Nutrition experts and health activists have been pushing Americans to drink less sugar water. That has sparked soda-tax campaigns and put pressure on the soft-drink companies, which don’t want to get cast as the next cigarette industry.
Now Coca-Cola has discovered that one of its responses to this pressure — selling its products in smaller portions, at a higher unit price — has a salutary side effect: It has boosted Coke’s profits (Bloomberg). Is this is a case of doing right leading to doing well? Or simply an instance of milking some desperate last profits from an aging product category before the march of demographic change leaves it behind? Either way, anything that helps people reduce sugar calories — or even better, replace them with more nourishing alternatives — deserves a cheer.
Could Diversity At the Top Have Saved Twitter?
Twitter is on the ropes, market-wise, for all sorts of reasons: it’s not growing as fast as investors hoped, and its effort to find a buyer foundered, in part because potential acquirers were spooked by Twitter’s troll-and-abuse problem (Fresh Air).
To be fair, Twitter was probably always doomed as a public company to the extent that it was being judged against Facebook and it was never going to grow as fast as its competitor. But could a more diverse leadership than Twitter’s white-guy team have been able to flag and fix the abuse problem sooner? “The original sin is a homogeneous leadership,” former senior execs told Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel.
That’s probably the most interesting argument to emerge out of this otherwise run-of-the-mill Silicon Valley story. We can’t run the tape backwards and see if it’s right. But we can learn from it.
If you’re building a service that you hope and expect will scale up to a diverse mass user base — filled with people who are not like yourself, whoever you may be — then you’d better design the service to anticipate as many of those people’s needs as you can.
You can’t plan for everything! But you can certainly plan more flexibly by incorporating a wide variety of perspectives. Diversity: It’s not only ethical, it’s a smart way to design products.
Innovation Has Left the Valley
Silicon Valley’s dominance of tech is doomed, says AOL founder Steve Case (Business Insider). The cradle of tech civilization has had a long run building pure-software plays, but now that the business of digital transformation has moved out into the material world, the center can’t hold.
Case predicts that growth will spread out to regions and cities where existing industry know-how can partner with startup-fueled innovation — places like Omaha and St. Louis for farm tech, Albuquerque for water tech, and Pittsburgh for autonomous vehicles. If he’s right — and at NewCo, we’re a bit biased toward agreeing with him — then the engineering shortages and cost-of-living torments that afflict the Bay Area may end up correcting themselves, and cities around the world may well be in for a renaissance.
Gene-Personalized Meals on Demand
Starting in January, a new company called Habit will send you a kit, analyze your personal biological traits, lay out a personalized healthy diet for you, then drop that food at your door (The Ringer). It’s a disruption triple play: genomics, self-tracking, and meal delivery in one package.
Can Habit break open the field of personalized nutrition? Or is it running the risk of being the next Theranos, the blood-testing startup that won acclaim for innovations that it never delivered on? Scientists raise questions about Habit’s secretive approach to assessing users’ metabolic profiles: As one says, “Anything proprietary is marketing.” One thing’s for sure: If you can provide people with useful, accurate insight into their own metabolisms, you’re going to have a winner on your hands.
Love or Money? Take the Cash
“If your work isn’t what you love, then something isn’t right.” The Talking Heads sang that decades ago, and since then “follow your passion” has become a universal rule of the “what will you be when you grow up?” game. Not so fast, writes Catherine Baab-Muguira in Quartz.
First of all, that advice “is probably much better advice for someone who’s born rich, or holds a tenured academic position, than it is for the rest of us 99 percenters.” Second, it can lead us to devalue and disrespect all the dull and/or dirty work that society needs to have done and that people take on because it pays their bills. Finally, maybe monetizing your passion is doing it no favors: “Why not side hustle for love, and keep the filthy hands of commerce off our art or beloved hobby?” On the plus side, working for money gives you lots of clarity.