Thinks 170

The dangers of decision fatigue: from The Economist. “Taking a break can boost productivity…Mental activity can result in physical exhaustion, as anyone who has spent a day in successive meetings can attest. In the middle of a business trip, nothing can seem more enticing than the solitary silence of a hotel room, with no clients to amuse or placate in sight. Breaks can also boost creativity. It is easy for the brain to develop tunnel vision when it is working hard. There are times when the mind needs to roam free.”

Meritocracy, Not Democracy, Is the Golden Ticket to Growth: by . “The price of abandoning it will be less wealth and more poverty…The surest sign that a country will be economically successful is not the health of its democracy, as some liberals like to think, or the leanness of its government, as some free-marketers imagine, but its commitment to meritocracy. Singapore is a soft authoritarian power. But it has transformed itself in a few decades from a poverty-stricken swamp into one of the world’s most prosperous countries, with a higher standard of living and a longer life expectancy than its old colonial master, because it is perhaps the world’s leading practitioner of meritocracy. The Scandinavian countries have some of the world’s largest governments and most generous welfare states. But they retain their positions at the top of international league tables of prosperity and productivity in large part because they are committed to high-quality education, good government and, beneath their communitarian veneer, competition; in other words — meritocracy.”

James Otteson: “What markets enable, then, is extensive networks of cooperation. Indeed, the networks can become so vast that it might be literally impossible to know or trace them all. Adam Smith claimed – in the eighteenth century – that an attempt to trace out all the links in even a single chain of cooperation “exceeds all computation.”” [via CafeHayek]

Thinks 169

Rita McGrath: “Here’s the problem – today’s successful business is almost certainly not tomorrow’s. While this sounds utterly obvious, many companies don’t seem to deal with resource allocation in a way that recognizes this problem. For most managers, running a large, successful business is what put them in the powerful positions they have. Contemplating shrinking that business or redeploying its assets and capabilities to somebody else’s business is not in their own personal best interest. The result is that valuable resources – people, actually, even more than money – get used to shore up the position of businesses that are starting to fade. This may eke out a little more time for the managers in charge, but it can put an organization at a devastating disadvantage by the time the declining fortunes of a once-powerful business are obvious to everybody.”

How To Avoid High Conflict: Yascha Mounk talks to Amanda Ripley. “Investigative journalist Amanda Ripley believes good conflict can help solve deep political divides. But when it escalates beyond the point of no return, it becomes “high conflict”: a fight less about the issue at hand and more about owning the other side. In her new book, she chronicles how dangerous high conflict is to individuals and societies—and offers suggestions for how to dig yourself out of it.”

The Extent of the Market is Limited By the Imagination of the Regulators: by Art Carden. “When entrepreneurs have to ask people for permission to innovate, they are limited to what the regulators can understand or at least imagine. Government regulation doesn’t exactly lend itself to real novelty, nor does it lend itself to seemingly strange cultural transplants…If the regulators lack the imagination to successfully design a pencil, it is hardly clear that they have the imagination to successfully design an effective and efficient regulatory framework.”

Thinks 168

How Journaling Can Help You Live Your Best Life: from WSJ. “Just 10 minutes a day of writing can be effective, says an author and life coach who suggests: ‘make yourself the hero in a story of your own making.’” Lara Zielin: “What makes journaling most effective is this idea of welcoming stillness and reflection. Where we get stuck is that in our culture everything is screaming at us to not stop.”

Donald Boudreaux: “Modernity is not normal; it has been around for a paltry 0.1 percent of humans’ time on earth. And the reason modernity is not normal is that liberalism – the source of the division of labor and, thus, of modernity – is not normal. We humans are not genetically encoded to be liberal. Therefore, Hannan argues, there is every reason to expect that we humans will revert to our historical norm – the norm that is in our genes.The reaction to Covid-19 is powerful evidence that our primitive instincts remain alive and ready to reestablish their dominance over the happy accident that is the culture, and resulting institutions, of liberalism. The hysterical fear that Covid stirred in so many people – including in many who are highly educated, of a scientific mindset, and, until Covid, of a liberal bent – and the sheepishness with which people followed the “leaders” who promised protection from Covid prompts Dan Hannan to worry that 2020-2021 is the beginning of the end of modernity.Chances are high that he’s correct. And if he is, civilization as we know it will end.”

Shane Parish: “There are two types of talent: natural and chosen. Natural talent needs no explanation. Some people are just born better at certain things than others. While natural talent may win in the short term, it rarely wins in the long term. A lot of people who are naturally talented don’t develop work at getting better. Eventually, naturally talented people are passed by people who choose talent. How can you choose talent? When you focus all of your energy in one direction for an uncommonly long period of time, you develop talent. Results follow obsession.”

Thinks 167

How API-based SaaS is redefining software: by Markus Suomi. “Many of us, as consumers, are spending more and more of our money on digital products and services rather than physical products. In addition, many of our physical activities and products now also have digital components. These trends are likely to increase over time. For example, our cars stand idle most of the time and are underutilized, which has led to software that enables efficiencies like carsharing services and other ways of increasing the utilization rate of physical products like cars. These products and components will become more efficient through digital services, and digital services will be built on APIs.”

Building Products at Stripe: by Ken Norton. “Go deep, move fast, and build multi-decade abstractions.”

Pierre Lemieux: “The public-choice school of economics, developed since the mid-20th century, assumes that an individual who moves from the private sector to the public sector, whether as a government bureaucrat or a politician, remains the same mostly self-interested individual. He does not metamorphose into an altruist angel. This view of “politics without romance” (to quote James Buchanan) led to new and fruitful explanations of government actions. We should expect that a president (or another top ruler) will, if not effectively constrained by institutions (constitution, laws, and other sets of established rules), redefine his own self-interest as the “public interest.” Even if he wanted to do good for all citizens, he would typically be unable to do so because not all of them have the same preferences about what is good for them; so he better promote the public interest that is good for him.”

Thinks 166

Techcrunch has an interview with Ali Tamaseb, the author of Super Founders, “a new book aims to blow up assumptions about the best founding teams.” Ali: “Around 60% of these “super founders” started something earlier, and many actually lost a bunch of money; just 42% of them had a previous exit of $10 million or more, so the majority had “failed” in the world of venture capital. But [the data suggests that] practice makes perfect.”

How Humanity Gave Itself an Extra Life: by Steven Johnson, excerpted from his new book “Extra Life.” “Between 1920 and 2020, the average human life span doubled. How did we do it? Science mattered — but so did activism.”

Deirdre McCloskey and Alberto Mingardi: “Profits signal the preferences of ordinary people massing about in markets, proving that a certain move, a certain technique, a certain innovation has been wisely put forward. Entrepreneurs are free to enter new lands, imagine useful goods and graceful services. Consumers are free to choose. Such a negative liberty has led in the past two centuries to an enormous increase, too, in the ill-named “positive liberty,” also known as “income.”” [via CafeHayek]

Thinks 165

Six Customer Data Points You Should Be Tracking: by Software Equity Group. “Tracking customer metadata helps you identify opportunities to improve sales efficiency, expand revenue, and increase retention. These metadata, typically captured through CRM or user level analytic software, provide important customer insights so you can deploy sales and marketing efforts on the segments with the greatest return on investment. Here are six customer data points every SaaS CEO should be tracking: customer size, industry, geography, active users, user persona, products and modules.”

The Unicorn Boom: Shareholder issues: by Akash Prakash. “Entrepreneurs must think through their choices on their listing venue, shareholder base, and valuations.”

Arnold Kling on how to make Twitter less rude: “Introduce a buddy system…Have each Twitter user designate a buddy to whom your tweets are directed. If my hypothesis is correct, then simply having a single person in mind who you respect would temper your rudeness as you tweet. And if enough people on Twitter temper their rudeness, then good manners would replace bullying and put-downs as social norms.”

Thinks 164

Simon Winchester in an essay on technology: “Japan introduced the bullet train, the Shinkansen, in 1964…No accident attended its first journeys, nor in any of the journeys in the years and decades since. These days the Tokaido line, running between Tokyo and Osaka, sends ultra-high-speed trains in each direction every six minutes on average, 130,000 of them each year. Four hundred and twenty-five thousand passengers are carried every day along the three-hundred-mile route, at speeds of up to 180 miles per hour. The average delay is just twenty-four seconds. Not a single person has ever been killed on the line.”

You are a network: by Kathleen Wallace. “You cannot be reduced to a body, a mind or a particular social role. An emerging theory of selfhood gets this complexity…The network self view envisions an enriched self and multiple possibilities for self-determination, rather than prescribing a particular way that selves ought to be. That doesn’t mean that a self doesn’t have responsibilities to and for others. Some responsibilities might be inherited, though many are chosen. That’s part of the fabric of living with others. Selves are not only ‘networked’, that is, in social networks, but are themselves networks. By embracing the complexity and fluidity of selves, we come to a better understanding of who we are and how to live well with ourselves and with one another.”

The Five Biggest Mistakes Companies Make With Customer Surveys: by Utpal Dholakia in WSJ. “Among them: They ask too many questions, or too few.”

Thinks 163

Parry Ravindranathan on podcasting, writing in BloombergQuint [Audio Media In The 21st Century]: Rebirth Of The Spoken Word: “You can listen while doing other things like cooking, reading, nodding your head during annoying zoom meetings and—parents will agree here—during times when you need a release from dealing with your kids. You don’t have to be fully engaged like with video. In India, the third-largest podcast market in the world after the U.S. and China, the growth has been enormous in all languages. India has its own platforms in JioSaavn and Gaana in addition to the global players and they have all gained large audiences.”

Bo Ilsoe: A multi-part series on the “incomplete guide to leadership”. From Part 1: “A hierarchical responsibility — a title — is by nomination. Leadership is not. Leadership is the innate individual expression and empowerment of others who take you toward your goals. This empowerment motivates and enables others to contribute. Done well, leadership results in contributions delivered unselfishly by stakeholders and employees alike. They will apply themselves and marshal resources, with the company’s mission as their North Star. Leadership is an emergent skill for every individual. Throughout our lives, we can learn as leaders. Leadership is cultural. It is contextual. There are common characteristics of great leadership, but they are expressed and delivered by individuals. Leadership is a journey of self-discovery.”

How India shackles its small businesses: by Gireesh Chandra Prasad in Mint.

Thinks 162

Nancy Sherman: “The early Stoics taught that we are world citizens connected to all of humanity through our reason. Marcus Aurelius paints a graphic image in his “Meditations.” He jots his notes in the quiet of nightfall after a day of battle during the Germanic campaigns. The detritus of the battlefield is on his mind: Picture a hand and head lying apart from the rest of the body. This is what a person makes of himself when he cuts himself off from the world. We can’t be “at home in the world,” a Stoic catchphrase, if the good is reduced to self-interest, or grit is defined as go-it-alone self-reliance.” [NYTimes]

A 2016 essay by TCA Srinivasa Raghavan on the Indian Constitution: “The simple truth is that although it is a fine document from an aspirations point of view, it is simply not a practical one for a politically independent India. It suffers from two flaws. One is that its design and purpose is a colonial one: that is, of a very strong central government that the British had prescribed via the Government of India Act, 1935. That Act was not designed for change or even managing change; it was prescribed for maintaining the status quo. The other problem is that it gets into too much detail of the administrative kind.”

Donald Boudreaux: “Government borrowing changes the identities of the particular taxpayers who incur the costs of government projects; government borrowing does not, however, enable taxpayers – considered as a group over time – to escape these costs. Government projects undertaken today and paid for with current tax revenues are paid for by taxpayers today. Government projects undertaken today and paid for with borrowed funds are paid for by those taxpayers who will be responsible for servicing and repaying the debt – namely, taxpayers tomorrow. While in principle some worthwhile projects – such as a hydroelectric dam that will operate for 75 years – are better funded with debt than with currently raised tax revenues, even these projects are costly. Buchanan warned that debt-financing’s shifting of the burden of paying for government projects and programs from current taxpayers to future taxpayers will incite current taxpayers to consume too much through government.

Thinks 161

How mRNA became a vaccine game-changer: from FT. “Rossi was inspired by Shinya Yamanaka, a Japanese scientist who had proved it was possible to turn any cell in the human body into an embryonic stem cell-like state by inserting four genes. Yamanaka’s discovery eventually won him the Nobel prize. But there was a problem: the genes he inserted ended up back in the DNA, a mutagenic event that increased a person’s chance of developing cancer…Rossi’s idea was to replicate the Japanese scientist’s achievement using mRNA instead, to reprogramme human skin cells so they could act as though they were stem cells.”

Eliot Peper: “Speculative fiction is all about asking “what if?” What if a lone astronaut got stranded on Mars? What if genetic engineers resurrected dinosaurs and stuck them in an amusement park? What if we are all living in a simulation? The question that sparked my latest novel, Veil, is “what if a billionaire hijacked the climate with geoengineering?” These questions are hooks. They capture the imagination and pique curiosity. That’s all well and good, but it’s only a starting point.To pay off a speculative setup, you need to keep the dominos falling as second-, third-, and fourth-order effects ripple out through the story. Momentum builds. Progressive complications tighten the ratchet. Unexpected reversals fling the reader forward.” [Techcrunch]

Atanu Dey on systems versus goals: “goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. That feeling wears on you. In time, it becomes heavy and uncomfortable. It might even drive you out of the game… In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system. In the exercise realm, running a marathon in under four hours is a goal, but exercising daily is a system. In business, making a million dollars is a goal, but being a serial entrepreneur is a system.”