t bite so good. With the new bait both species bite equally well. Your colleague wants to fish with the old bait, because he has often used it successfully – he’s betting on proven methods. But you are smarter: you have calculated that you will catch more fish if you use a bait that bites both varieties equally well. You have twice as much prey. You are the hero of the troops.

Change of scene: There are two kinds of people on the planet – male and female. Their mental power is comparably good, their intelligence is similarly unevenly distributed on both sides. In social behaviour in groups, however, the female shows a more effective leadership behaviour. The difference, however, is marginal. Companies also fish people: For top management jobs, they have used bait so far, 85 percent of which bite at little men. The good women hardly bite, but the less good men all the better. In the meantime, the total population of the workforce is declining. The companies are courting the fewer and fewer managers. Some with the supposedly proven baits, in which only half of the people are interested – the smarter ones, however, use new baits, in which all talents bite. Who simply has more good people in the company at the end of the day? Exactly: The smarter ones, because they have twice as much prey.

What do you want the bait to look like?

It means the effect of speech and images in communication as well as the decision architecture in the process. A fish that does not like a worm does not bite the worm. If a job advertisement smells too strongly of testosterone culture, the woman loses her desire for a career. And a fisherman who has caught lots of little men so far doesn’t even know what to do when he has a good woman on the hook. He may tackle it so clumsily that it escapes him injured. So the fisherman will have to learn to fish differently with new lures if he wants to be superior in the long run with twice as much prey.

Column by Esther-Mirjam de Boer, CEO of GetDiversity in the Handelszeitung of 29. August 2019.