RIP Tony Hsieh

I first came across Tony Hsieh when I read his book Delivering Happiness soon after it was published in 2010. I remember immediately being captivated by his story as a scrappy but ultimately successful tech start-up founder, and then as an early investor and employee at ShoeSite (later Zappos).

There he focused on people and tested ‘radical’ management concepts such as:

Pay brand-new employees $2,000 to quit
Make customer service the responsibility of the entire company-not just a department
Focus on company culture as the #1 priority
Apply research from the science of happiness to running a business
Help employees grow-both personally and professionally
Seek to change the world
Oh, and make money too . . .

Aside from these techniques which helped propel Zappos into the hands of Amazon for $1B+ , the bigger impact for me was how ‘simply’ he was able to communicate in the pages of the book. There was a real ‘humanity’ with the way he wrote which was in stark contrast from most other best-selling leadership and business books of that era (e.g. Jack Welsh).

You got a real sense that the author really cared about using business as a means to do good, and make money for not just himself but colleagues and investors. I later learned that he deployed significant amounts of his wealth into various regeneration and gentrification projects around Las Vegas (according to various reports, some were successful, others not so much).

The world of entrepreneurship is certainly worse-off with Tony’s loss.

For more context on Tony’s life and the impact he had, this NY Times obituary is well worth a read.

RIP Tony.

Google Home Working Until July 2021

After I saw the Google announcement in the NY Post I posted this comment on LinkedIn and Twitter earlier today:

“Big tech tend to be the test bed for new HR practices although many do not go mainstream. Even with the pandemic I still don’t think this will hit mass market either mainly due to powerful old school bureaucratic orgs, entrenched work practices, and many baby boomer leaders holding on for control”.

As a glass-half-full-guy I hope I am wrong here, but having worked in and consulted to many large and small organisations on almost all continents, I can’t see a majority of businesses following suit.

It will be fascinating to track what happens on this issue (and all other organisational behavioural) issues over time.

 

 

4 Key Takeaways From The US Big Tech ‘Monopoly’ Hearings

The House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, concluded today’s daylong hearing by hinting at what might lie ahead as lawmakers ponder federal regulations to hold the four companies — worth nearly a combined $5 trillion — to account.

In summary, Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., says Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple operate like monopolies and need to be broken up or regulated.

“These companies as they exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up. All need to be properly regulated and held accountable,” said Cicilline, adding that antitrust laws written a century ago need to be updated for the digital age.

“When these laws were written, the monopolists were men named Rockefeller and Carnegie,” he said. “Today the men are named Zuckerberg, Cook, Pichai and Bezos. Once again, their control of the marketplace allows them to do whatever it takes to crush independent business and expand their own power. This must end.”

This power has been obvious for many years (and accelerated in 2020 due to COVID) however the political will has never been there until now, and agreeing the exact nature of the ‘stick’ or remedies to sort out the issues is never an easy task.

According to NPR, 4 key takeaways from today include the following:

  1. Bezos “can’t guarantee” Amazon never used seller data to make its own products
  2. Hurting the competition emerges as Democrats’ primary charge against Big Tech
  3. Republicans sidetrack hearing to air complaints over anti-conservative bias
  4. Missing from view? Zuckerberg’s reaction (when Bezos described social media as a “nuance destruction machine”)

NPR do a great job filling out the details and you can read the full article here

American Carnage

Watching from afar what happened with George Floyd and the aftermath in the United States (somewhere I have lived, worked and been educated, and where family and friends live) is incredibly distressing.

Whilst I have seen the last few days coming for many years based on similar policy brutality cases the ever more untenable income and wealth distribution accelerates, among other factors, I can’t help but think that this is an unbelievable moment and period for the future of the US in the lead up to the November elections.

Not only for its citizens of all creed and colour, but for brand USA and its role, relevance, and impact in the world going forward.

Put simply, at the Presidential elections in November, the US will decide which path it wants to continue down. Currently, the White House is occupied by a President who has been inciting violence from the beginning of his candidacy, and now appears to be revelling in the use of force and power against citizens (rather than seeking to bring the nation together).

What better way for him to distract from the 100,000 COVID-19 deaths following one of the most bungled governmental responses of all nations.

Enough is enough.

If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals – President Obama

In terms of what happens next, President Obama provides further guidance:

  • The waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States.
  • A small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk
  • The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels
  • We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform
  • Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times

I am no expert of American history but it feels like America is at a real tipping point. I hope Obama is right, and that over the next few months and beyond, the turning point and real change for the better happens, fast.

 

 

 

Taking Action

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A few weeks ago I posted about the impact the passing of Professor Clayton Christensen had on me from afar. At the end of the post I indicated that it would likely cause a change in my own career direction, and that I would update at some time in the future.

I didn’t think an update post would be required after only a few weeks, but given the impact his passing has had on me, I think it is warranted. Since that post, I have:

  • Investigated and commenced applications to various post-graduate courses (PhD, MPhil, MRes) at universities in London, Cambridge, Oxford and Surrey
  • Set up calls for March with the Clayton Christensen Institute in Boston (including Clayton’s co-author on the Prosperity Paradox)
  • Reached out to various people in my network for advice including my former university lecturer (now Professor at Imperial Business School); my university boss who hired me to tutor Strategic Management and is now running learning programmes in Myanmar; a former managing director at Accenture – who I trekked Kiliminjaro with – who ran the not-for-profit consulting arm focused on emerging markets; a friend with extensive international development experience who runs a social impact consultancy to the financial investment sector.
  • Read The Prosperity Paradox and How To Measure Your Life, plus purchased other Christensen books which I had not yet read
  • Started initial research into other scholars, academics, and researchers who have studied the relationship between innovation, prosperity and economic development
  • Brain-stormed and and continued to iterate on various research topics to explore during post-graduate studies
  • Developed a new plan on how I want to spend the next decade professionally to provide more fulfilment and alignment with values
  • Spoke to an executive coach to help me process my thinking and future actions

It is certainly amazing what can happen when life throws a curve-ball that lights an unexpected fire that provides long overdue focus and realignment with work that matters. Exciting times ahead.