Nicholas Stahl

The Inevitable and Unintended Consequences of Creation

“What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.”

I have always loved quotes. I have a wall of quotes in my dorm room. I make sure to read certain quotes to myself every day. I write down quotes in class when I hear something inspiring.

One quote has always been my favorite. I wrote my high school graduation speech around it. I have used it during difficult times in my life. It was given to me by my band director in high school and it has never come down from my walls where I live.

It’s a quote by Mother Teresa that goes:


Yeah, it’s a mouthful.

This week, in my media entrepreneurship class, this part of the quote is really relevant: “What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.”

In Jessi Hempel’s article, For Nextdoor, Eliminating Racism Is No Quick Fix, we learn about the founders of Nextdoor, a company derived and created out of “feel-good things” and “neighborly interactions. Unfortunately, it is sometimes used by people as a platform to confirm their racial biases. People were using Nextdoor to identify and discriminate people of certain races.

Nirav Tolia, the CEO and cofounder of Nextdoor, realized that there is absolutely no room for racism on his platform. Actions needed to be taken. Obviously, there is no quick fix to eliminating racial biases and deterring bad behavior on the internet.

What started out as a wholesome place where people could help their neighbors turned into an unfortunate breeding ground for negativity and exclusion. Therefore, Nextdoor did take some actions. They have created a more thorough three-part checking system under the “crime” category.

Although this is helping it has also generated an unfortunate 25% less posts within users, therefore decrease the value the company can bring to advertisers.

“The site has cut racial profiling in its crime and safety category by 75 percent. But this story is not yet finished,” Tolia said in the article.

This journey taken by Tolia has made me ponder a couple of things. First, to revert back to the original quote, that although creating something will have bumps in the road, it is possible to overcome them. Coming to the realization that people can intentionally and unintentionally try to do destroy what you create.

Second, that unintended consequences are inevitable. It is impossible to plan for everything. But it is possible to take on anything. Hempel states “Nextdoor has tried to eliminate racial bias on the site the same way it built its product: through smart product design.” They have combated the community that has used them for ulterior and nasty purposes.

Lastly, that running a company is like starting a start-up every day. There will always be new challenges. There will always be the next hurdle. In Nextdoor’s case, the obstacle was the unfortunate reality of people’s unconscious biases. The solution was to create algorithms, programs and barriers to fight them. There will always be the struggle. It simply depends on how efficiently you can bounce back.

In start-ups and in companies, the question is always “what you will do next?” Will you succumb to outside forces, pressures, and negativity? Or will you choose to create anyway?



One thought on “The Inevitable and Unintended Consequences of Creation

  1. This is an important approach to keep in mind as startups encounter challenges. Fortunately, most people with the gumption to build a startup won’t need to be told to work through the challenges, but we still need to reinforce this mentality. Small disruptors need to be encouraged to shake up the competition and lead to better overall products in the end anyways. However, having plans for unintended consequences before they happen is still important. Like you say, creating despite the opposition is critical but there may be a line somewhere that shouldn’t be crossed and we have to be aware of that.


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