It’s painful to have people tell you you’re wrong. If you’re powerful, you can make sure everyone around you would never do that.
That’s a good way to end up looking like a complete fool.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz both just showed us what a foolish decision looks like, in highly visible ways.
Zuck thinks this looks cool
Mark Zuckerberg shared this picture of the metaverse on Tuesday.
How does that look to you? It looks terrible to me.
The cartoonish Zuckerberg avatar looks like something out of a 1990s video game. In real life, Zuckerberg normally looks a bit like an android with a bad haircut, but the eyes, hair, and unnatural arm positions in this avatar are preternaturally disturbing. The Eiffel tower and Tibidabo Cathedral of Barcelona are disproportionate and oversimplified, the mountains and grass are textured just enough to look like a poorly maintained miniature golf course, and the whole scene is badly composed, generating a strange tension for human viewers. Even the green bars on the edges seem like an amateur’s first choice. It’s a horrific exercise in the perceptual phenomenon known as the uncanny valley, in which graphics that fall between realistic and simplistic look creepy instead.
This is so obviously off that it generated widespread ridicule on social media. The original post got 25,000 laughing reactions on Facebook. A tweet calling it “eye-gougingly ugly” got 30,000 likes. Another points out how limited the rendering tools in Meta’s obscenely well-funded metaverse are. Anyone who’s played video games in the last decade knows just how crude this graphic appears.
What was Zuckerberg thinking?
Dr. Oz thinks you eat raw vegetables with salsa
Dr. Mehmet Oz, the doctor from the famous “Dr. Oz” syndicated TV show, is the Republican running for the Senate in Pennsylvania. His opponent is Democrat John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. Fetterman is campaigning with a down-to-earth man-of-the-people image, appearing at campaign events and in videos in shorts and a sweatshirt, and claiming that Oz is actually from New Jersey, where one of his many houses is. (True Pennsylvanians tend to look down on people “from Jersey.”)
Oz hasn’t said much about the issues, and appears to be mostly campaigning against Joe Biden.
In April, Oz released this video of him shopping for vegetables.
The purpose of this video is to show how expensive food is in Joe Biden’s America. But instead, we see that Dr. Oz has no idea how grocery shopping works. He screws up the name of the store (it’s Redner’s, not Wegner’s), gets the prices of the vegetables and dip wrong, proposes to include raw asparagus (ewww), and implies that he will serve his raw vegetables with salsa, guacamole, and tequila (who does that?).
He gets it wrong from the start by describing his raw vegetables as “crudités.” That’s how caterers talk when they’re charging you ten times the price of the food for your art gallery opening. I’d guess that most of the people Dr. Oz is trying to win over would call that a “veggie tray.” Fetterman would. And he just raised $500,000 for his campaign making fun of this clueless video.
What was Dr. Oz thinking?
What were they thinking?
Everyone has blind spots. Zuckerberg doesn’t see the flaws in his beautiful metaverse. And Dr. Oz, who is worth $100 million, clearly doesn’t know how to shop for groceries.
It’s easy to poke fun, but before you get too far down that road, recognize that you have blind spots, too. We all do. Our experience is not the universal experience.
Here’s how to fix that.
Surround yourself with people with diverse perspectives. That’s one of the true values of hiring people that are diverse, not just by race, but by age, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and socioeconomic background. They will see things from a perspective different from yours. They’ll point out when you’re about to make a fool of yourself.
Zuckerberg should be surrounded by people who can say, “No, that is not an image you want to share, you’ll look stupid.” And Oz should have advisors who could say, “The people whose votes you need don’t call those crudités, and you are going to look stupid.” If you fire all the people who tell you things like that, you have no protection against your own stupidity.
(I’ll mention briefly here that when I worked for Forrester Research, I was famous for raising difficult questions for the CEO in company meetings in front of hundreds of other employees, or in management meetings where my superiors were making decisions. I was always respectful, but I said what many others might have been thinking. And to the company’s credit, they not only tried to answer those questions, but valued my contribution and kept me around for a very long time. So it is possible to run a company this way.)
The other way to protect yourself from gaffes like this is to hire a competent PR staff or firm and have them vet what you are planning to do. PR people worry about stuff like this, and they’re good at it. When your PR counsel says “Maybe you shouldn’t do that,” then maybe you shouldn’t do that.
Or you could just go on believing in your own infallibility. That is, if you don’t mind people watching what you’ve shared and saying, “Jeez, what in the heck were they thinking?”
Your judgment is on view here. Get help — and not from a bunch of yes men.