Decline of Oil, Oscar, Gut vs. Data + more

This week the New York Times had a great article on the decline of oil prices and the ongoing paradox is the lack of increase in consumer spending that was expected with the reduction in prices at the pump.  There are bears out there that state that anything lower than $30 a barrel will be cataclysmic for the global economy, and now that we’re there … it looks like we’re facing a long-overdue correction.  Sure, there are a lot of economies that are teetering on the edge (and some that have been for years), however the drop in oil prices seems to be more making investors skittish versus having a meltdown as we’re hearing in some corners.  The global economy is still growing at the much slower rate that we’ve come to expect, and that may be the new normal.

As we approach what economists consider full-employment in the U.S., what’s not being talked about is the level of underemployment and those people who have chosen to leave the workforce outright and aren’t being counted anymore.  What’s truly interesting to me is not only the lack of savings accrued during the recovery, but also the number of people who are living paycheck to paycheck and how that is driving spending in our country.  I’m not an economist myself and there are other tells aside from the price of bent crude that signal a cooling economy – with sanctions being lifted on Iran we’re going to see a massive glut of oil on the markets and while that may impact some portions of the US from a production and investment standpoint, even that will be offset by OPEC and others.  What I do know is that we have people making “the sky is falling” statements and those statements being glamorized by others.  As Twain said, there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.  I think that could be updated to be “there are lies, damn lies, and then there’s the news cycle.”

Contrary to what you might expect, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings this week reinforced that we aren’t just going to rely on the data in the future, but we use the data to inform the call our gut makes for us.  We’ve seen and heard that elsewhere, and I think this goes along with the thought that you can, indeed, have too much data.  Paralysis can result from data, and we must never forget to listen to our guts.  Hastings goes on to talk about how to find your gut, and the full interview at DLD can be found here.

While we all rely more and more on social media to keep connected in the world, it lies at the bottom of the public trust rankings at 2%.  David Chaum believes his PrivaTegrity will be able to secure multiple platforms and provide the layer of security needed to elevate infrastructure to the next level of integrity and how simple it is to accomplish.  Along with this article is a follow up to last week’s article on Blockchain, exploring what it is and isn’t a bit deeper and the risks that go along with it.

A good friend and colleague of mine shared a McKinsey article on changing Change Management that highlights how companies are using key performance indicators to reinforce or indicate the need for change.  It seems like a an easy connection to make, but many times people don’t realize how critical the digital tools we are developing for business insight aren’t just tools for managing our business, but perhaps the most powerful means for changing it.

Would you believe it if I told you that phone numbers will be a thing of the past by the end of 2016?  I have a hard time swallowing that one myself, however, in this blog post, David Marcus of Facebook posits exactly that.  Just like the flip phone is disappearing, old communication styles could be disappearing too. Now we can do so much more with our phones. We went from just making phone calls and sending basic text-only messages to having computers in our pockets.  With 800 million users, Facebook wants its Messenger app to be the go-to chat platform.  Time will tell whether this will come to pass, however it’s hard to see developing countries that rely on mobile platforms for so many different purposes (especially exchanging money) that this will come to pass this year much less in the next five unless global infrastructure changes radically in the near term.  Facebook may get it’s wish in 2016 being the year that makes Apps irrelevant however.  Interesting things are afoot at Menlo Park.

Last is an article about Oscar, a health insurance start up that is looking to completely disrupt the industry.  How?  By allowing its users to easily buy health-insurance coverage from the marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. The company uses technology and design to make its statements and services easy for anyone to understand.  They must be on to something with a $3 billion valuation.  Curious?  Learn more here.

Part of the point of these missives is to encourage growth, and this week Inc. has a great collection of sites that will help you push yourself and explore new topics, top of the list being TED (for Technology, Entertainment, and Design).  Along those lines is an article from Business Insider this week about the secret to not getting frustrated.

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