What a fantastic read from Camuffo, Cordova and Gambardella! If you haven’t read A Scientific Approach to Entrepreneurial Experimentation, you’re missing out. It’s a great read. And not only because it reinforces my own preexisting biases, but also because there are challenging bits in there. The core finding is “We find that entrepreneurs that behave like scientists perform better, pivot to a greater extent to a new idea, and do not dropout less than the control group in the early stages of the startup.” The authors focus on a key behaviour that scientists exhibit. A scientist has two types of skepticism – skepticism that something is true, and skepticism that something is not true. Those represent two types of error, helpfully[…]

The whole thing, all of it, depends on optimism. Optimistic expectation is a natural force generated by humans and amplified by the networks that humans create. At the core of the entire traditional liberal paradigm, since the enlightenment, is the expectation that things will be better in the future. If things get better at a rate of just 2% per year, compounded annually, things get twice as good in just 35 years. If things get better at just a little bit more than that, 3.6%, things get twice as good in just 20 years. We’ve come to expect things to become better, dependably, and predictably. The enlightenment is an important event to call out. It’s way easier to shrug ones[…]

Teams, in software engineering, form because of success. Without success, the firm wouldn’t be cursed with the problem of having so much talent to have to organize in some way. A founder can easily reduce the complexity in their human organization, and their lives, by simply not hiring any more than seven technologists to work with them on their mission. For some, this is viable. For others, this is not. Teams emerge in response to scale. They are either formed as by product of centralized hierarchical command structure, or they emerge as a product of network cohesion/polarization. To the extent that either formation is aligned with the vision, goal, mission, or purpose of the organizational chrome is a function of[…]

Imagine with me: what if novels were written like software. Sometimes it’s useful to approach absurdity and look inside. There might be treasure there. I’ll define software as an executable, a set of instructions, that are interpreted by a machine for some reason. As a data scientist, I think of software as a product, and I think, constantly, of turning data into product. I think of data as inertia and all the code around it as flexible. I worry a lot about the people that use the software (if anybody) and think of them as heterogenous segments. I think of a novel as an executable, a set of instructions, that are interpreted by a human brain for some reason. As[…]

This is a dense post. Feldman and March, in 1981, wrote “Information in Organizations as Signal and Symbol”. And it makes good predictions about what a management scientist type would say about the purpose of information in an organization. Indeed, just last month, I hyped Carl Anderson’s 2015 original position yet again, in the framing of information as assisting learning. Feldman and March are cited by another piece that’s been weighing heavily since February. Alvesson and Spicer’s 2012 hit “A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations” explains why seemingly intelligent people pretend to be dumber than they are. Please don’t misinterpret this passage. It’s not the case that everybody is stupid. Sometimes people act dumber because they have to go-along-to-get-along. Are you[…]

This post describes a fast follow startup and the implication for how that startup learns. Define Startup A startup is a market hypothesis looking for validation. It’s an organization in search of a business. If they’ve accepted funding, then it’s a group of people looking for a liquidity event. Define Follow Follow means imitation. It means that an entrepreneur or a herd entrepreneurs have been observed pursuing a particular product-solution-market fit, or a hypothesis, and some founder wants to join the herd. Define Fast Fast means that the organization is imitating fast enough to nip at the heals of the lead innovator. It is imitating fast enough to be contention of overtaking the leader, or close enough to experience a[…]

Data scientists spend so much time focused on learning: both machine learning and human learning. A machine can learn. A data scientist spends a lot of time just trying to persuade a machine to learn. It just takes a lot of labelled data. What about collections of people? Organizations can learn too. It’s just that the data isn’t all labelled well. Why Organizational Learning is Important I was so impressed with Carl Anderson’s synthesis two years ago, about Data Driven Cultures, that I unpacked it and applied it to startups and strategy. Coming back to it now, in 2018, a lot of what he was saying is purely about learning. Carl Anderson, 2015, described a data driven culture as on that:[…]

Who do you trust to manage your attention? Because now that the news cycle has surfaced Cambridge Analytica issue – that’s the real thesis question. Let me explain. How the Newsfeed manages your attention I really can’t understate just how powerful amplified engagement really is. When you overlay the like/share verbs on top of a network of individuals who all have something in common, or who procure people who have something in common, you get some pretty strong effects. Don’t believe me? Just check out the clothing in your drawers and the items in your fridge. You, my friend, are an outcome of considerable social contagion effects. Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm shelters you from a power law distribution of content that the[…]

There’s a quote from The Office (US) [Season 6, episodes 5/6, “Launch Party”]: Michael: Okay, okay, what’s better? A medium amount of good pizza? Or all you can eat of pretty good pizza? All: Medium amount of good pizza. Kevin: Oh no, it’s bad. It’s real bad. It’s like eating a hot circle of garbage. The launch in that episode was the ill fated “Dunder Mifflin Infinity”, and while the reference in the passage is to the pizza that Michael Scott had ordered, it may as well been referring to the website. For many reasons, people tend to build all you can eat hot circles of garbage, instead of a medium amount of pretty good pizza. Minimum Viable Product and[…]

Do you like new technology? Chances are that if you’re reading this space, you do. I like new technology too. I don’t like hype as much. I get suspicious when people go out of their way to inflate expectations deliberately in advance of a promise that they know, full well, it can’t deliver. Whether you’re buying for yourself, your home, or your organization, you want to invest in technology that’s likely to have a return, but not such a diminished return that you derive absolutely no competitive advantage or learning from it. There’s a balance there between the fear of losing too much and the greed of unfair advantage. To understand why these feeling develop, it helps to understand why[…]