“With the rise of Lean Startup, we began to focus on outcomes, yes, but we also started to celebrate failure. I want to be clear here: it is not a success if you fail and do not learn. Learning should be at the core of every product-led organization. It should be what drives us as an organization. It is just better to fail in smaller ways, earlier, and to learn what will succeed, rather than spending all the time and money failing in a publicly large way. This is why we have problem and solution exploration in product management—to de-risk failing in the market.” from “Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value” by Melissa Perri

See more…

Fix your boring, but immediate problems first

When GDS started in 2011, mobile apps were that day’s special on the fad menu. Ministers all wanted their own. Top officials thought they sounded like a great idea. Delighted suppliers queued up to offer their services to government. We’ll talk about apps in more detail later. For now, all you need to know is that GDS blocked 99% of requests for them. Government wasn’t ready for apps, because the people asking for them didn’t really know what they were for. They just sounded good. The blogpost explaining the apps policy, written by Tom Loosemore in 2013, quickly became the digital team’s most widely read post. 16 We have seen too many chief executives and department heads proudly explain their organisation’s pioneering work on artificial intelligence, say, while in the same breath conceding their back office systems can’t reliably pay employees on time. Or running pilots with connected devices while thousands of their customers still post them cheques. This is not to say that preparing for the future isn’t right and good. Responsible leaders need to keep their eyes on the horizon. The successful leaders are those who can do this while remaining mindful their view will be ruined if they step in something disgusting lying on the floor.

from “Digital Transformation at Scale: Why the Strategy Is Delivery (Perspectives)” by Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken, Tom Loosemore

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Americans smile a lot

Just as it is easy to misinterpret the reason for an icebreaker activity, it’s easy to mistake certain social customs of Americans that might suggest strong personal connections where none are intended. For example, Americans are more likely than those from many cultures to smile at strangers and to engage in personal discussions with people they hardly know. Others may interpret this “friendliness” as an offer of friendship. Later, when the Americans don’t follow through on their unintended offer, those other cultures often accuse them of being “fake” or “hypocritical.”

Also:

…[a] Russian saying “If we pass a stranger on the street who is smiling, we know with certainty that that person is crazy . . . or else American.”

From The Culture Map

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“Most people in contemporary society don’t believe in Athena”

COWEN: When you translated the Odyssey — as a reader, I think of your approach as pretty clean and direct and very easy to read, but also with a lot of psychological depth, and I prefer that in the Odyssey. But when I read, say, the Hebrew Bible, I want something a little more, maybe stentorian in tone, or a little more baroque, actually. I think a lot of people feel the same way. Why that difference? Why do we want something different from a Bible translation often?

WILSON: ..I think it’s partly just about the source text, and it’s also about the cultural perception of the sourced text. Most people in contemporary society don’t believe in Athena, so we have a different idea about how should divinity be represented in this text versus in a text where there are people who still worship the God of the Hebrew Bible, right?

From “Emily Wilson on Translations and Language,” _Conversations with Tyler, episode 63.

a dream I could only watch instead of do

She never brought up Daniel again, but it didn’t really matter. I’d already made it a habit to consider the way my life could have been if I’d said yes when Daniel had asked the question I knew he didn’t even think was a question, just a rite of passage we had to go through. (You could see a marriage approach some couples in Texas the same way you could watch a summer storm churning on the plains, miles before it hit.) It was possible my life wouldn’t have been any more or less enjoyable had I turned from person to wife, wife to parent, had I stayed in White Deer and parceled my hours out to a family, turned my mother grand. (A life might comfortably disappear into a well-worn groove between house, school, and grocery store. (All lives disappear one way or another. (All hours get spent.))) But as pleasant as it might have been, that kind of life also seemed—somehow—elsewhere, like a dream I could only watch instead of do.

From Certain American States: Stories by Catherine Lacey

Maybe the legacy organization actually knows what they’re doing

Usually we’re told that improving IT means changing the old organization. I’ve been re-reading The Art of Business Value, and re-came across this, to the contrary:

This way of thinking has always struck me as a little strange. Our goal is to deliver value, to figure out how to meet the needs that are determined by the organization, and yet we consider the organization to be the biggest impediment to doing so. The only explanation I can think of for this is that we are implicitly assuming that there is a stable, objective, preordained definition of business value, and we are determined to deliver on that definition despite the organization around us. In my experience, this arrogance is not warranted; in fact, the organization probably understands value in ways that the Agile team does not, and the obstacles to Agile adoption actually tell us something useful about business value in the organization.

Because, in fact, the organization knows the “business value,” the strategy, it’s in charge of reliving:

The organization has had to learn what business strategies, values, protocols, and behaviors work in its environment to support its ultimate aims, whether those are maximizing shareholder value or accomplishing mission objectives. That learning forms the basis of tacit assumptions and norms, the organization’s collected wisdom about what behaviors foster success. And if success means accomplishing the ultimate goals that serve as the sources of business value, then the Agile team must come to understand those values, strategies, goals, and operational modes that are embedded in the culture around it—that is, the business values that have been known to foster success.

From The Art of Business Value.

Management, as practiced by a young IBM

Of course, there were countercurrents. Managers wanted to control activities. That impetus for control and management of potential risks led to the rise of bureaucracy, characterized by highly defined processes. Generations of executives micromanaged people all the way down the organization while fighting the growth of paperwork and “signoffs.” Such behavior also originated with Watson Sr., who exhibited such contradictory behavior. A vast number of decisions came to him, so many that when his son Tom took over the business in the mid-1950s, one of the first things he did was reorganize IBM to move decision making out of headquarters and into the broader organization.

Yet, simultaneously, the Old Man admonished employees to take individual responsibility for running their “piece of the business,” a phrase used frequently by executives with their staffs. Reflecting back on his first ten years at IBM in 1924, Watson Sr. told a class of the company’s executives that, “It is our policy not to burden any one man, or any group of men, with the responsibility of running this business.” 17 He gave thousands of talks to employees extolling these themes and a positive philosophy about IBM sales. By the early 1920s, this eternal optimist had begun telling salesmen that only 5 percent of all business information was handled by data processing, leaving 95 percent yet to be seized, a magnificent sales opportunity. He spent more time talking to his employees around the world than most future CEOs at IBM would. He met continuously with customers and public officials, far less so with the media.” from “IBM: The Rise and Fall and Reinvention of a Global Icon (History of Computing)” by James W. Cortada

From the history of IBM book I’ve been reading. See more…

Churchill’s Daily Practice

This was despite his continuing large daily intake of alcohol. Harold Nicolson recalls a friend coming away from lunch with Churchill “rather shocked by . . . the immense amount of port and brandy he consumed.” On a typical day, according to his aide Sir Ian Jacob, Churchill drank champagne and brandy with lunch, then, after his afternoon nap, had two or three glasses of whisky and soda, then champagne and brandy with dinner, followed by more whisky and soda. Jacob noted that he also sometimes accompanied his breakfast with white wine.

From Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom.

Captain Introvert

“Your dead sleep quietly, at least, Captain, out of the reach of sharks.”

“Yes, sir, of sharks and men,” gravely replied the Captain.

Memories and promises

For the animal to be happy it is enough that this moment be enjoyable. But man is hardly satisfied with this at all. He is much more concerned to have enjoyable memories and expectations especially the latter. With these assured, he can put up with an extremely miserable present. Without this assurance, he can be extremely miserable in the midst of immediate physical pleasure.

The Wisdom of Insecurity

Amazon Staff Meetings: “No PowerPoint”

The traditional kind of corporate meeting starts with a presentation. Somebody gets up in front of the room and presents with a powerpoint presentation, some type of slide show.  In our view you get very little information, you get bullet points.  This is easy for the presenter, but difficult for the audience.  And so instead, all of our meetings are structured around a 6 page narrative memo.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Also notice that everyone actually uses the first part of the meeting time (30 minutes?!) to read the memo while they all sit there:

The author gets the nice warm feeling of seeing their hard work being read.

If you have a traditional ppt presentation, executives interrupt. If you read the whole 6 page memo, on page 2 you have a question but on on page 4 that question is answered.

This is an anecdote that’s been floating around for awhile, so it’s good to lock down the URL for it, and the original Charlie Rose interview.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”

This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder’s head. Fortunately, I’m adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug regimen to keep my mind, you know, uh, limber.

Lucky People

And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.
Lucky

The Good Old Days of HTML

Before this, in the blogging age, there was a weight given to prose pieces, and Facebook and Google preserve some of this, but the expressiveness of HTML through linking, quoting, using images inline, changing font weight and so on, is filtered out by the crude editing tools they make available. —infographic plague

Developer expectations

“Don’t expect them to stay with you 15 or 20 or 30 years…That’s not going to happen,” Mok says. “They will stay with you as long as they see certain things, including personal growth or personal value enhancement, whether that’s financial reward or career aspirations. But only think about being able to retain them for two or three years. If nothing happens, they will leave after their first year of employment.” —The CIO’s lament: 20-something techies who quit after 1 year

And don’t miss the Hacker News rejoinder:

Maybe in a different era it would make sense for a developer to be loyal to the company she works for. But we don’t live in that world anymore. Management has done its damnedest to commodify labor and has more or less succeeded. So, let’s be commodities! But if management wants to burn us like oil, they should expect to pay the market rate for it.

A book at breakfast

I really like the sentiments represented by this scene – the leisurely slowness of taking breakfast with a book contrasted by the stacked plastic chairs outside a convenience store. But, most of all, I like her posture, her attitude.

Shanghai Diary

Jicky

Over 120 years later, Jicky is still being sold, making it the oldest fragrance in continuous production.

Guerlain

The Short Long Term

It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached a point in the mar­kets where hav­ing a long-term view means hav­ing an opin­ion on what will hap­pen in the next 6-12 months.

Ed

An Analyst’s Analyst

“Lots of analysts rely on connections and it is usually that what they are doing is gathering information and not doing any analysis,” he said. “I don’t have any such inside connections. What I have is Internet as my connection as it is more valuable to me than those special connections.”

asymco.com interview

Freemium Mechanics from Jeff Nolan

Ultimately the freemium model is a strategy that increases the catchment of leads as a result of using your product as the primary marketing vehicle through which you deliver a funnel to. Take care to structure your website so that every aspect of the content you are creating is designed to deliver a site visitor into a product experience or isolate them for followup through a traditional enterprise sales process.

For me the mechanics of a freemium business are some of the most interesting to be involved with in a modern software as a service company. The implications of billing and provisioning system dynamics, how you structure your website content, surface funnel analytics, build upselling cues into your application, and manage high volume sales nurturing processes are incredibly complex but increasingly normal for the B2C and even B2B markets.

–Freemium Mechanics | Jeff Nolan – Venture Chronicles.