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Weekend Briefing No. 445
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society.
Welcome to the weekend.
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200 – These are the 200 best dance songs of all time according to Rolling Stone.
95 – More colleges are merging now than before, with 95 mergers in the past four years, compared to 78 over the prior 18 years.
40 – Scientists demonstrate up to a 40% increase in yield by adding a second copy of a single gene to a Chinese rice variety.
Prioritizing Your Time
After working with founders for 14 years and being a founder myself, I find that the most essential skill is how to spend their time. As a founder you there’s a list a million miles long of things you could be focusing on, but only a few will actually move the needle for your startup. In this video, Y Combinator Partner Adora Cheung shares her framework for how founders can efficiently make use of their time. She covers ways to identify and prioritize tasks, in addition to how you can measure their impact on your company. You should watch if: 1) You aren't sure that you're focusing on the right tasks. 2) You're easily distracted while working on your startup. 3) You feel like your startup isn't progressing fast enough. Y Combinator (17 minutes)
US adults under 30 are the only age cohort to see a decline in social media use in recent years, according to new data from the Pew Research Center. Since 2018, the overall ratio of US adults aged 18-29 who said they use at least one social media site has decreased from 88% to 84%. This stands in contrast to all other age groups over the same time period, whose usage actually increased. One caveat, though: The recent dip in Young Americans’ social media usage has occurred across all major platforms… except for TikTok. One interesting thing: 78% of US women say they use at least one social media site, compared to 66% of men. The Donut (4 minutes)
Defang the Bear Market
According to Goldman Sachs Chief Equity Strategist, investors are getting “mauled” by today’s bear market. Even CalPERS, the bellwether of fund performance, is down 6.1% LTM—its worst results since the Great Recession. One silver lining in their portfolio? Alternatives – particularly real assets, like real estate and art, rose 21.3%. Why art? It’s a $2 trillion asset class that's been largely ignored because of its barriers to entry, despite appreciating 3x the S&P in the last 25 years. But Masterworks has shattered those barriers. Now it's easy for anyone to invest in multi-million dollar paintings by names like Picasso and Warhol. Since inception in Sep. 2019, their investments have generated 15.3% net annualized appreciation. No wonder 493,000 users have signed up. The only downside? Shares are limited, and typically sell out in just hours (like the last Banksy offering, where shares sold out in a record 14 minutes!). But you can skip the waitlist with this special link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
When people are dying and you can only save some, how do you choose? Maybe you save the youngest. Or the sickest. Maybe you even just put all the names in a hat and pick at random. Would your answer change if a sick person was standing right in front of you? In this podcast episode, New York Times reporter Sheri Fink searches for the answer. In a warzone, a hurricane, a church basement, and an earthquake, the question remains the same. What happens, what should happen, when humans are forced to play God? Radiolab (64 minutes)
Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe has a fun list of questions. Here are some of my favorites: (1) Why is there no canon for life's most important questions? (2) Is Bloom's "Two Sigma" phenomenon real? If so, what do we do about it? Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom found that one-on-one tutoring using mastery learning led to a two sigma improvement in student performance. The results were replicated. How do we achieve these results in conditions more practical (i.e., more scalable) than one-to-one tutoring? (3) Why do there seem to be more examples of rapidly-completed major projects in the past than the present?The Empire State Building was built in 410 days. The Lockheed P-80, the first jet aircraft deployed in the Air Force, took 143 days from project initiation to first deployment. Meanwhile, a BART extension is delayed more than a year because the wrong networking equipment was installed. (The 16-mile extension will cost circa $2.3 billion and have taken around 7 years.) Patrick Collison (21 minutes)
Thinking Inside The Box
While the ease of gathering virtually has made the shift to widespread remote work possible, a new study finds that on-screen meetings have a significant drawback: They hinder creative collaboration. New research shows that in-person teams generated 15% to 20% more ideas than their virtual counterparts. The researchers say they’ve identified a reason online meetings generated fewer good ideas: When people focus on the narrow field of vision of a screen, their thinking becomes narrower as well. If your visual field is narrow, then your cognition is likely to be as well. For creative idea generation, narrowed focus is a problem. In contrast, people who meet in person get creative stimulation by visually wandering around the space they’re in, which makes them more likely to cognitively wander as well. Stanford Business (4 minutes)
Creative Problem Solving
Here are 4 principles of creative problem solving: (1) Reframe problems into questions. Instead of saying “this is the problem”, ask yourself: “Why are we facing this problem? What’s currently preventing us from solving this problem? What could be some potential solutions?” (2) Balance divergent and convergent thinking. During divergent thinking, all options are entertained. Convergent thinking, in contrast, is the thinking mode used to narrow down all of the possible ideas into a sensible shortlist. Balancing divergent and convergent thinking creates a steady state of creativity in which new ideas can be assessed and appraised to search for unique solutions. (3) Defer judgement. By judging solutions too early, you will risk shutting down idea generation. (4) Say “yes, and” rather than “no, but” in order to encourage generative discussions. Ness Labs (7 minutes)
Move Fast. Don’t Break Things.
Hi! I’m Kyle. This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm that helps startups move fast without breaking things. Most founders want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a fixed-monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.
The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. -Bertrand Russell
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