Weekend Briefing No. 60
Welcome to the weekend. It’s great to be back home celebrating Easter with my friends and family in Brooklyn. It’s been a short, but, interesting week; the ebola vaccine seems to work, John Kerry and Tehran are trying to hammer out the nuclear deal and Nigeria elected a new president Muhammadu Buhari, who is the first ever president elected from the opposition party. Though there were concerns about election day violence, the election passed peacefully.
Can education help close the inequality gap? There was a moment last year where you couldn’t read a blog, turn on the TV, or sit down for brunch with friends without hearing about Thomas Piketty’s runaway best-selling book, Capital in the 21st Century, about rising wealth inequality. It was a key topic at Davos this year, and there has been a political conversation around the issue. Both sides weighed in on the causes and the solutions to rising inequality. A solution that everyone has rallied around is the need better education to close the wealth gap. It seems intuitive enough; better education leads to better jobs and higher wages. However, Brad Hershbein, Melissa Kearney, and Lawrence Summers offer a simple simulation that shows the limits of education as an inequality-fighter. In short, more education would be great news for middle and lower-income Americans, increasing their pay and economic security. It just isn’t up to the task of meaningfully reducing inequality, which is being driven by the sharp upward movement of the very top of the income distribution. Read more at the Upshot blog from the New York Times.
In defense of boredom. I just got off the trail from a 5-day trek in Patagonia. One thing that became abundantly clear to me is that there is very little time in our lives to be bored, and although I’m pretty relentless in my search for productivity, one has to wonder if we are missing the opportunity for deeper thinking, imagining and daydreaming when we push boredom out of our lives. To be bored is to be unafraid of our interior lives — a form of moral courage, central to being fully human. To be bored is to give space for the genesis of game changing concepts. Check out this thought-provoking collection of 200 Years of Ideas on the Virtues of Not-Doing from Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds including: Bertrand Russell, Søren Kierkegaard, Andrei Tarkovsky, Susan Sontag, Adam Phillips, Renata Adler, and more. Curated by the amazing Maria Popova.
Holacracy. The command and control operating model for most companies hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Almost all companies use the same hierarchy that places managers under directors under executives, where decisions come down from the top and action lives at the bottom. One of these responsive methodologies is Holacracy, defined as “a comprehensive practice for structuring, governing and running an organization. It replaces today's top-down, predict-and-control paradigm with a new way of achieving control by distributing power.” Right now, this system is being used to the advantage of companies like Zappos, Medium and more. The goal is to increase their capacity to learn and respond to change by empowering more of them to do so. Holocracy works by integrating these values: Rapid Iteration over Static Policies. Self-Organizing, Adaptive Teams over Static Teams. Role not Soul. Role over Rank. Why and Who over How and What. Networks over Hierarchies. Read more in this First Round Review article.
April Fools. From Google’s hand gesture keyboard to Warby Parker’s launch of Warby Barker – glasses for dogs – fake product launches have become a right of passage in the tech industry over the past few years. So, here’s a good roundup from TechCrunch of the best jokes from this year’s April Fools. My favorite is the Game of Thrones version of the board game Clue. Who killed Jon? Who knows! You’ll have to wait months or years for the next edition of the game to come out to find out — and by then, you’ll probably have to replay the whole game just to remember what the hell is going on.
Who is Gen Z? The generation behind Millenials – referred to as Generation Z - were born in the mid 90’s. While a 2015 Census Bureau report found that nearly a third of millennials are still living with their parents, Gen Zers are growing up in a healthier economy and appear eager to be cut loose. They don’t wait for their parents to teach them things or tell them how to make decisions, Gen Z is already out in the world, curious and driven, investigating how to obtain relevant professional experience before college. Despite their obvious technology proficiency, Gen Zers seem to prefer in-person to online interaction and are being schooled in emotional intelligence from a young age. Thanks to social media, they are accustomed to engaging with friends all over the world, so they are well prepared for a global business environment. Learn more in this New York Times article.
THINGS I LIKE
A drone tour of the world’s largest cave. The massive Son Doong Cave in Vietnam—the largest known cave in the world—is so large it could hold an entire block of Manhattan, including 40-story skyscrapers. A 747 jet could fly through some areas. The cave has its own river and jungle. Check out this stunning drone footage.
A lamp that grows out of your wall. I’m loving the sleek / clever design on this lamp.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
6 questions to ask before you launch your social enterprise. Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, created a simple list of 6 questions to consider before launching a social enterprise. They are: 1. What is the problem you are trying to solve? 2. What is your business model 3. How will you measure your impact? 4. What is your plan for capital and growth? 5. How will you tell your story? 6. What corporate form should you take? Learn more in this Fast Company article.
Getting your passion project off the ground without quitting your day job. You’ve finally figured out what you want to do with your life — start a company, launch a website, design an app, or found a nonprofit. The only problem is that you can’t afford to quit your job (and lose your benefits) in order to pursue it full time. So, where should you start? What’s the best way to get your passion project moving? And how can you tell when you’re ready to strike out on your own? Read this Harvard Business Review article to learn what the experts say.
A job or a higher calling? Can a job be just a job anymore or do we need to find our higher purpose in our work? Firms from motorcycle manufacturers to accounting firms are touting how they “change the world”. The words “mission,” “higher purpose,” “change the world” or “changing the world” were mentioned on earnings calls, in investor meetings and industry conferences 3,243 times in 2014, up from 2,318 five years ago. The question is, how does the lofty rhetoric align with day-to-day activities? Only about one-third of individuals feel their work is a calling. Those who can connect their work to a higher purpose—whether they are a janitor or a banker—tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, put in longer hours and rack up fewer absences. But for the two-thirds who view their job as a paycheck or a necessary rung on the corporate ladder, campaigns around meaning can highlight the fact that those workers don’t derive deep meaning from work. Learn more in this Wall Street Journal article. Thanks to Brooke Hames for sending this my way.
What is the long-term impact of microfinance? This policy brief on microfinance is a summary of seven randomized control trials on four continents, from the research organization Innovations for Poverty Action and the Poverty Action Lab. Some key findings are: (1) Only about one in four or five households wanted a small loan. (2) Some of them used the money to grow their very small businesses, but this rarely led to higher profits. (3) None of the seven studies found a significant impact on household income. (4) And there’s no evidence it empowered women or led more children to go to school. But the loans give a little freedom. People make the same money as before, but in different activities that they chose. Learn more in this Washington Post article.
ABOUT THE WEEKEND BRIEFING
The Weekend Briefing is a selection of the best stories from around the web about innovation and society curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway & Co.
- Kyle Westaway