Cautionary tales

Growth tsunami

DHH’s essay on the poison prevalent among a great deal of startup culture is both a cautionary tale in terms of the insanity of seeking high growth and an exit, and a useful lesson on what happens when you bootstrap and grow slow.
Much to be gleaned from this.

Review – Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger L. Martin

Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger L. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A useful explanation of what makes for design thinking.

As a design thinker, having some of Martin’s articulate words in your head will no doubt be of use when you need to explain what it is you do and how you do it to the more reliability-oriented, deductive thinkers you’ll encounter almost every day.

Martin goes to great effort to distinguish the validity-centric design thinker’s abductive, “what if” mindset as a key tool, balanced against the reliability-centric mindset of most of the world, focused on ensuring repeatability and low levels of variation. So too, he makes a powerful point that for many design thinkers, the tools we trade in – understanding and empathy, language, context – are something that in working with clients or in the businesses that employ us, we allow to grate rather than seeing that in itself as a design thinking challenge. Clever!

Not a book of practical, try this, tools for design thinkers, Martin’s book, rather, seeks to explain the nature of thinking and working this way for those curious as to what design thinking IS.

For the design thinker, there will be many “Yes!” moments, but an equal number of “Why is he explaining this?” ones. Remember, this book is not for you, the design thinker, but a tool to help you explain why and how you do what you do. Get your boss to read it.

Utilitarian

This is where you need to be very utilitarian, testing every one of your commitments for a straight line connection to your objectives and desired results. Don’t get caught up in the fuzzy math of paybacks-in-the-future. In your mind, the future is about 120 days, and not much further.

Efficiency. Effectiveness. Satisfaction. No wastage.

Mentoring

I find it odd when I see CEOs spending so little time mentoring their employees. You may not find it in the required curriculum of a fancy MBA program but mentoring is crucial to business success.

Good tips. Simple. JFDI.

A better kind of business – Patagonia

Here’s how it works. Flexible Purpose Corporations can write one or more special missions into their articles of incorporation. They can be as ambitious as fighting climate change or as modest as maintaining a park near the company’s office. The law instructs directors to consider the special aims in their decision-making, even when it could mean lower returns for investors. To make the appeal as broad as possible, the law’s authors avoided setting a minimum standard for what a “special purpose” could be.

From an article on the outdoor clothing/adventure company Patagonia and its adoption of a new incorporation model under California law.

I strongly believe we need similar laws in Australia.

Here’s how it works

Here’s how it works. Flexible Purpose Corporations can write one or more special missions into their articles of incorporation. They can be as ambitious as fighting climate change or as modest as maintaining a park near the company’s office. The law instructs directors to consider the special aims in their decision-making, even when it could mean lower returns for investors. To make the appeal as broad as possible, the law’s authors avoided setting a minimum standard for what a “special purpose” could be.

Patagonia Road Tests New Sustainability Legal Status – Bloomberg

We need similar laws in Australia, I believe.

Book Review – The New Capitalist Manifesto: Building a Disruptively Better Business by Umair Haque

I’ve never been one to conform, and Havas Media Lab Director and HBR blogger, Umair Haque isn’t either. The radical re-imagining of economics and capitalism he proposes in The New Capitalist Manifesto is an idea for the 21st Century, rising out of the ashes of a still-burning post-Industrial economy. Illustrating his new economics through comparisons between old economics (and the companies living off it) and the new “betterness”-based economics, Haque argues extensively and convincingly that what organisations need to do in the 21st Century to continue to survive is focus on an operational model:

The twenty-first century capitalist’s agenda, in a nutshell, is to rethink the “capital”—to build organizations that are less machines, and more living networks of the many different kinds of capital, whether natural, human, social, or creative. And, second, to rethink the “ism”: how, when, and where the many different kinds of capital can be most productively seeded, nurtured, allocated, utilized—and renewed. What we need, then, is a new generation of renegades, laying deeper, stronger institutional cornerstones.

Haque’s argument resonates super-powerfully with me. While I certainly don’t have the chops to have written The New Capitalist Manifesto, it articulates many of the arguments I’ve put to people in the past 10 years; business today is no longer sustainable in the way it was before. It can’t go on cannibalising profits and circulating the same money (and making more and more “pretend” money that only exists in a computer somewhere. Business needs to act to add real social value and not only make money but make social goods as well, as Haque suggests, the paradigm needs a shift thus:

  • Loss advantage: From value chains to value cycles
  • Responsiveness: From value propositions to value conversations
  • Resilience: From strategy to philosophy
  • Creativity: From protecting a marketplace to completing a marketplace
  • Difference: From goods to betters

I can’t recommend The New Capitalist Manifesto strongly enough, and also highly recommend Umair Haque’s new, short ebook, Betterness, which extends his articulation of some of the themes in this book. If it was mathematically possible to give a book 6/5, I would give it here.