Business is a game with rules, not immutable laws


Axel Hartmann | Flickr

We set the rules of business’s game. We can change them. As new tech and new ideas restructure our economic world, Tim O’Reilly writes, we shouldn’t just sit back and assume that the “laws of economics” will assure an optimal outcome for all. For example: Uber has designed an amazing new transportation system around the needs of consumers, business, and investors — but by failing to take into account the needs of its drivers, it’s not only making their lives harder, it’s assuring backlash down the road. The Uber world needs, among other things, drivers who can deliver good rides, and it’s not going to get them unless it treats them fairly, as stakeholders. Systems that assume humans are expendable can’t succeed in the long run: that’s a “failed rule.”

Court to FCC: If states block public internet access, you can’t stop them. A federal appeals court has just made it a lot harder for cities trying to promote municipal broadband alternatives to the cable monopolies (Washington Post). The Federal Communications Commission has tried to give these public-sector options a chance, but many states have passed laws to hold them in check, and now the courts say the states, and not the FCC, should call the shots. The ruling is more about arcane principles of federalism than the practical needs of internet users. But that won’t help people still waiting for faster speeds and better service. The FCC can still appeal the decision (Ars Technica).

Who will drive the driverless future? The transition to self-driving cars offers a gigantic do-over opportunity for our economy, writes Zipcar founder Robin Chase (Backchannel). We can use this transition to save the climate, revitalize our cities, and reduce inequality — but not if we just plug autonomous vehicles into the old world and let things play out. The changes are happening now, and unless we rewrite our laws and adapt our practices to them, we’re in for “a nightmare of pollution, congestion, and social unrest.”

Thirty companies, thirty missions. Here’s a useful compendium of mission-driven startups compiled by training outfit Tradecraft: 30 companies that are startup-like in form, technology-oriented, and “focused on fulfilling basic needs of people who are typically underserved.” Some here, like, Donors Choose, and Khan Academy, you might well know about already; but you’ll probably also make some new introductions — like Kenya’s OkHi (access to services for people without physical addresses) or New York’s Healthify (connecting healthcare with community services).

Also in NewCo Shift: In “How a single conversation with my boss changed my view on delegation and failure,” Facebook product design VP Margaret Gould Stewart explains how an off-putting question helped her share responsibility and manage better. And Palo Alto planning and transportation commissioner Kate Vershov Downing explains why she’s resigning and moving to Santa Cruz (hint: the rent is too damn high).

NewCo Festival — now in Shanghai, too. NewCo’s unique event, offering inside views of companies making positive change, comes to Shanghai on Sept. 13, in partnership with Chinaccelerator. Details here.

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