Roundup: 10 May 2015

"School is about dealing with certainties. Life is about the ability to handle the maximal amount of uncertainty."

- Nassim Taleb

Where you born in the early 80’s? If so, do you feel like you meet the criteria for being Gen X, or perhaps a Millennial? I have always felt like I’ve been in flux between these two concepts, a sort of weird mix of "grunge cynicism" and "new era optimism" that defies specific categorization.

Anna Garvey has perfectly vocalized this feeling in an article 'The Oregon Trail Generation’ about those born at the tail end of the 70's or start of the 80's - the digital new school pioneers who still had a foot in the old school world of analog. A fascination read.

A very interesting take on the violence in video games argument. New models like Telltale Games “murky ethical choices” gameplay mode are creating an interesting experimental space in which to explore ethics and the nature of conformity bias. Do you just go along with the group?

Why is it that we are witnessing the rise of companies predicated on trust amongst complete strangers, but at the same time most studies are showing overall trust in society and individuals is at an all time low? It turns out people are putting a lot of faith in trust between one person and the crowd, thanks to digital communication channels. The Internet is forever changing the dynamics of human interactions.

Organizational Lessons

I have written about the Tragedy of the Commons previously, but a great example of this concept is the “spaghetti-ball mess” that was the downfall of MySpace. How a giant of a company failed by losing sight of benevolence, and focusing on a quick buck, not the users.

Seth Godin on why you need editors, not brand managers, and the future of Content Marketing. I love this quote - “There are constantly trends and fads on the Internet, and people make a good living amplifying them. But I think that industrialized content marketing is one of those fads, and it will end up where they all do: petered out because human beings are too smart to fall for its appeal.” Remember to be authentic.

Speaking of Content, one organization who is absolutely killing it in the content game is Patagonia. They have started making long form film content to support their purpose and nonprofit causes, a perfect fit for their brand. Some great lessons here.

If you care enough to try to solve a problem, then it matters to you. If it matters to you, it must affect you in some way. If it affects you strongly, that means that you are probably inside the problem - which means you are part of the problem. Change your mindset and think deeply about the system you are in when problem solving.

Design & Planning

When interviewing users, never ask what they want - they will only think in the realm of possibility. Instead, ask these three powerful questions - what are you trying to get done, how do you currently do things, and what could be better about how you do it?

Google has always put forward that good SEO is about making things amazing for the user. With mobile overtaking desktops as the most used device on the Internet (and more searches now coming from smartphones), “mobile friendliness” or lack of could start to massively impact your rankings. Do you have a good mobile website experience?

How to design killer website from Google Ventures. Need I say more.

The next big things in design? Anticipatory. With so many choices, and the growing paralysis of decision fatigue, companies that will win the in the future will anticipate user needs in order to make decisions for them. Eliminating steps through data will become a huge advantage.

Strategy is no longer just about planning and audience insights. A flawless user experience is now also a must - which means strategy and UX need to learn from each other. Four things strategists can learn from their talented UX designer counterparts.


Software as a Service companies in the small-to-medium business segment are showing an interesting pattern - they inevitably begin to serve much larger enterprise customers (think Box, Hubspot or Zendesk). The reason behind this may be an exact visualization of Clayton Christiansen’s Innovator’s Dilemma.

SMB companies often feature simpler products, mobile app store distribution, and freemium pricing which makes them appealing to their target market. As growth slows down, they target enterprise to increase growth, starting the disruption cycle all over again as they become large themselves. A fascinating look into this arc phenomenon.

What did billion dollar “unicorn” startup companies look like at Series A? Funnily enough, they rarely look like a blue ocean strategy, but rather right in the heart of a red ocean trap. Shasta Ventures has done a fascinating analysis, showing most exhibited the following traits: Easy-to-dismiss ideas or perceived crazy ideas, highly competitive markets, reinventing existing customer behaviors, untested founders with high degrees of passion, and a lack of monetization plan that focused on user needs. 

A fascinating look at Sam Altman, the 30 year old President of Y Combinator, the “Unicorn Breeder” of Silicon Valley that has helped birth such luminaries as Dropbox, Airbnb, Twitch, Quora and Reddit.

Could a single solo entrepreneur build a startup with 1 billion users? Companies used to exist because the cost of doing business inside the firm was less than the cost of doing business with parties outside the firm. Digital platforms are starting to flip this on its head. 

Is the on-demand sharing economy unlawful? The lawyer who is trying to destroy the sharing economy through legal action. New models of operating tend to fall victim of outdated rules and regulations (and thinking), which can bring out the trolls.

Personal Growth

Want to make better decisions? Understanding Behavioral Economics is a great way to understand the heuristics and biases that affect decision making. A great HBR article with a framework that layers in the three key decision-making philosophies, and when to use them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Our strength grows out of our weakness”. A great Zen Habits post on the mindset behind turning your perceived weaknesses into strengths, with some great applications for business settings. 

Despite what you may have heard, you can actually change your brains patterns after 25 - it just takes a lot of hard work. How to change your brain’s pathways and patterns.

Peak performance in a creative field requires a combination of talent and skill - however belief that you can improve your skills is often the most defining factor in improvement. In order to become more creative you need to focus on becoming an explainer, practicing openness, and to keep asking new questions.  

The Lucretius problem. Only a fool believes the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one he has observed. An excuse for failure or catastrophe should never be “it never happened before”.

To finish, a great short doco on the rising power of the social media influencer. It's now more often than not becoming a world in which you need to influence the influencers, not the masses.

Roundup: 12 Apr 2015

The world keeps moving faster and faster. It’s increasingly hard to filter out the most important 'signals from the noise' with the time we have available. Below is a summary of the most interesting and relevant topics that have passed through my signal filter.

"Because of the invisibility of any environment during the period of its innovation, man is only consciously aware of the environment that has preceded it; in other words, an environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus we are always one step behind in our view of the world. The present is always invisible because it’s environmental and saturates the whole field of attention so overwhelmingly; thus everyone is alive in an earlier day."

- Marshall McLuhan


Mobile is killing Desktop, and within the Mobile category Apps are killing the Mobile Web. Should we be worried that apps are largely controlled by gatekeepers like Apple and Google?

A lot of the hotel disruption narrative sits with AirBnb, but it is hard to argue on the immense impact of TripAdvisor. This interesting article delves Inside the impact of the crazy world of a company that crowd sources all reviews - and has been shown to actually make hotel service better.

A great (and hilarious) look-back at a game changing product. What happens when current Photoshop experts try their hands at the 25 year old Photoshop 1.0.

Bandcamp, the direct to fan music delivery platform have reached a huge milestone - $100 million USD delivered to music artists through direct sales. There is still life in the music industry yet.

If you have been using ‘above the fold’ as part of your lingo, it’s time to stop. New research from Huge Inc shows that everybody scrolls, no matter the size of screen or device. Long feeds like Facebook and Twitter have changed user behavior for good. 

Four quick Gifs that outline the four main types of UX testing that help build products that grow. If you are building any sort of digital platform, make sure you understand each:

Google Researchers are developing a way to rank pages by facts, not links, by using a proprietary Knowledge Vault. It is amazing to see how much of the worlds knowledge the search giant is holding.


Does your company embrace failure and experimentation as part of its DNA? Astro Teller from Google X outlines the recipe for Moonshots - huge problems with radical, world changing solutions that utilize breakthrough technology.

Six easily overlooked traps that signal that you have a worrisome organizational strategy in place. Check it against your current actions, and see if you need to course correct.

There are 5,000 companies in the world more than 200 years old. More than 3,000 are in Japan. A great insight into the strategies they employ to remain long-lasting.

How Levi’s became a brand with staying power. Lessons on commitment, going for emotional response, defying trends, and how to remain relevant for 162 years.

Do you want to be BMW, or Toyota? A great insight into the mindset of Steve Jobs as he positioned Apple for greatness.

With the average user unlocking his or her smartphone 150 times a day, there’s less tolerance for a bad experience. Design is no longer a nice to have, it’s a winning investment.


A great overview of the Apple Watch from Daring Fireball, and insights into how Apple positions groundbreaking products (three things, anchored to something tangible). If your going to read one review of the Watch, make it this one.

Amazon just launched Dash, a simple IoT button to order and replace common household items. One tap and your restocked.

The New Yorker has released Strongbox, a Tor network accessible repository for citizens and whistleblowers to share information.


How Chris Sacca, one of the most interesting recent ‘Super Angels’ crafted one of the most sought after billion dollar seed portfolios.


Prepare to open up your wallet and cringe. A price lice of the biggest Advertising placements in dollar terms, from TV to digital.

How are brands adapting to the ‘post-website publishing era’? Lessons from MTV as it joins platform Kik.

To remain on the forefront of culture in Advertising, you need to take calculated risks. Lessons learned from Lincoln’s success with their polarizing ads.

To finish, Game of Thrones is back! Seth Meyers shows why you shouldn't invite Jon Snow to a dinner party.

Weekly Roundup: 8 Mar 2015

The world keeps moving faster and faster. It’s increasingly hard to filter out the most important 'signals from the noise' with the time we have available. Below is a summary of the most interesting and relevant topics that have passed through my signal filter over the past week.

"All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy of which victory is evolved."

- Sun Tzu

We are on the eve of the Apple Watch launch, a time where we are increasingly integrating computing into every aspect of our lives, and augmenting ourselves with technology. 

The buzz words of right now are terms like wearables, beacons, nearables, haptic triggers, and virtual & augmented reality. Our devices are proliferating and connecting in new and unforeseen ways, which is driving increasingly complex interactions.

John Borthwick, CEO of Betaworks has written a fantastic article unraveling several aspects of our ongoing self augmentation, covering the areas of our Prosthetic Self, our Data Skin, our Present Self, and the Dreams of AI.

As technology augments the things we do, we must always remember the fable of Icarus. This was about the twin perils of complacency and hubris - flying too low or too high. John provides an interesting list of thorny questions that we need to keep in mind to ensure we don't crash into the sea.

As part of the above article, John linked to a data visualization by app Human. It is amazing to see how data being collected by organizations is being used to create amazing things. See how some of the most famous cities across the world come to life through their citizens running, biking and driving.

Speaking of technology augmenting our lives, there is an interesting bias called "algorithm aversion". If we see an algorithm fail (even if it is very small), we tend not to trust it - even when we are shown it is vastly superior to human judgement. Be careful about trusting your gut.

Some of the smartest marketers in the world right now weigh in on what marketing & advertising will look like in 2020. A quote that really stuck out for me - "Good agencies will act like product companies, not service companies".

It might be time to start thinking like an Essentialist - that you will produce more by removing more, not doing more. This very much feels like the model of First Principles and the Eisenhower Matrix. Be ruthless with your time, and always have a strong North Star.

Have you ever heard of the Monty Hall problem? It's a logic puzzle that still does my head in. Zachary Crockett writes a fantastic article about Marilyn vos Savant, and the "nightmarish journey, rife with name-calling, gender-based assumptions, and academic persecution" that came with getting the puzzle right.

Speaking of a nightmarish journey of name-calling, persecution and gender-based assumptions, Jon Ronson writes a great piece in the Times from the forthcoming book "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" on Justine Sacco. If you remember Sacco, she wrote a racist tweet that went viral and basically ruined her life. An interesting take on the modern phenomenon of witch trials, shaming people in stocks int he public square, and our obsession with trying to amuse the people we can't see.

Hire good people. Treat them well. Help them succeed. Compensate them fairly. Let them go home. An essay in praise for meaningless work, and escaping cupidity and the Peter Principle.

The startup world is full of new and interesting concepts - things like fail fast and pivot. The fundamental thing we all need to remember however is that the ultimate goal of a startup is to build a business, not inflate the ego of the founders. Some great lessons on the stunning failure of, and how it went from raising $325 million dollars to going bust.  

I have very mixed feelings about Buzzfeed, and the world of click bait they have invariably helped create. Rohin Dhar shows that the Internet publishing powerhouse actually sources 62% of its content from just 25 sources - and surprisingly a huge amount comes straight from Tumblr. It seems stealing from other publishing platforms (who's users no doubt stole it from somewhere else) is really good business.

Summarizing just how incredible Netflix is - the company earns $2.4 million per employee. But the real dangers are looming with the incredible land grab kicking off with everyone trying their hand at content. And it's forcing Netflix to risk everything.

Could McDonald's current woes be directly linked to them being a bad corporate citizen? The world of business and corporate responsibility is changing, and organizations that fail to see the writing on the wall are in real danger of being wiped out.

Two interesting articles on gambling. First, can you manufacture luck? It turns out, luck might actually be the result of how you behave, and not just the odds.

Second, a beautifully written long form essay by Jay Kang on his gambling addiction. The high is always the pain, and the pain is always the high.

To finish up, an oneiric video experience I stumbled upon, An Embroidery of Voids. Haunting. Enjoy.

Weekly Roundup: 1 March 2015

The world keeps moving faster and faster. It’s increasingly hard to filter out the most important 'signals from the noise' with the time we have available. Below is a summary of the most interesting and relevant topics that have passed through my signal filter over the past week.

"In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it's the fast fish which eats the slow fish."

- Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

This week two primary topics sparked my interest - and it wasn't just the color of a dress. Organizational Responsiveness is again a focus this week, as well as a look at some of the interesting impacts within the world of photography due to the introduction of technology. Let's get to it.

There are a huge amount of disruptive factors impacting work today, and organizations of all sizes are striving to not only cope but thrive in this environment. In an effort to create a common framework and language to allow discussion on this topic, a range of forward thinking companies and consultants have banded together to form

The Responsive Organization Manifesto outlines some of the key tenants of this philosophy: Purpose over Profit, Empowering over Controlling, Emergence over Planning, Networks over Hierarchies, Adaptivity over Efficiency and Transparency over Privacy. Check out the site and join up to see how this evolves over time.

Want a quick bootcamp on making a startup? Sam Altman distills a huge amount of information and learnings into a simple step by step framework to structure your thinking. This is great for anyone looking to start a new venture, but also works for existing business leaders to check against their own efforts. 

One of the most sobering statistics in business is that nearly all the companies our grandparents admired have disappeared. From a quote from 2011, of the top 25 companies on the Fortune 500 in 1961, only six remain today.

Mark Leslie via First Round has a great article on the concept of the Arc of Company Life, and some strategies to try and prolong it. A big focus - ensuring that you are Opportunity-Driven versus Operationally-Driven, and searching for the sweet-spot of optionality.

A fairly new form of language in the tech startup world is the concept of a "Unicorn", a company valued at more than a billion dollars, or a "deca-Unicorn", with a value over $10 billion. Marc Andreessen has taken to Twitter in another tweet storm to outline a plan to help foster more of these Unicorns, and the big advantages to society as a result.

In last weeks roundup I talked about the Impact Trap, or the idea of getting stuck on a smaller peak when there are much higher peaks to be conquered. An interesting strategy put forward to help tackle this is applying Google's 70/20/10 investment process into your own life. If you spend all of your time be reactive as opposed to thinking about the long term, you could just be slowly sinking into quicksand.

Walmart just announced it was actively raising its minimum wage for workers. While some may chalk this up to a publicity stunt, analysis has shown that organizations (and especially retail ones) can benefit from greater investment in their workforces. Workers are the lifeblood of any organization, so if you focus on making them happy, you can thrive.

On to photography.

Now that smartphones are becoming ubiquitous, and we now have access to high definition cameras at all times in our pockets, we are seeing some fascinating cultural and societal shifts.

First up is the concept of Vemödalen - the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist - which can turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap, like a mass-produced piece of furniture you happen to have assembled yourself. 

Are we doomed to become a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy...

Like the music industry, the world of professional photography is beginning to suffer the effects of the 'boiling frog' phenomenon. Simon Moss, CEO of startup ImageBrief outlines the challenges facing photographers and delivers a rallying cry to try and stop the frog from being completely cooked.

National Parks often require permits to allow people to commercially shoot footage or take photos within their borders. Where things get really murky is how this applies to amateur photographers with big social media followings. This fascinating article from Outside magazine explores how camera ubiquity is blurring the lines between commercial, personal and editorial photography, the dangers to national parks, and the need to rethink laws and regulations.

To finish up, some fun. What is Seinfeld was the podcast Serial by Seinfeld2000.

Weekly Roundup: 22 Feb 2015

The world keeps moving faster and faster. It’s increasingly hard to filter out the most important 'signals from the noise' with the time we have available. Below is a summary of the most interesting and relevant topics that have passed through my signal filter over the past week.

Do you know what a Product Manager is, and how they operate in a technology business? Product Management sits at the intersection of engineering, marketing, research and project management, with the goal of creating great, habitual products that people love to use. 

The team at Intercom have created a fantastic e-Book that dives deep into this role, showcasing their development frameworks, and adding in a bunch of learnings and ideas to apply to your own product or platform. Even if you are not currently a product person or in a startup or tech business, this is a great read on explaining how technology is re-inventing the way we create things.

Right now we have a pretty clear definition of what strategy is - but one of the biggest hurdles still remains translating a strategy into results through execution. Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes and Charles Sull outline some of the biggest myths about executing strategy, and how to solve this problem by fostering coordination across units and building the agility to adapt to changing conditions.

Tech can get pretty messy, especially if you want to see how current technologies have evolved over time. Quartz have created a great interactive map of the most influential products in the fields of electronics and communications, and how they have intersected and adapted over time.

With the Apple Watch launch on the horizon, press coverage is about to hit a frenzied pace as pundits race to make predictions around this potentially revolutionary product.

Firstly, if you want to understand how the watch will work, the best place to start might be with the people making the apps. Fast Company interview some of the developers and showcase some of the more interesting features.

Next, with the launch of any new platform, the race is on to create the first killer app. Andrew Chen explains this concept through the lens of 'The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs' - that the aggregate performance of any channel goes down over time due to increased competition, spam and customer fatigue. First movers to shiny new channels often get big advantages.

The New Yorker have written a very detailed piece on Jonathan Ive, and how he has led the development of Apple's intuitive and beautiful product design. Some great insights into the decisions around the Apple Watch, and what other innovations may be on the horizon. 

Lastly, Apple have in some ways proven that Clayton Christiensen's theory of low-end disruption may be flawed. A key to this has been the focus on making products that are modular, competing in huge markets, and creating an entirely new class of services that mix integration and modularization. With the watch on the horizon, this article explains the entire Apple ecosystem in detail, and just how big this thing can get.

The narrative around being data focused versus design focused tends to pit these views as two black or white extremes. The reality is, there is a lot of grey in the middle. Mike Greenfield has a great article 'Design vs Darwinism. Data vs Darkness' that explores this topic, with a great framework for thinking about being data and design led.

Sometimes you have to go down before you go back up. The Impact Trap, and how to avoid it so you can unleash your full potential.

Some fun to finish. Saturday Night Live had their 40th Anniversary Special. By far the best sketch over the years was Celebrity Jeopardy - the cast get back together to give it one last spin. 

Notes from the Field #4: Team B's

When I was reading Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies of 2015 list, one item that really stuck out was one of the ways HBO have been able to adapt to the shifting and disruptive media landscape. A big driver of this has been CEO Richard Plepler, and a technique he uses called Team B's to foster innovation.

Team B has its roots in the spy world, first being developed by the CIA as a method to aid in analysis. The premise was simple - create a separate team of outsiders to put eyes on the same data sets that analysts in the intelligence community were looking at, and challenge the conventional wisdom and mental models with an open mind.

While the original Team B is shrouded in controversy (it is credited as kickstarting the massive arms build up with the Soviet Union) I can definitely see the wisdom in its application. 

While we like to think that humans are rational beings, the truth is we are very irrational creatures. We are easily swayed by cognitive bias, and can often fall under the spell of false inferences about other people or situations that are drawn in an illogical fashion.

This brings us to "the Devil's Advocate", a term that was originally coined from a practice in the Catholic church during the process of cannonization. A canon lawyer was appointed to take the position of the devil, arguing against the candidate irrespective of their beliefs, poking holes in the evidence and being skeptical. The church understood that this was a very simple technique to break the spell of bias.

Organizations today can never rest on their laurels - indeed the biggest dangers occur when leaders fall under the spell of a single mental model, and only look inwards instead of confronting the realities of their environment. By engaging a separate 'Team B' to question strategy, an organization runs a good chance of ensuring they don't miss opportunities and get disrupted.

For a wider list of the different types of Cognitive Bias, check out my deep dive on the book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, including Loss Aversion and the Power of Commitment, Value Attribution and Diagnosis Bias, and Procedural Justice, Monetary Motivation & Group Conformity.

Notes from the Field #3: Marketing Lessons from the Martial Arts

When I was a kid, I was always obsessed with everything Martial Arts. I grew up in awe of Bruce Lee as he broke walls with his hands, and rolled around in stitches as Jackie Chan broke his hands on walls. Buster Keaton eat your heart out.

Jean-Claude Van Damme would fight in bloody kumite tournaments and then make you wince doing the splits. Even a much thinner Steven Seagal showed us that you could be a master of Eastern fighting skill and still be a wise guy (and get in some of the most ridiculous one liners in action movie history).

I have always practiced some form of Martial Arts in the background over the years, be it Karate, Aikido, Krav Maga or Jujitsu. While there are important physical aspects to the fight game that are fairly evident, some of the most powerful effects are in the mental and strategic lessons that they teach.

Martial Strategy is an interesting thing. Grit, fortitude, and toughness all go hand in hand with the application of the skills, but they also teach a softer side - breathing, meditation and stress reduction. Things get really interesting in the philosophy of some of the most famous martial practitioners - men who have 'swum the deep waters' and made fighting their living. 

In Mastering Jujitsu, Renzo Gracie, one of the sports most mythical fighters, outlines an underlying framework for modern day martial arts that has important lessons outside of the mat.

From the book:

"Too often, martial artists obsess over the accumulation of techniques without ever attaining an overall strategy to guide how those techniques are applied in the course of a fight... What fighters need is a background strategy that they can follow over the course of the fight. Technique is used merely to realize that strategy...The importance of an overall strategy cannot be overstated. A lack of a clear and flexible fight strategy will quickly become apparent in any fight that goes beyond a minute's duration. When a fighter lacks an overall fight strategy, he inevitably proceeds in the manner of a blind man, stumbling from one moment to the next, trying desperately to make sense of the actions unfolding in front of him... Lack of strategy always leads to inaction, confusion and a sense of hopelessness when things go wrong. This is fatal in a real fight."

Now let's re-interpret that same statement through the lens of marketing (note, you can also apply this to other roles within the organization such as Founder or CEO). With a few tweaks, the philosophy will sound something like this:

Too often, marketers obsess over the accumulation of tactics without ever attaining an overall strategy to guide how those tactics are applied in the course of execution... What marketers need is a background strategy that they can follow over the course of execution. Tactics are used merely to realize that strategy... The importance of an overall strategy cannot be overstated. A lack of a clear and flexible strategy will quickly become apparent in any activity that goes beyond a short time period. When a marketer lacks an overall strategy, they inevitably proceed in the manner of a blind man, stumbling from one moment to the next, trying desperately to make sense of the actions unfolding in front of them... Lack of strategy always leads to inaction, confusion and a sense of hopelessness when things go wrong. This is fatal for an organization.

Take a look at your marketing or operations. Do you have a clearly defined and flexible evolving strategy to guide your actions, or are you merely stumbling along from one messy tactic to the next? Have a good think, because like a real fight, results could be fatal.

Weekly Roundup: 15 Feb 2015

The world keeps moving faster and faster. It’s increasingly hard to filter out the most important 'signals from the noise' with the time we have available. Below is a summary of the most interesting and relevant topics that have passed through my signal filter over the past week.

Fast Company have released their 'World's 50 Most Innovative Companies 2015' list. I highly recommend reading each of the case studies featured, it provides an amazing insight into business model innovation, and the ways new and established businesses are disrupting themselves to create new value. 

Warby Parker take the top spot for their efforts building the first made-on-the-internet brand. I really love this quote from founder Neil Blumenthal on why the company has been so successful - "If we sum it up in one word, it's deliberate". 

Check out the list for some serious inspiration.

Jon Stewart made the sad announcement that he would be giving up the Daily Show chair after 17 years of bringing a little bit of sanity to the news. Fast Company pay tribute by outlining some of the key lessons from his career - especially why it's alright to be a late bloomer.

There is a huge amount of evidence that using perception-based data for HR decision making is fundamentally flawed. If you are doing end of year reviews, 360's or nine-box grids, it might be time to rethink your processes in case you are doing more harm than good. 

Speaking of HR and promotions, one mental model to get your head around is the Peter Principle, or The Law of Crappy People. Hierarchies can produce some dangerous, systemic problems, so use this advice to rethink the way you level people up.

"Plan vs Build. Where do you stand?" Planning is an important part of running a business, but the reality is you can't truly learn by planning alone. An interesting debate on when you should ditch the plans in favour of shipping.

Netflix are showing just how competitive the entertainment industry is becoming. They are raising $1 billion in debt to fund and acquire new content in order to compete with big guns like HBO. A big growing problem - content deals are becoming increasingly costly and complex.

Have you ever wondered how a Freemium app can afford to hire Kate Upton to appear in their ads, and then pretty much put them everywhere on television? Maybe because, as of writing this article they are making over $1.5 million A DAY from in app purchases. The awe inspiring power of app entertainment.

Sneakerheads are a case study in super loyal fans who are not afraid to spend a serious amount of money on products. Adidas are trying to tackle the problems associated with the release of limited edition, high value shoes with a new app called Confirmed. Forget long lines and no guarantees - the app will alert you when a shoe drops in your area, allowing you to reserve a pair in your size.

If you have ever worked in advertising, you will laugh at this. And then cry. And then laugh again. Who said it - Kanye West or your Creative Director?

A bit of fun to finish up. If you were a child of the 80's, you probably remember all of the (looking back) terrible ads aimed at kids in the 90's. This homage to the ads of this era provides a bit of nostalgia - with a very big twist.

I present 'Every 90's Commercial Ever'.

Weekly Roundup: 8 Feb 2015

The world keeps moving faster and faster. It’s increasingly hard to filter out the most important 'signals from the noise' with the time we have available. Below is a summary of the most interesting and relevant topics that have passed through my signal filter over the past week.

One of the most interesting debates right now is if in fact the traditional web as we know it is dying. With the rise of smartphones, mobile apps are becoming incredibly ubiquitous, and walled gardens are only getting bigger and bigger. The dynamic between visiting a website in a browser, and turning to apps for tasks is changing.

In this first article, Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff provide two concurrent Us vs Them insights into how apps are taking over the traditional website. 

Native App or Web App? This comparison checklist provides insight into the positives and negatives of both formats.

"If in five years I’m just watching NFL-endorsed ESPN clips through a syndication deal with a messaging app, and Vice is just an age-skewed Viacom with better audience data, and I’m looking up the same trivia on Genius instead of Wikipedia, and “publications” are just content agencies that solve temporary optimization issues for much larger platforms, what will have been point of the last twenty years of creating things for the web?"

The Awl explores the app debate through the lens of media companies.

Want to work at Tesla? A good place to start is to have worked at Apple. Why Elon Musk is so focused on stealing the Apple mojo, and why its cars are trying to be more "iPhone than a Ford".

Speaking of Tesla, anyone who bought a Model S just woke up to a faster car thanks to an over-the-air firmware update, similar to what happens to your phone. If you are not building evolving platforms, you might be left behind in the dust, literally.

This could be one of the most important articles for business owners to read right now. 'Why do managers hate agile?' provides one of the best explanations of what this new way of operating translates to, and why if you are not seriously considering adopting its practices, you might not be long for this world.

A great example of agile, out of the box thinking combined with the power of platforms over traditional products can be seen in new startups tackling the problems of poverty in Africa. Watching new approaches to the financial industry are a good case study on rethinking entrenched industries.

Traditional Quick Service Restaurants (QSR's) like McDonalds are under serious threat from the most unlikely of places - Fast-Casual restaurants like Shake Shack and Chipotle. With Shake Shack pulling an IPO of $1.6 billion, having a strong purpose, superior product and leveraging technology are seriously powerful keys to competitive advantage. 

Want to add a new decision making strategy to your mental model toolkit? Try using the Power of Noticing.

Scientists have discovered ants handle complex adaptive systems in a very interesting way - by using an organic algorithm to help forage for food that operates almost exactly like the Internets TCP/IP protocol. 

Lastly, check out this poem from Jason O. Gilbert that is a perfect insight into the A to Z of Internet culture right now. For all of your JK and XD enjoyment.

Notes from the Field #2: A Sport is a Sport is an eSport?

I used to get into a rather heated argument with a friend of mine named Christophe. You see, a few years back I had just started to get into poker. I mean really into it - I was watching professionals play it on television, and boring my friends by trying to convince them it was the best thing since sliced bread.

What really rubbed Christophe the wrong way was the fact I was calling it a sport. In his mind, in order for poker to meet that criteria it required an additional physicality. You needed to be exerting yourself and not just sitting in a chair. For this reason, poker to him was just a game.

I would always try and come back with counter-arguments. Sure, things like chess and poker were in essence games, but they had a different sort of physicality that allowed them to obtain sporting status. Both require huge amounts of mental energy, and they require a ton of stamina and patience during tournaments that often last days at a time (I hate to think what would have happened if I had shown him Chess Boxing). 

Is darts a sport? What about snooker? How about pistol shooting - that's even in the Olympics.

My biggest counter always remained that everything was a game to start out, but what made a sport a sport was that it transitioned into a form of entertainment. I could go pick up a tree branch from the street and label "stick throwing" a sport, but unless other people would make the effort to watch me do it I was just tossing a stick around like an idiot.

I have a new one for Christophe that I'm sure will keep us in further heated debates for a long, long time - can you classify video gaming as a sport?

Professional Video Gaming, or eSports, is one of the fastest growing forms of entertainment in the world. Right now, the numbers are pretty staggering - in 2013 over 71 million people actively watched competitive gaming as a spectator.

Last year Amazon bought video game streaming platform Twitch for just shy of a billion dollars. That's a big bet on the future of the platform, but when you check out the numbers it makes perfect sense. In 2014 alone it achieved 16 billion minutes of streams and 100 million unique viewers a month.

On the professional side of things, the top gamers start to look like regular sports people. They train for hours a day in camps, do yoga and weights, and have coaches and dieticians (they even invest in brain mapping training to improve reaction speeds). They have fan clubs, and get growing paid endorsements. In 2013 prize money totalling $25 million was awarded to tournament winners.

There is big money on the business side as well. The Staples Centre in LA sold out for a League of Legends tournament in 2013. Major League Gaming is building an arena in China to run future competitions. And brands like Red Bull are lining up to try and get it on the action.

As technology starts to permeate our lives in increasingly complex ways, the lines between what we consider to be entertainment, competition and ultimately sports is going to keep getting tested. I'm sure I'm going to keep having to argue until I'm blue in the face with Christophe about poker, chess and video games, but in the end, if hundreds of millions of people are tuning in online to watch people essentially press buttons, he's going to have to convince a hell of a lot of people he's right.