Previously, I asked what kind of leader you wanted to be. In it, I struggled with the question of the tradeoffs of misrepresenting ground truth. Suppose you work at the WWE and you need to make a business decision. Somebody literally believes that it’s all real. You need to make a business decision about a contract renewal. What kind of harm are you doing to them, and to yourself, in going along with their belief, something that you know yourself not to be true? Absurd? Yes. Beliefs are absurd things. Later that month, I was asked why I was so sure that WWE wasn’t real? Why was my version of ground truth any more legitimate than somebody else’s ground truth?[…]

What causes conversion? Demand. It’s a simple answer and worthy of unpacking.  You could thank Claude C. Hopkins for the simple answer. Hopkins wrote two books towards the end of his life – Scientific Advertising and My Life In Advertising. He seemed to regret his experiences as an agency president, and left some direct advice on how master marketers should think of their choices. In his last decade of life, Hopkins marketed his marketing expertise. Instead of continuing to take on all the risk of marketing product on behalf of somebody else (and maybe getting paid if the product sold), he set up a system where products would be pitched to him. If the product was good, he’d take a[…]

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[…]

You build three machines when you build a startup. Your ability to build these three machines is the Great Filter to your life in the business universe. This post is an effort to describe why some startups fail, why some are small, and why others grow big. The Great Filter The Great Filter refers to a concept that Robin Hanson came up with to explain why we don’t see any evidence of intelligent life in the Universe. One can get a better sense of different scenarios when one considers how many things need to be true for intelligence to emerge, and assigns probability to them. If it’s the case that the coincidences required for life to occur are exceptionally rare, then[…]

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[…]

It’s easier to link to this text than it is to repeat the intuition every time. Those who learn fastest win One of the core reasons why, as I write this in mid-2018, Silicon Civilization has the world in their teeth is because they figured out that it wasn’t just about learning. It was about learning quickly. Look at it from their perspective. A startup is a hypothesis looking for validation. Those startups that are able to learn fastest have a greatest chance of pulling up before the runway runs out. Those that learned survived takeoff. Those that really thrived never stopped learning. They win because they got really good at learning. It isn’t purely about data, it’s about how[…]

We visited Koh Tao from March 18 to April 1, 2018. Here are some notes for fellow Canadians thinking about visiting Koh Tao. Getting There: The Flights A wise graduate supervisor once advised that one should always break up my trip so that you’re spending no more than 8 hours a day traveling. Eight hours in an airplane is a good work day, and you want to show up refreshed and ready to go. We didn’t do that. For the first leg, we did Cathay Pacific 829, Toronto to Hong Kong. Flight time was 15h30 minutes. It departs Pearson at 0h130 and lands the next day at 05h00. The way this flight works is impressive. There are stands to manage[…]

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[…]

We visited Buenos Aires from Feb 9 to March 1, 2018. Here are some notes for fellow Canadians thinking about visiting Buenos Aires. Taking a vacation in Buenos Aires as a Canadian requires some planning. If you do not enjoy planning, don’t go just yet. If the trend holds through to 2020, it’ll become easier and easier to visit. These notes are for Canadians. Getting There: The Flight We did Air Canada 92, which flies to Buenos Aires via Santiago, Chile. The flight was late because of mechanical issues prior to its Morning run to Beijing, via Vancouver. Delays are the rule, not the exception, with AC 92. Check out FlightAware to verify for yourself. It has a terrible on[…]