I’m not particularly good with politics. I’ve never been interested enough to get informed about where the different parties stand in all the issues I know I ought to care about. Still when I go to cast my vote a few days from now, I feel confident that I’m backing the right horse. That’s thanks to something I learned during many years of recruiting tech talent.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to building all-star teams.
There are those who claim that you should always optimise for people’s strengths and talents, rather than to avoid their weaknesses. And then there are those who adhere to the “no asshole rule”, popularised by Stanford professor Robert Sutton, who claims that toxic behaviour can never be balanced out by talent.
Proponents of each camp often want to monopolise the truth, but in my book these are actually complementary perspectives.
I also think these rules of thumb can be generalised and applied to the field of politics. Here’s what I mean by that:
When it comes to politics I’ve got one priority and that’s fighting climate change. Sure there are other issues, but pursing them will be futile unless we first attend forcefully to the one big existential threat that is facing us.
So I start by looking for someone who share that sense of urgency. All it takes to find this out really, is listening to half an hour of radio (I’ve written before about this). Once I’ve found the only party which puts climate change at center stage, I look for what I don’t like with their agenda. I find I really don’t like the fact that they’re Euro-sceptics. However, while I think that stance is stupid, it steers clear of the asshole-zone.
So I’ve identified a promising candidate, but they’re not the only one. In theory there’s also a blue party I could imagine supporting. They have great foreign policy and used to stand up for human rights.
Used to, that is, but then they slipped and slid and slipped again until one day they found themselves accepting partnership with the one party that ought to be kept completely out of political alliances.
I’m saying that because their representatives routinely have criminal records and ties to nazi groups, and becuase the party orders its staff to act as trolls on social media.
In short, they fail to project niceness. In fact according to Robert Sutton’s classification, many representatives of this party qualify as “certified assholes”.
Anyone can have a bad day and be a temporary asshole. When someone is is persistently nasty however, usually targeting people who are less powerful than themselves, that’s when they graduate to becoming certified assholes.
Now I don’t imagine a party like that can change substantially, it probably is what it is.
What can and must be done however, is to insulate it from real power. And that’s exactly what that blue party which had a chance on my vote, fails miserably at: For some crazy reason they act as if they want the assholes to be in charge.
In other words, they break the No Asshole rule, and thus they’re disqualified from getting my vote. Which means I’m left with a clear winner.
This is how I filter out my signal from the noise of political discourse. It’s not perfect, but then again heuristics never are, here’s the definition pasted from Wikipedia: “any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, or rational, but is nevertheless sufficient for reaching an immediate, short-term goal or approximation.”
Sounds good enough to me.