Now for Something a Little Different …

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I’m establishing a new rhythm for these collections and with that have a need to try a new format with them as well.  This month’s collection is a broad range, and while where I can I’ll bucket certain topics together as I have in the past, there are over 100+ articles that I’ve found interesting enough to read since my last missive and that gets a bit of a challenge from a curation standpoint.  I’m also looking at creating more evergreen content for you similar to what I’ve thrown together on machine learning or artificial intelligence, but more on that another time.

First this week, please pay attention: there is an incredibly effective Gmail scam out there right now.  Go read up about it, but essentially, a sender who looks like a trusted contact, sends what looks like a pdf but is actually an image that will take you to a fake google login page and from there, your identity is history. There’s a similar ruse going on with Apple IDs, but there’s less press about it.

If you’ve not heard and you have an iPhone, go update to 10.3 – it’ll save you on average 3gb of space on your phone, although it does convert to a new file format that is troublesome for a few.  Oh, and Apple also acquired Workflow, which is an amazing automation app for iOS devices and they made it free – go check it out.

Ever wonder which country in the world has the happiest people?  No?  Well, ever wondered how the data is analyzed to determine who are the happiest people in the world?  If you said yes, you’re in luck.

Middle management may seem like a thankless job, but according to HBR, it’s also an exhausting one.  It has to do with the constant need to code switch as you deal with different levels of the hierarchy of an organization, and they’ve got some suggestions on how to lessen the toll from it.

Robots, robots everywhere!  Not, necessarily, to the extreme that we see in Asimov’s I, Robot ( the first person to recite the three laws to me gets a prize), but they are becoming more present in our day to day lives.  Heck, I even heard a story of how robots are being tested in D.C. to help “augment” the current food delivery process.  I say augment in quotes because that’s what the company rep in the article said when asked if the robots would replace people.  Well, one person who doesn’t seem to get how robots are going to impact our society in the near term is Steve Mnuchin.  In his mind, robots won’t be displacing U.S. jobs for at least 50 to 100 years.  Problem is, he’s wrong – robots have been replacing humans for a while now.

strategy+business had a good piece recently on the Ten Principles for Leading the Next Industrial Revolution.  I don’t think there’s anything that would surprise you in these principles, but it does put them together in a logical order and is worth exploring.  Ah, and they’ve also replaced “fail fast and often” with “innovate rapidly and openly.”

Deloitte also has an interesting exploration of how the auto industry is going to change in the near and mid-term, and how massive that transformation is going to be.  With more millennials opting out of car ownership and into a sharing economy, the automation of delivery vehicles that we’ll see culminate in the next five to ten years, and the looming death of a generation who have driven car sales most of their lifetime, the auto industry is on a precipice and they’ve done a good job of analyzing and detailing all the possible outcomes.  While many of us aren’t tied directly to the automotive industry, this in addition to the previous piece on the next industrial revolution should get you thinking differently about your own challenges.  By the way, one trend that you’ll find between them has to do with data.  Oh, and stratechery wrote on the same topic with greater brevity and a very different approach, but the same outcome – car ownership is going to change.  It already is.

Speaking of data, here’s something about how big data is helping find the Achilles heel of each individual cancer.

Well, there’s been a little bit of news this last week about how individual privacy on the internet is being betrayed by “235 stooges in Washington” to quote one news source, and while I think we’ve been giving up more and more of our privacy for a long time, if you are concerned about yours, check out this article from Kevin Mitnick on how to go invisible online.  By the way, at a minimum, you should be using a virtual private network (VPN) on your personal devices to keep your personal data from being stolen as you enjoy a coffee at your local Starbucks.  And yes, I know I’ve said this before.  Also, there’s this article from the Pew Research Center on what the public know about cybersecurity.  They even have an interactive quiz.  Also, take a look at what the future of passwords may hold.

Speaking of stolen identity, check out this story on a $30k sting operation one person pulled when hackers stole her website.

Time for a quick video break: this week Fast Company has an interesting (and short) one on how circular runways could lead to more efficient airports.

We’re in the midst of Spring Break season, and with that, Legoland Florida has launched an educational, road-trip friendly app for kids.  It seems pretty cool and is a good indicator of where how we’ll continue to see content and experiences evolve.

Tech will lead to new sub-prime crunch.  That’s a bold headline, even without the missing preposition, and TechCrunch makes the case that while in the past P2P lending rates in the subprime arena have been indicators of coming economic contraction (note:  the overheated economy and tightening labor pools is a more classic indicator), the gist is that more people are going to be pushed into a lower wage earner bucket with a continuing stagnation of salaries (which have been stagnant since the 80s compared to economic growth and corporate profits – just ask a real economist), and that will push the sub-prime market to continue to grow and with that growth, eventually blow up.

OK, so, I’ve written about AI before on many occasions, and with good reason as it is a topic that is getting a lot of press these days.  I took the time to try and explain the differences between narrow and general AI, and as well to keep us all up with how it is intersecting with machine learning.  What this article points out, however, is that that interest in AI and machine learning has created so much different data sets itself that it has started to skew the data and what is “real” about … data, much less the preponderance of actual fake news that is out there.  To quote ”this pairing of interest with ignorance has created a perfect storm for a misinformation epidemic. The outsize demand for stories about AI has created a tremendous opportunity for impostors to capture some piece of this market.”  Oh, and then there’s the latest about how AI will change everything … again.

Also speaking of data, here’s an interesting article about how Charity: Water is using it to connect donors to the people they are helping.

A fun article (maybe) that relates to the world of AI and algorithms: When Machines Go Rogue.  To wit, complex systems have lots of parts, and that means there are lots of ways they can fail.  Also note, however, that there are lots of redundancies for that reason.

Google has been in the news little of late, from a big headline standpoint, but one interesting read is their approach to creating the next Silicon Valley.  Oh, and then there was the demise of Google Fiber.

In case you’re interested, here’s a look at Goldman Sachs’ Annual Report.  It’s a treasure trove, as most annual reports are, at the direction the company is going … especially when you read between the lines.  While on the topic of Goldman, take a read as to why the firm is going on a buying binge for delinquent mortgages … again (2008 sound familiar?).

I’ve written a lot about how we need to change how we are recruiting and hiring women.  Here’s an article about the need to change our strategy around this, and for obvious reasons – we’ve seen a desire by millennials to change how we work, and how we work is, in fact, changing.  Let’s not hold women to a standard and antiquated version of the workplace when we’re willing to accommodate others.

Take a moment, if you will, and go look at Business Insider’s list of the most powerful female engineers in 2017 and what they are working on.

Thank the Boston Globe for this one: the biggest threat facing middle-aged men isn’t smoking or obesity … its loneliness.  I know it’s a little off-topic, but given the audience of these missives, I thought it relevant.

There’s been a lot of news lately about the new Amazon play into the grocery business, and how they plan to make it so that we not only ever have to wait in lines, but we never even have to talk to another person!  (Now do you see my reference to loneliness above?).  Well, the ‘zon is trying to break into that $800 billion market with a splash, what with their foray into physical stores after online has failed in that domain for them.  Read about the genesis of that journey here.  And speaking of Amazon, check out why ad agencies are so afraid of what Bezos might be planning next given the 60% jump in revenue from advertising last quarter.

So why are employees at Apple and Google more productive?  Is it the swanky digs?  The free lunches?  The compensation packages?  Nope, it’s what they do with their star performers and their internal development programs.  Note: companies that lack development programs will always play in the minor leagues.  Along with that is this article about why the best employees quit, even when they love their job.

I just like the title of this article (because it’s true): iteration is not design. The point, really, is that while iteration is a great design tool, it doesn’t create great design because it can’t innovate, solve usability problems, or create delight.

SXSW has come and gone for another year, and as always there was a flurry of “new” and “hot” technology this year mixed in with weird films and lots of bands.  According to Forbes, AI dominated the SXSW conversation this year; while CNET has a good round-up of everything that happened and WIRED claims that tech is finally trying to clean up the mess it made.

Uber has been in the news of late, and while I’m sure a lot of you have already seen many articles about all that has passed, there are a few I think are important because of what they mean for the future of the company: did Uber steal their driverless car tech from Google? (If they did, there’s a company big enough to take them down). Doubtful?  Check out this timeline.  Then there’s this piece from Pando about the economic evidence that shows that Uber isn’t as innovative as we all claim it is.  And Newsweek had something to say on the matter as well and The Verge asks if Uber can be saved from itself.  And while The Guardian states that every time we take an Uber we’re spreading its social poison, one of the most interesting tidbits to come out in my mind is that Uber has been using a fake app to get around legal blocks in certain markets.  You know what really annoys me, though?  The lack of the umlaut.  Seriously, is it that hard to have a stinking umlaut in your brand?

Seriously, not to make light of all the news that has come out, it’s clear that Silicon Valley has a “bro” problem, and Über epitomizes it, even with their recently released diversity report and bringing Arianna Huffington in to clean up their image.  That’s going to be tough given all that has passed.  This goes back to the fundamental question, mind you, of why is Silicon Valley is so awful to women.

This article does a good job of exploring why sexism/harassment/discrimination is such a rampant issue in Silicon Valley.

There’s a new project at Google where they are using facial recognition software to measure gender equality in films.

Would you spend $25bn to acquire 100m new customers?  Well, Mukesh Ambani did, with the goal of transforming the telecom market in India.  And transform it he did.

So, Warren Buffet sold basically his entire stake in Wal-Mart recently, and we’re seeing a continued downward spiral with brick and mortar retail stores as more and more shopping is done online.  So what’s next for the American Mall? Oh, and if that trend continues, there will be a collapse of commercial real estate in the next few years.

Viacom may be onto something in the VR space with its new VR experience, The Melody of Dust.

There’s a really interesting conversation with Chris Anderson on how and why we should close the loop on all the new and old systems that are out there and how ongoing innovation is making that possible.  It’s worth a read.

Last time around I spent some time talking about Moore’s Law and Quantum Computing (note to self: that may be a good future deep dive), but this time around there’s an article from Quartz about how two small changes may make your phone battery last forever, even if Moore’s Law won’t.  Or, better put, how the desire to have longer lasting devices that don’t catch on fire may finally force manufacturers to think differently about design.

Another interesting piece of telecom news came out recently: NYC is suing Verizon for failing to provide fiber broadband to all its households.

We all spend so much time in meetings, and while we can’t control how others run their meetings, we can certainly control how we run ours.  HBR has a great article on that point, and, in fact, it was refreshing to see their take as it reinforces how annoyed I get when I go to a meeting without a set agenda and clear purpose.

Let me follow that up with two articles from HBR on something completely different: blockchains, how safe they are, and how they’ll move beyond finance.  Along with that is this piece from the NY Times about how blockchain is a better way to track everything from pork chops to peanut butter.

Seeking Alpha did some analysis lately on Seagate and why the hardware provider will continue to face end market challenges.  I read it as “without innovation, Seagate will decline.”

It looks like the worlds of voice recognition, AI, and Alexa is being taken on by a small outfit in Japan, whose IM Line is working on a virtual assistant to topple Amazon and its market dominance.

Oh, and remember that little glitch a few weeks back with the internet because of an errant keystroke in an AWS data center?

Elon Musk has started investing (as have others) in how we turn people into cyborgs.  No, really.  The flip side of that is using humans to teach AI to “perform” smarter.

Something else AI might lead to?  The useless class.

I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of doom and gloom out there, like this old topic made new again: medical devices are the next security nightmare.  I say old because I’m pretty sure I talked about this around this time last year.

Snap recently had their IPO, and was it a day.  This piece from the New Yorker highlights the trouble with all the SV IPO optimism.

McKinsey has a really great study that’s just come out that is all about connecting talent with opportunity in the digital age.  It’s a good read, especially with some people predicting that Big Data will make human recruiters obsolescent as early as next year … which I think is a stretch.

Almost last this week is this article on LinkedIn that captures twelve lessons on leadership from the Navy SEALs.  Most salient: there is no such thing as a bad team, just bad leaders.

So last I’ll leave you with two TED talks: the first, Dan Bell taking us through the inside of America’s dead shopping malls and the second with Joy Buolamwini on how she is fighting bias in algorithms.

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Math is Racist, The End of the Bossless Workplace?, The Robot Economy + more

A photo by Steven Wei. unsplash.com/photos/g-AklIvI1aI

There are a trio of interesting articles to challenge ourselves with first this week: first from Cathy O’Neil via CNN (and other sources) about how math is racist and algorithms and big data are helping to perpetuate the poverty gap.  From targeted advertising and insurance to education and policing, O’Neil looks at how algorithms and big data are targeting the poor, reinforcing racism and amplifying inequality in her new book “Weapons of Math Destruction.”  Second up is one where researchers found that when artificial intelligence judges a beauty contest, white people win.  The why and the how behind racial preference is being programmed in to the AI platforms is what’s interesting.  Those first articles and the thought process that follows then brings into question the last, or at least, the real impact that artificial intelligence has on customer service – there is a great deal of potential, for sure, but companies have to be wary that their AI doesn’t then created a different, biased experience based on race and gender.

Vanity Fair this week has an exclusive look at how the Theranos house of cards came tumbling down.  It’s a story of silos and secrecy, among other things, and how silos and secrecy got in the way of any defense Theranos and Holmes, the founder, could mount.

Speaking of broken cultures, Inc. has an article this week about startup culture being broken and what to do about it now.

While there is some question as to the all-powerful nature of the mighty Blockchain, this article from Bloomberg unpacks what magical properties it might have.

With the Rio Olympics having come to a close, we get to the real question of the day: if we were to hold the Olympics of Programming today, which country would win and what would the US’s medal ranking be?  You’re likely not surprised to discover it isn’t even close to the top ten.  Not that it needs reinforcement, but we need to add coding to the curriculum earlier in the US.

While Uber is dominant by a wide margin in the US market, there are others out there seeing success in Europe and elsewhere, like Gett, an Israeli ride sharing company that looks to strengthen its hold on Europe and slowly make its way into the US.

As we awake to news of an earthquake off the shores of North Korea, it might bring to mind “the big one” we all fear – most people think of the San Andreas fault or if you’re from the Midwest, like me, the New Madrid fault line.  The New Yorker has an article on another: the Cascadia subduction.  It’s a really well written piece with a good look at the science and impact of that big one.

Many of us have heard about the “great experiment” at companies like Medium, Zappos, and GitHub in holocracy, where an organization is completely flat and there are no leaders.  There are champions and detractors alike, and one of those champions was Chris Wanstrath of GitHub, which started as a bossless culture in 2008 but who two years ago gathered the employees of his software startup to inform them they were all getting bosses.  That said, GitHub still pushes the traditional structure and is experimenting as they can and holocracy at Zappos has for all intents and purposes failed – just ask those leaving the company.  The obvious bigger question lies around how big is too big for a completely flat structure and when do the benefits get outweighed by the faults?

Popular Science does a great job profiling Chris White, the man who lit the dark web, this week, and how data mining is helping cops bust open online human trafficking.  On the subject of online predators, if you’re a parent (or not), take the time to read this article about the subject from the Washington Post.

There’s a pair of articles this week from Bloomberg about the state of the world economy this week: first, how manufacturing and now services are signaling fractures in the US economy and then how Saudi Arabia is on a cost-cutting spree looking to cut $20 billion in projects this year due to slow economic growth and low oil prices.

John Kotter’s name comes up frequently in the world of business and with good reason given his impact on how we run organizations and get organizations to change.  Organizational change management can be a tough nut to crack even when you have intent about it (and organizations fail to change when they ignore it), and this week strategy+business asked Kotter what his required reading was when it comes to change, and the list is short but insightful.  Also from s+b this week is this article on fostering online trust.

Well, the unthinkable has come to pass: the FCC has abandoned the set top box in favor of apps.  It’s not a surprising shift, just surprising that a government entity is an early adopter of sorts.  This shift should be a boon for consumers and cable providers alike.  Time will tell.

So, headphone jacks.  That seems to be the big news everyone is taking away from the Apple event Wednesday and with good reason.  While there are proponents and detractors, one of the bigger complaints is how one can’t charge their phone while using corded headphones.  Maybe Apple is becoming a company focused solely on increasing revenue and not innovation anymore, but recall that when the original iPod came out it didn’t work with most headphone because the jack was set so deeply in the device.  That changed, and it’s likely that wireless charging is what we can expect with the iPhone 8.

Ransomware continues to be an epidemic, but enSilo has a plan that should eliminate 70% of those attacks – learn more from Fortune.

There’s an interesting article from Fast Company about how Microsoft is trying to find and hire autisctic coders.

Last this week is an opinion piece this week outlining how the robot overlords aren’t, in fact, bearing down on us nor will the implementation of robots lead to mass unemployment as some naysayers have claimed.  While an opinion, there is plenty of data to back it up through the article.  Thea reality is that the robots are coming and we need to start planning and training our workforces now to avoid the feared obsolescence of the future.  Along with that, The Guardian explores how our three life stages will not survive much longer.

Speaking of progress, the politics around any progress brings about risk in many ways and on many levels.  Instead of avoiding that risk, however, journalist Jonathan Tepperman says we might even want to think riskier. He traveled the world to ask global leaders how they’re tackling hard problems — and unearthed surprisingly hopeful stories that he’s distilled into three tools for problem-solving featured in this TED talk.

“Active” listening, the”Hidden Curriculum” of Work, the Lost Infrastructure of Social Media + more

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We’ve all heard that as leaders and managers, we have to focus on active listening when we interact with our people.  In the past, that’s been defined as not talking as others speak while making empathetic noises that convey understanding and then synthesizing what was said and repeating it back.  I’ve done this many times, and have always felt like that made me good at listening.  Lately, though, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people about their personal mission statements, about what drives them and helping them connect that back to the core values and strategy of their company.  I find myself coming out of these conversations invigorated, even inspired by the dialogue and while I did follow that pattern I laid out above, I also did a few things differently, naturally, that are emphasized in this article from HBR on what great listeners actually do.  I found myself asking questions to promote discovery (these were, after all, self-discovery conversations), found myself naturally building the other individual’s confidence and self-esteem because the entire focus was to focus on things they loved to do and how it tied back to their job, I did find myself making suggestions and synthesizing our conversation to allow for a different understanding of the problem we were solving, and I made plenty of suggestions.  Then I had another conversation where I just engaged in classis active listening this week and it seemed almost fake to me, too canned.  Take a moment and read the article and then think about some of the most exciting conversations you’ve had of late.  I think you’ll find that your best conversations have been the ones when you’ve challenged the speaker as you’ve listened.

Would a week have passed without Uber being in the news?  This week, though, it’s for their autonomous car fleet that just debuted in Pittsburg.  Now, they are “supervised” by humans, and they are just in test phase, but they are out there.  Along with that is a great thought piece about we are shifting from a driver to a car culture and the impact of that on Uber and others.

Speaking of autonomous cars, Ford this week stated that they would have such cars ready to go to market in 2021 for automated ride-sharing companies.  They’ll be shipped without steering wheels or pedals (an upgrade to the Johnny Cab in Total Recall) and in this interview, Forbes digs in to how the head of autonomous vehicles at Ford plans to get that done.

An odd thing has been happening on Wall Street – as I’ve noted before, there’s been a drive to hire data scientists, but at Goldman Sachs, their technology division is made up of over 11,000 people, or as they brag, more engineers than Facebook.  It makes since, then, that Goldman would not just sponsor but also host All Star Code this summer on premise.  While the leaders at Goldman haven’t done a whole lot to improve the company’s reputation in the past decade, the people of Goldman are passionate about their communities (part of GS’s core values) and that’s evident in programs they support like ASC.

We’ve all heard stories of the dark net and Silk Road and the various nefarious transactions going on there, but have you heard the story of the dirty cops who tried to take advantage of it themselves?  Ars technica unpacks not just what they stole but also how they got caught.

Inc. this week has a great article on the history and evolution of Craigslist and how Craig Newmark, it’s founder, realized he sucked as a manager.

Strategy+business this week digs into the hidden curriculum of work – all those things that we have to learn/do in order to navigate our places of work that are outside of the job we were hired for, beyond the job description our people applied to.  As leaders, it’s incumbent on us to help our people understand that aspect, from the social and political environment to understanding (sometimes blindly) what is expected for one to advance in the organization.

Gartner has an interesting article this week where they state that 70% of enterprise file synchronizing and sharing companies will be gone by 2018.  Part of that makes sense as smaller companies who provide this service are absorbed by bigger firms.  Part of it will be due to innovation in the space.

For those of you who’ve felt that the past few summer blockbusters you’ve seen was written either a cat on a computer keyboard or AI, you’ll be interested to know the cats are still writing their magnum opus, AI has written its first screenplay.

Scientific American asked some of our leading thinkers about the future of humanity.  One of my favorite Q & As was Q: Will we ever figure out what dark matter is?  A:  Whether we can determine what dark matter is depends on what it turns out to be.

Alex Danco has the first two parts of how we make paradigm shifts in our world posted through Medium – it’s an interesting journey so far.  Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Last this week is another piece  from Medium about the lost infrastructure of social media – it’s a good look at then versus now and how what happened back then could be brought back to bear in the here and now.

TED has a blog post that can describe much better than I the importance of the talk this week – read it here and then watch for yourself.

Uber “exits” China, Growth and Developing Economies, Minecraft and the Future of Work + more

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This last week we learned that Uber, who invested heavily trying to win in the China market, has decided to sell that investment to its competitor in the market, Didi Chuxing.  Now, while Uber “lost” while Didi won, in the end Uber is ending up with a $1B cash infusion from Didi and an ~18% stake in Didi that is worth another $7B, what the Uber venture in China was valued.  Now, some might view this as a smart move on Uber’s part, as it allows Uber to shift its expansion efforts to other markets while maintaining a stake in China, but the Wall Street Journal notes that Uber, like many other Western tech companies before it, faced the same issues of favoritism for the local competitor and obstacles being thrown in their way by the Chinese government.  By selling to Didi, it allows Uber to remain competitive in China through this new partnership, but is also allowing Didi access to Uber’s algorithms.  That said, there are other threats out there to Uber than just unfavorable governments, from driver-owned apps to Uber itself.

Apple, by far, is one of the best marketing companies in the world today.  Yup, you heard me, not technology, but marketing.  They create their message in a way that creates an identity people want to be part of.  Yes, they make great technology to boot, but also encouraged all of us to think different in the process.  What about the world of public relations at Apple though?  Well, in this article from HBR, Cameron Craig talks about four key rules: keep it simple, value reporters’ time, be hands on, stay focused, and prioritize media influencers.  While we might not be dealing with the press on a day to day basis, these rules reinforce how we as leaders should interact with our people, perhaps worded like this: keep it simple, value our people’s time, be hands on (without micromanaging), stay focused, and prioritize people over all else.

Lithium ion batteries are something we use every day and are all well aware of their capacity issues,  Well, as odd as it is for me to be this excited about, lithium-air batteries might finally have reached a point where they are no longer theory.  What does that mean for us?  Lighter batteries that will have twice the charge capacity of the batteries of today and will last longer as well.

VB has a good follow up on chat bots this week – yes, they’re the most hyped tech add in this year, but this article gives an update on how bots are progressing as well as some of the challenges faced in the UX design.

Michael Spence may not be a name you’re familiar with, but he is a nobel laureate in Economics and wrote this week on the growth models of developing countries and how robotics and technology will again shift the way and where things are manufactured.  The slow growth were seeing in advanced countries is likely to persist, and that will tempt developing countries to pursue quick fixes, fixes that would burden those economies in the long run.  One of Spence’s points is that “entrepreneurial activity is vital to translate economic potential into reality.”  That’s my long set up for another two articles on tech in Africa, one about a day in the digital life on that continent, the other about how fintech is building the African financial market (not disrupting it).

Interesting things are going on in Dubai, where AstroLabs, a tech incubator, has set up a coworking space that allows companies to obtain free-zone company licenses, without which entering that market would be a huge hurdle.  It’s the first incubator of this sort to gain traction in that region, and it will be interesting to see how companies are able to leverage it to test out the Dubai market.

For those of us not paranoid enough, Motherboard has done a good job this week of capturing some of the things we should be scared of from a hacking standpoint thanks to the internet of things.  They posit that the IoT will soon see the first large scale disaster due to hacking.  For those of us that follow the infosec space, this isn’t a shock.  Motherboard goes on to have a collection of articles about the current state of hacking you can find here.

Microsoft’s Nokia purchase is leading to even more job cuts.  Yahoo is on a hiring frenzy despite layoffs.  Our brains are on a new drug and it’s called our phone.  A radical change to how kids learn everywhere might come from an online school.  This may be the smartest thing Facebook has ever done.

Last, Jim Fowler, the CIO at GE, has some interesting observations on how Minecraft predicts the future of collaborative work.  He posits this will happen in four ways: we will live inside our designs, we will work on platforms that attract skill and unleash creativity, through collaboration, no problem becomes too difficult to solve, and last, science and technology education will be more like games and less like school, making them both more engaging and exciting.  Also critical, though, is easy access to technology and data and the freedom to find the best way to use it.

I stumbled across a great TED talk this week by John Green titled “the nerd’s guide to learning everything online.”  To Green (who starts his talk with a story about a made up town), we all need to find out how learning works best for us.  He didn’t understand, when he was younger, why people would put nooses around their necks and then head off before it was daylight out to something that seemed to make them miserable.  As a child, if education led to that, why would he want education? Eventually he did, but it took a different kind of school for him to do so.  Check it out.

The Psychology of Fear in Organizations

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Good morning all!  After re-visiting Wooden,  I wanted to go a little bit broader when it comes to fear and the impact it has on an organization.  While some studies out there discuss and prove to a degree the NEED for fear as a tool in some organizational settings (consequences), for the most part I think we all agree that our teams are much more productive in an absence of fear than when it is the default environment.  Often, though, we don’t talk about fear and this creates issues in and of itself.  Why should we talk about fear?

  • Fear is the elephant in the room. In this time of rapid change, austerity and uncertainty, fear is the specter that haunts us the most, as individuals, organizations and society – whether we acknowledge it or not.
  • Fear has many faces – the fear of loss of face, prestige, position, favor, fortune or job
  • The dominant fear at present is the fear of the unknown

But what effect does fear have on our everyday lives and our working lives, and our ability to foster innovation within our organization?  Fear within organizations leads to:

  • Frustration
  • Powerlessness
  • Lack of control
  • The frenetic pace of life
  • No time for reflection
  • ‘Doing’ not ‘being’
  • Alienation
  • Toxic environment
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Loss of identity
  • Disengagemenent

Along with this, fear breeds a need for control, whether it is hierarchical control, target control, or control through withdrawal or working to the rule (and not innovating).  Innovation rarely thrives in this kind of environment and there is an alternative to managing by fear and control.  Instead we should focus on creating an environment of trust, engagement, and motivation to create an innovative culture.  These all seem very intuitive, no?  However, research indicated that trust in organizations and leaders is at an all-time low and we know that employees that have high trust in their organizations stay with those organizations longer, put in more effort and work more cooperatively.  Employees with low or no trust often reduce the effectiveness of their work and often engage in behavior that is counter-productive.  To that end, to remove fear and that negative behavior, we need to focus on creating a culture of trust, and in some cases that is an uphill battle given that we’re often dealing with the culture of our customers which is out of our control.  That means we have to remain hyper-vigilant to maintain our core values and strive for a culture of trust amongst our teams.  How do we do that?

A few initial ideas around this include:

  • Foster organizational cultures in which greater individual autonomy and small organizational risks are part of everyone’s jobs
  • Encourage people to think independently
  • Make it so everyone is responsible for the development of innovative thinking, whether it’s true innovation or innovation around ways to increase quality, mitigate risk, or reduce costs
  • Change the nature of conversations in organizations to empower an innovative mind-set and performance breakthroughs
  • Encourage healthy dissent, diversity and challenge; new thinking grows out of bringing new ideas together
  • Encourage trial and error – learn from failure
  • Don’t overdo targets and performance monitoring

If you are interested in reading more about this, Keegan has written The Psychology of Fear in Organizations: How to Transform Anxiety into Well-being, Productivity and Innovation which is a great starting point along with the attached article on 8 Ways to Decrease Organizational Fear.  For the counterpoint to this, I’ve attached an article of how fear can be appropriately used in organizations to address short term behavior changes.  That said, fear stifles creativity and kills innovation as it makes risk taking unpalatable to all.

Brexit …

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I don’t think there’s a lot to add when it comes to the news this morning that Great Britain voted (by a 4% margin) to exit the EU.  Markets are being hit (although not as hard as might be expected), banks are roiling, xenophobia in the US has picked up a new pace, and David Cameron has resigned.  There are some balanced views on this out there, some of which include UK’s ‘Brexit’ results rattle the world, Britain Votes to Leave E.U.; Cameron Plans to Step Down, World wakes up to ‘Brexit’: 5 things to know,  The Brexit contagion: How France, Italy and the Netherlands now want their referendum too , Sterling Crash Just the Start of Brexit Market Fallout, Why Britain Left, and you can watch the live Sky News feed through the day to learn more.  I will note that US markets seem to be doing relatively well all things considered, rebounding quite a bit after a drop at the opening bell.

Living in small town America now and many cities in the past, I, like you, have observed the steady and sure decline of the shopping mall.  There are numerous drivers for that, from online shopping to population migration to consumer tastes.  Bandier is trying to change that with an approach that focuses on selling their product last and creating an experience first.

If you’ve not heard about the latest IPO this week, it boons well for the Startup world in Silicon Valley.  After a lackluster IPO for SecureWorks, the cybersecurity arm of Dell, Twilio’s IPO was a breath of fresh air with a 96% rise in value at the IPO.

Maybe you were scratching your head with some of the Facebook acquisitions over the past few years, from Snapchat to WhatsApp.  If you took the time to walk through Mary Meeker’s talk/slides that I shared a few weeks ago, you might have noticed a big disconnect in the growth in mobile computing and the spend on mobile advertising.  As we rely more on mobile, that gap will close and Facebook has positioned itself well to reap the rewards from it with its focus on Mobile.

I know there’s been a whole lot of press on chatbots, VR, AR, and machine learning this year, and I don’t want to keep adding to that pile, but I think the Wall Street Journal did a good job this week of exploring what current thinkers in the AI space think is next for machine learning.

If you’ve not read Eli Goldratt’s The Goal, you may be unfamiliar with his Theory of Constraints and how it applies to change management.  This week, strategy+business revisits our need to find the “Herbie” in our processes and focus on that – the part of the process that created the logjam similarly to how Herbie, a member of Goldratt’s scout troop, impacted the entire troop because of his pace.  It wasn’t until he led the group that the most efficient pace could be found.  From a change management standpoint, that means that companies can only operationalize real improvement at a certain pace.   strategy+business outlines five steps to accomplish this: identify the current constraints on your progress, set a pace that supports your “constraint resource,” sequence priorities over time, elevate the pace, and pay attention as your constraints shift.

Paired with that is an article this week from Harvard Business Review on how to navigate a digital transformation.  To not get left behind in the evolving consumer landscape, companies need to pivot to a digital strategy.  With that, they need to reallocate their asset portfolio to support new, digitally enabled business models. Speaking of pivot, HBR recommends a process they call PIVOT for those looking to make this transformation: pinpoint your starting place, make a complete inventory of all your organization’s assets, visualize a new future as a digital network where your firm partners and co-creates with one of your external networks, begin to operate a pilot of your network business by shifting small amounts of capital (including time, talent, and money) to the new initiative, and begin to track the progress of your network initiative.

I’ve had a number of friends tell me that I should watch Mr. Robot.  Well, given that I gave up cable more than eight years ago and don’t think much of Hulu, I was out of luck until Amazon started streaming season one through Prime.  Amazon’s GUI may be awful, but this content was worth getting into.  I’m only a few episodes in, but so far the hacks being used in the series are scarily accurate, and they are for a reason.  Part of that is because of Michael Bazzell, the technical advisor of the show.  After growing up building his own computers and having a deep interest in hacking.  He worked for a Midwestern police department and then the FBI before heading to Hollywood.  Now Tech Insider is claiming that Mr. Robot is the only show that has gotten hacking right, and you can get a quick overview of the top hacks used in Season One of the show from engadget, the backstory on Bazzell from Vulture, and some of the flaws with the show from Wired.

I start there this week as I continue to highlight some of the issues facing us today as hacking proliferates revealing more and more sensitive data.  A few weeks ago I spoke of Palantir, a data analysis company that has a reputation that drives legend in Silicon Valley.  Well, last year Palantir hired a set of hackers to try and take control of their network and information, which they were easily able to do.  The results of the hacking exercise — known as a “red team” test — show how a company widely thought to have superlative ability to safeguard data has struggled with its own data security.  Then there’s this in depth look by MIT Technology Review on an $80 million hack and the dangers of programmable money, another on the U.S. Cyber Command Chief on what threats to fear the most, and then interviews with Tessa88 and Guccifer 2.0, the former who was responsible for hacks that led to major password captures from MySpace and LinkedIn (note: change your passwords if haven’t already) and the latter for the dump of information from the DNC.  I need to do a deeper dive into this topic versus just throwing articles out there at you as I did with Artificial Intelligence, and I plan to in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned …

The logical place to leave off this week is this talk by Rodrigo Bijou on how governments don’t understand cyberwars – we need hackers.

The New Economics of Cybercrime, Entertainment & Media: A World of Differences, Why Is Chick-fil-A’s App Number One in the App Store? + more

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As we’ve seen ransomware in the headlines and gaining prevalence when it comes to cybercrime, it’s good to take a look at what progress has been made and as well some of the new dangers that are out there.  This week The Atlantic looks at how we’ve progressed over the past decade and the rise of ransomware and then there is a companion piece from Euronews in February about how the Internet of Things is being impacted by cybercrime.

“Code wins arguments,” “Move fast and break things,” or “Done is better than perfect.”  Those are some of the mantras that ring in the halls at Facebook and it has led to their ability to get to market faster and build dominance through their open environment.  Zuck has done everything he can to pummel Google Plus into the ground, and now that open culture may lead to Facebook’s dominance in AI.  As well, there’s this piece on how AI is changing SEO.  Speaking (orthogonally) of machine intelligence, Steven Sinofsky has a good read out on the rise of it at this year’s code conference.

If you’ve not really taken the time to consider the Maker Movement and its impact and influence, take a moment to check out this article to get a start.

You may recall Marc Andreessen’s famous “Why Software is Eating the World” essay from the Wall Street Journal, (and if you have a chance, catch the recent Tim Ferriss Show podcast featuring Andreessen), and this week TechCrunch follows on with how software is STILL eating the world five years later.

For many, print media, especially newspapers, have become a thing of the past.  This week, The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy explores how that’s not true for the Washington Post, how Jeff Bezos is reinventing that beleaguered news institution, and what others in the newspaper business may learn from it.

One thing I missed last week when talking about Uber was the news that they’ve joined a partnership with Saudi Arabia to provide transport for Saudi women, which many view as a major setback in the twenty year campaign to allow Saudi women to drive themselves instead of having to hire male chauffeurs or rely on male family members.

If you’ve not heard, Apple made some major changes to how the App Store functions recently.  For a summary, take a look at this blog, and for analysis into it, we can turn to The Verge.  There’s also this piece on how Apple has lost its simplicity, and whether or not that is a good thing.

strategy+business has an in depth look at the Entertainment & Media companies and how they are striving to pivot to serve digital consumers around the world.  This breaks into five shifts that are roiling the industry: demographic shift towards serving younger users, content is still king with regards to competition, the relevance of bundling even in light of everything we hear/read, growth markets, and the ability to build trust.  To that last one, historic shifts are now under way forging the creation of new business models, and perhaps even new industries. Those that are able to integrate the capabilities and approaches that create value for customers will continue to thrive and continue to build loyalty and trust in their customers.  While we think that long range planning for E&M firms may seem nonsensical with as much as the industry has been disrupted and continues to be, there’s also a truth to the staying power of many of the E&M companies due to their ability to pivot while focusing on the power of youth, the primacy of localized content, the resilience of a new kind of bundle, the deepening of developing markets, the potential for new business models.

Wondered how much money Hamilton is making on Broadway and where it’s all coming from/going to?  This piece from the New York Times goes deep into that.  Needless to say, the show is well on its way to becoming a billion dollar phenomenon.

Not that this is news we want to hear, but George Soros is back at it trading again.  Why, you ask, do we not want to hear that?  Because he is incredibly bearish on global markets, betting heavily against China and stating that China’s financial system right now “eerily resembles what happened during the financial crisis in the US in 2007-08.  Looking for more behind the why of China’s fall?  Read here.

Mike Curtis has led engineering teams at Facebook and Yahoo and is now a VP of Engineering at Airbnb.  He started out, however, knowing zero code and in this article looks back on the most important lessons he learned on his journey, including treating engineers like business owners and when to adopt a new technology stack.

When we think of Microsoft, we don’t think open source given the history of the company and how closed the platform has been.  Well, the times they are a changing, a good example of which is this article that starts by delving into Microsoft’s purchase of Xamarin, which makes tools that allow developers to use a shared code base to create “native” applications for mobile operating systems made by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

It’s a bit out in left field for what I usually dig into, but this week we saw Chick-fil-A’s app become #1 at the app store.  How did a fast food chain climb to the top of the charts so quickly?  Well, in part because they told anyone who downloaded the app that they’d get a free chicken sandwich, and in part because of how they’ve targeted their demographic.  Chick-fil-A has gone above and beyond to secure the loyalty of families and even when there have been the occasional media black eyes, the company has survived and even thrived because of the audience it targets.  How do they do that?  Well, I think it all ties back to how they stay true to their ideals, and while you may not agree with those ideals, you can see the power of that and the loyalty it stokes.  It’s a good lesson for us all.

Along with speaking about culture and values, my brother shot me an article this week about giving away your legos.  This is, in essence, a metaphor for how you have to be willing to let go as you scale your start up.  Another great one from First Round is about the principles of quantum team management.

Fintech continues to be dominating the news cycle, and with good reason.  Most people inside the traditional Financial bulwarks of today despise fintech without even understanding it, and more and more excitement is being generated in the startup world by any number of companies out there.  This article from TechCrunch explores how fintech is playing the long game.

It you’ve got some time to kill this weekend, head over to watch the full Elon Musk interview from the code conference.

My youngest has a tendency to declare that every moment, every thing, every experience in her life is awesome, and while I pretty often agree that that is the case, a few conversations with her this week reminded me of this TED talk.  We’ve seemed to lose sight of what awesome truly means, and by using it in excess, we lessen the impact of that word.  Mind you, I’ll still argue that through my five year old’s eyes, everything does seem pretty awesome.

The Curse of Culture, Trends Shaping the Future of Mobile Connectivity, Innovation for Hire + more

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As I sit here in the pre-dawn hour writing this week, it brought back to mind a conversation I had with a colleague where they made the comment that they were “burning the candle at both ends.”  It’s an idiom we often use, similar to “burning the midnight oil,” denoting living at a hectic pace.  But this idiom is interesting in that, while today we almost take a sense of pride at it, reality is that its origins implied a reckless waste.  So as we head into a holiday weekend here in the U.S. and embark on summer for the northern hemisphere, take a moment to reflect on the pace you’ve found yourself drawn into the past few months.

Ben Thompson has an excellent read this week about the curse of culture, drawing parallels between Apple and Microsoft and in particular Jobs and Ballmer, but more so because he delves into the multiple levels of culture, from surface artifacts all the way to assumptions that blind us and hobble our organizations.  Check it out over at Stratechery.  While we’re on the subject of culture, let’s skip over to strategic leadership, and take a moment to read strategy+business’s thoughts on the ten principles of strategic leadership.

While I’m on the subject of Microsoft, our friends over there laid off another 1850 people this week, all tied to Windows Phone.  That seems to indicate further retreat when it comes to the smartphone world; however there is a glimmer of hope in the news around a possible Surface Phone.  All in all, the failed Nokia acquisition that Ballmer pushed through cost the company over $16 billion.  At the same time, Walt Mossberg is posing the question of whether Apple can win the next tech war with a shift to AI.

Deloitte has an in depth report about the five trends shaping mobile connectivity.  You can access the report here, and it is definitely worth the read as a whole, but Deloitte has provided a handy infographic for us as well.  The five key trends shaping the future of mobile connectivity include (per Deloitte): mobility comes in all shapes and sizes, consumers can’t get enough mobile screen time, text and instant message are consumer favorites, mPayment usage is picking up speed, and network versus Wi-Fi is a regional preference.  Deloitte also just trashed a whole lot of hype around the “$180 billion” fintech market.

Just a quick thing to note: researchers now say that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in America.

We’ve heard a lot of doomsayers talk about how tech is going to destroy any number of jobs, with much denial from various government entities and others.  Let’s face it, technology and advances in artificial intelligence will kill some jobs.  That’s a given.  But that doesn’t mean we should slow down tech advances to save jobs that are ending their life cycle naturally. One of those jobs?  Over-the-road hauling – which brings up the subject of the amorality of self-driving cars.

Dealing with a pessimist on your team or elsewhere?  Inc. has a few suggestions this week on how to interact with a pessimist, including such advice as not making too much eye contact.  It sounds funny, but it’s a good article that wraps some very practical methods around dealing with people who are low on the EQ spectrum or generally unpleasant.  Inc. also delves into seven habits you need to be an effective leader, and there will be no surprises there.   A companion piece to the pessimism one is this one from The Atlantic on why so many smart people are unhappy.  All I can say is that I must be an idiot.

There are a whole lot of incubators out there, from 500Startups to Stanford’s primarily alum-focused StartX and many more, so yet another wouldn’t seem like much news, except when this one is coming from Google.  The work 500Startups has accomplished is pretty amazing, and incubators are now even focused on specific verticals like solar.  Many incubators these days require their participants to have revenue and funding in place before they can join and are much less willing to take a shot over to the moon, all driven by competition.  It’ll be interesting to see how Google plays in this space with Area 120. At the same time, there is the looming question of why are so many startups failing.  At the same time, Snapchat just raised another $1.81 billion of funding.

Virgin, or all places, has a great article this week on innovation for hire, or how corporate giants are now injecting themselves with innovation.  It speaks of the need for companies to foster intrapreneurship through an incubator model, and we’ve seen some amazing things come out of such programs at places like Microsoft’s Research arm or Google and others.  To quote, “The notion that innovative working must become a staple of any 21st century organization is no longer in question. The question is whether or not more companies will embrace the change sooner rather than later.”

With Virtual Reality no longer being a part of a distant future, it’s time to start looking at how we can apply it beyond gaming and entertainment.  Michael Bodekaer explores what is possible for science education through virtual reality in this new TED talk.

Why A Virtual Reality Web May Never Happen, As Hospitals Go Digital Human Stories Get Left Behind, In Praise of the Incomplete Leader, The Panama Papers + more

I wrote a bit last week about Virtual Reality and how it is starting to impact our world.  Fastco Design has a quick read on why we may never see our existing web experience translate to that medium.  While demos exist of “what could be” today, no designers or developers are lining up to actually help create the experience.  The user experience of the web has been defined and solved, and while that UX may evolve over time, it has the same principles at its core.  As it stands today, the VR web is just transferring a very two-dimensional experience to a three-dimensional (even possibly four-dimensional) space.  It’s not immersive; it’s not what we might expect from a world with immersive 2-D experiences like Second Life and The Sims.  It seems like looking at those 2-D immersive experiences is getting in the way of a new UX for virtual reality.  That said, we know that’s what people expect, so let’s give it to them and then direct the crazy ones, the misfits, and the rebels who can re-imagine our world as a four-dimensional virtual one to focus on so they can break us out of the box that is our existing browsing experience.

Also from Fastco Designs is an article about how Kik thinks Chatbots will kill webpages.  Continuing the story of Tay, the “teen” AI/bot that Microsoft unveiled a few weeks ago just to pull down and how bots are seen as critical both in China and by the larger tech companies in the US, Kik, a messaging app, has a new platform which allows anyone to create a chatbot.  In Kik’s paradigm, the bots are “summoned” to provide contextual information and are created by the users themselves (or will people pay $.99 to buy a bot that someone else has created?).  The belief is that bots are going to solve the problems with the App ecosystem, but unfortunately it doesn’t’ look like Kik is set to use bots for what is most beneficial: machine learning.  Chatbots, apparently, are going to be everywhere.

One of the tougher nuts to crack of the past few years has been creating an interface for medical records that keeps up with the changers other industries are seeing, again from a UX standpoint.  I’ve known quite a few entrepreneurs who have tried to crack the “gamification” nut that seems to serve so many other thought-based industries well, however they’ve failed.   I think that is in part due to the high level of government regulations and requirements, but this article from STAT points to another issue: the interface used for tracking patient records gets in the way (in this case EPIC), and in fact reduces the most complex portion of a medical practitioner’s diagnosis, the emotional side, to information that is simply lost in translation.

Business Insider has a great piece this week on how we should forget about unicorns, and that investors are looking for “cockroach” startups now.  The premise is that unicorns are mythical creatures that are appearing to be more over-valued than not and have a huge amount of risk due to market fluctuations.  Cockroaches, on the other hand, are resilient. After all, the legend has it that only the cockroaches would survive a nuclear war.

We all have high expectations of our leaders, and as well others have high expectations of us as leaders.  The belief is that we’re flawless, that we can do no wrong, and that we have it all figured out.   The reality is, no one does, and we’re all pushing ourselves to grow every day.  Being a lifelong learner goes hand in hand with being a good leader, and we have to realize that with a lifetime of learning comes a lifetime of growth.  HBR outlines four components in their framework of distributed leadership: sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing.  The article from HBR also provides a framework for evaluating where you are in relation to those skills and can be used to diagnose your team or organization as well.

It’s hard to think of the Harvard Business Review without thinking of Peter Drucker, the management guru of the latter 20th century.  Success had a piece back in 2010 that captured his career and how he created what is modern management theory that is as relevant today.  Looking back for that article was inspired by a brief collection of ten Drucker quotes I stumbled upon from Entrepreneur.   While you’re digesting that, take a moment to read what Forbes thinks are the lessons we can learn from Disney’s staggering CEO succession failure.

Along the lines of privacy, WhatsApp just turned on encryption for a billion people this week without even blinking an eye.  All the news of late has been about the face-off between Apple and the FBI, and while that has been getting a lot of news cycles, other tech firms have been quietly addressing security issues on their platforms, I guess while we’re all distracted.

The Panama Papers.  I’m sure every one of you has heard something in the news the last week about these.  There are numerous articles out there, but what fascinates me is how close to 400 journalists kept quiet about it for a full year before the story broke.  Take your pick on who you want to read: 6 things you need to know about the bombshell Panama Papers leak from Salon, The Panama Papers and SF’s housing crisis from 48hills, McAfee’s opinion that “a time bomb is hidden beneath the Panama Papers” from Business Insider, A Primer on the ‘Panama Papers’ Offshore Revelations from Bloomberg, or What you need to know about the #PanamaPapers investigation from PBS.

Joi Ito, head of the MIT Media Lab, has an excellent TED talk that speaks to how, in order to innovate, we have to be focused on building quickly and improving constantly.  This doesn’t apply just to software, but to hardware, manufacturing, bioengineering, and more.

Passwords Are Dead, The Amazon Tax/Dropbox’s Exodus from the Amazon Cloud, When Teamwork Works Best + more

It’s an information security heavy week this week and with good reason.  Back in 2014, a Russian crime ring stole more than 1.2 billion passwords, and ever since we are regularly hearing stories of further thefts and breaches.  It’s not surprising, then, that there has been a push for  multifactor authentication.  Re/code digs into that this week, citing a recent op-ed by Barack Obama in the Wall Street Journal.  I think we’re all aware, however, of the need for multifactor authentication these days, and we’re seeing our technology add that ability as it advances.  Along with that, however, are the risks faced by the utility industry, how AI and other technology can advance and change the landscape of information security (we can only hope that AI will be as ethical as the Siemens Systems 4004 that was featured in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), and other factors we can see the continued growth in information security and why so many white hat hackers are active today.  The top concern of CIOs at public and private institutions alike these days is information security, which is also why we’re seeing so many CISOs being added to the C-suite.

I’ve linked a few other articles in the past about the vulnerability of medical devices as the Internet of Things continues to grow and more devices become connected.  This article in Wired delves into pacemakers in particular, but not only from their vulnerability, but also their lack of transparency when it comes to the code used to operate them.  The author is an atypical user for a pacemaker and the standard code inhibited her ability to resume her normal lifestyle.  As she notes, providing “security through obscurity” isn’t the best way to reassure your users of the safety of your device and offer little opportunity for an easy fix for people who may be outliers in their usage.

This is an interesting glimpse into some of the machine learning work that Facebook is doing.  What is machine learning, you ask?  This is a good basic overview of what it is, here’s how it fits in to search engine result optimization and how you explain it to non-CS minded people.

I mentioned last week how Google’s AI DeepMind had won the first two matches against human competitors and shared some articles on what that meant, and this week The Verge interviewed DeepMind’s founder, Demis Hassabis on how AI will shape the future.  Hassabis believes that AIs best future use is in advancing science faster.  It’ll be interesting to see how AI impacts both labor markets and research in the next decade or two.  Wired may give us a glimpse into what that experience will be like as well.

Safety in the cloud is a concern that often has to be overcome when we talk to our customers about whether to move their infrastructure to a cloud based solution.  What comes along with that push for the more secure infrastructure provided by the cloud is the tax for it – for example, the Amazon tax, or cost of having Amazon (or others) host your data for you.  It makes sense, depending on the size of your enterprise, to leverage Amazon’s economy of scale.  What happens, though, when your demand outpaces the availability and the scalability of Amazon, not to mention when the cost of Amazon’s economy doesn’t scale?  Dropbox’s recent exodus from the Amazon cloud is case in point of a company outgrowing the capacity and cost benefits of using a third party provider.  That said, Apple just shifted to Google for some of their cloud hosting as well.  Amazon has dominated in this arena for the better part of a decade, but competitors large and small are coming out looking for a way to unseat the empire.

We wouldn’t think of it this way, but GE is acting more and more like a startup these days, albeit a 124 year old startup.  Jeff Immelt is and has been driving that culture and is starting to see his bets into the Internet of Things start to pay off.

TechCrunch has an interesting dig into how Sindustry is creating the next big tech companies and how those companies are being valued.  They seem to be the unicorns inside and out of Silicon Valley that are burning out – “PlentyofFish, an online dating site, sold to Match for $575 million. WeedMaps, a cannabis dispensary directory, is valued at $300 million. And Ticketfly, a live-music ticket seller, recently sold for $450 million to Pandora.”  $300 million valuation for a map where marijuana can be bought legally?  In great part this is being driven by the shift of millennials from wanting products to wanting experiences and as well the devaluation of the “nuclear family” within American society.  There’s a whole lot of thought out there about all the various dating apps out there and how they are changing society and culture.  Then there is the excitement that came out of CES in January around the Sindustry applications around Virtual Reality.  It’s an inescapable that we as leaders need to adapt to these new market demands and also decide what business we’re willing to pursue and what business pushes our own ethical boundaries too far.

So, when DOES teamwork work best?  Harvard Business Review thinks that it is when top performers are rewarded, and rewarded well.  Companies have attempted to reward teams based on the performance of the whole and have discovered that that model just doesn’t work … again and again.  By recognizing top performers you will drive the performance of all, and in the end, everyone will benefit.  Along those lines though, we should talk a little about leadership.  Most times when you see Organizational Design practitioners brought in to “fix” ongoing organizational issues, it’s due to not a lack of leadership, but poor leadership all around – and yes, these can be two different things (although one often overlaps the other).  Sometimes organizations can succeed in spite of their leadership, but it will only last so long.  One of the fundamentals, a loyal and intelligent workforce, will eventually lose their loyalty and stop caring without effective leaders.  So great organizations are the result of great leadership.  Why?  Because leaders are the shapers of culture and organizations will die on the vine if change isn’t managed well by its leaders.  Trust is a foundational part of any organization and is instrumental in any change initiative an organization drives. If a  leader doesn’t have a hand on the tiller of the boat, organizations will lose focus and perspective.

Being a manager takes a set of skills that are clearly identifiable and trainable; leadership skills, while straightforward, are not as natural or “simple.”  Leadership is a combination of caring, comfort with ambiguity, persistence, communication, negotiation skills, political astuteness, humor, level-headedness, engagement, challenging, self-awareness, and future focus.  Observation of how a leader acts will tell you as much if not more about that leader than who they say they are – again, coming back to leading by example.  That said, this seems common sense to us – leadership isn’t mystical, it comes down to a few fundamentals: vision, credibility, adaptability, and (most importantly) courage.  I’ve spoken before about the difference between management, leadership, and transformational leadership (management is about the what we’re going to do, leadership about the why, and transformational leadership is about the organization that is going to be and the how to get there).  Along with any form of leadership, aside from the usual suspects like strategy, ROI, our people, et cetera, we have to have our own fundamental definition of what leadership means to us … and that definition is going to be different for every leader.  That definition will then help guide us in defining roles, fundamental direction, and  identify and explore strengths and weaknesses.  So leaders must develop their own leadership philosophy.  If you’ve not defined it for yourself, it’s only a matter of time before it is defined for you and you are removed from leadership.