“The best — maybe the only? — real, direct measure of “innovation” is change in human behaviour. In fact, it is useful to take this way of thinking as definitional: innovation is the sum of change across the whole system, not a thing which causes a change in how people behave. No small innovation ever caused a large shift in how people spend their time and no large one has ever failed to do so.”—Stewart Butterfield’s internal memo to Slack team We Don’t Sell Saddles Here — Medium
““When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
— Neil Gaiman”—The designer’s job
Let’s be very clear about what I mean when I say “leader.” A leader isn’t necessarily the person at the top of the organization—that’s the authority. There are plenty of people who run an organization who are not leaders. And there are plenty of people in the middle or lower levels of the organization who absolutely are leaders.
I think there’s a very clear anthropological definition of what a leader is: a person who’s willing to put the interests of others before their own. When you look at some of these early homo sapiens tribes, among the criteria that produced the alpha, or leader, was a commitment to the well-being of the group. When we feel safe amongst our own, we’re much more willing to commit our energy and our skills to the good of the group.
It’s exactly the same in the modern business world. When we fear our colleagues or don’t trust our authority figures, we have no choice but to redirect our time and energy towards protecting ourselves and our interests.
What does this type of leadership look like on a larger scale?
Leaders would sacrifice the numbers to save the people—and not vice versa. For example, Barry-Wehmiller Companies Inc. in St. Louis is a large global manufacturing company with about 7,400 employees. In 2008, when the economy hit the skids, they lost about 30% of their orders, and were considering layoffs.
But the CEO, Bob Chapman, absolutely refused. Instead, they implemented a furlough program. Every employee had to take four weeks of unpaid vacation whenever they wanted, and it didn’t have to be consecutive. Mr. Chapman said it was better that they should all suffer a little than some of them suffer a lot. And morale skyrocketed.
Did their numbers recover?
The company needed to save $10 million, and they saved $20 million—much better than they expected. The company continues to grow an average of 18% year-over-year as it has for the past 20 years. And it’s impossible to steal their employees.
Om Malik on the recent movement away from Facebook’s centralized way of doing things:
You can see this cycle through the entire history of the commercial Internet. The original web was so sparse (but also so slow to navigate) that Yahoo was started as a guide of worthwhile sites because it wasn’t easy to flit among web pages. Yahoo’s directory proved popular, and sensing opportunity, the company added all sorts of new features: search, chat, email, stock tickers, sports, news, personals, e-commerce, and photos. By the late 1990s, Yahoo had become the grand aggregator, its pages as cluttered as a Canal Street stall. This created an opening for Google, with its bare-bones home page that held only a search box and company logo. With the rise of broadband, which made it easy to jump around, the web became disaggregated and brought with it focused, functional tools such as Skype and YouTube.
Fast-forward to today and replace Yahoo with Facebook. Facebook showed us the value of aggregating all of those small chunks of information, including photos and status updates, that we wanted to consume on the now dynamic and interactive web. That single string of updates, known as News Feed, was a brilliant product that powered the company’s rise from 2006 to 2011. Then along came Instagram and its peers, born for a generation that doesn’t know how to live without an always-on connection. They facilitate new online behaviors that have been invented for a world of touch and mobile. These apps were designed to be great at just one or two things. The tech world had swung back to being simple, lightweight, and fast—at precisely the same time that Facebook feeds were becoming so bloated and complicated.
Yep, it’s cyclical. And this is also why Facebook is now working to unbundle its own services, to distance itself from the cluttered mess it has become — before it’s too late.
“You don’t have to be accredited to gamble, which on net balance, loses money. But for some odd reason you have to be accredited to make private investments, which on net balance make money.”—AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant with a quote that seems particularly relevant as I sit here in Vegas. (via parislemon)
“9:15 a.m.: Still no Li. During quiet moments, if you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of Android fragmenting. Security has ejected the seven attendees who did not have Macbook Airs in their laps.”—
“You can’t A/B test your way into big, bold new strategies. Something like the iPhone is impossible to A/B test. If you had asked people or invited them to come into the lab to try some stuff out, they would have preferred a physical keyboard to a virtual one. If you had them use an early prototype of the touch screen where not every gesture registered perfectly, it would have felt bad and tested poorly. But the power of the iPhone wasn’t that the keyboard went from physical to virtual. It was what doing that unlocked—a rich gaming ecosystem. Beautiful web browsing. Full-screen videos. And the fact that all of it came together so splendidly in the details that the end result set a new bar for the industry. I would venture a guess that nothing along the way in the vein of data or tests would have indicated that that would happen. Nothing except vision and faith.”—
The killer feature of a web-connected vending machine is the ability to process credit cards and mobile payments. But the Freestyle machines and the smart vending machines also open a new frontier in collecting real-time data about customer behavior. Coca-Cola could greatly simplify logistics, as Businessweek points out, by making it possible to know when to restock a machine and how much inventory each one needs, without having to send a truck to each one first.
That only scratches the surface, Matherly says. Because the machines use digital displays, Coca-Cola could do the same type of A/B testing that marketers and political campaigners do on websites and advertisements. For example, the company could determine which arrangements of drinks lead to the most sales, and it could customize the displays on each individual machine depending on what works best for its customers.
Megan Woolhouse, reporting for The Boston Globe: When consumers participating in the study reached out and touched an image on a touchscreen, the experience nearly rivaled their feelings of touching merchandise in a brick-and-mortar store, according to the measure of satisfaction used in the study. “It’s kind of surprising how strong the effect is,” said S. Adam Brasel, a Boston College business professor and lead author of the study. “And we’re not necessarily aware it’s taking place.”
After four incredibly intense and rewarding years at Foursquare, it’s time for me to move on. Leaving a team I’ve helped build, in a space I’ve been passionate about for over 10 years isn’t easy, but it’s the best thing for me to do.
Four years of going full throttle as our…
I hope @arainert @dens would consider reviving any of those ITP projects. The time is now right for smart networked objects.
In a matter of hours on Friday, Typhoon Haiyan completely devastated parts of the central Philippines. It was one of the strongest storms ever recorded. The death toll is estimated up to 10,000 with hundreds of thousands more displaced. The country has declared a “state of calamity.”
I have written a fair bit about climate change here on Continuations. It seems that in the US we have about a weeks worth of debate after a big storm such as Sandy and then it quickly dies down. So this year given the so far relatively uneventful hurricane season the debate seems entirely…
Please consider donating to the Philippine Red Cross. Because of the weak Philippine peso, your US $ will go a long way. (100 Philippine pesos = US $ 2.3) http://www.redcross.org.ph