The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories
You’ve heard of the dangers of driving while texting, but here’s a new peril: Accounting while tweeting. That appears to have been the root of the problem with the massive Oscar-night fiasco that led to the wrong movie being declared Best Picture (Variety). President Trump may have complained that Oscar presenters were “focused so hard on politics” that they botched the ceremony. But the real culprit was digital distraction.
That’s right: Brian Cullinan, the PricewaterhouseCoopers partner who handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope, was busy tweeting a photo of Best Actress winner Emma Stone moments before. (He has since deleted his messages.)
Whether it was motivated by vanity, boredom, or some aggressive social-media marketing strategy, Cullinan is surely regretting his prioritization of phone photos over diligence. Could there be a higher-profile illustration of the value of staying in the moment as you are executing some mission-critical responsibility? When life hands you Oscar envelopes to distribute, keep your eye on the prize! Let someone else take the pic and send the tweet. Also: While Twitter may be the siren that led Cullinan to mess up, it was also the best place to watch a crowd of detectives figure out the whole two-envelope explanation.
(Bonus read: The Oscar foulup might be just the proof we need that “we are living in a computer simulation and something has recently gone haywire within it,” writes The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik.)
Capitalism Could Be In Its Final Innings
Everything that has a beginning has an end. Why shouldn’t that be as true for capitalism as it is for everything else?
That’s the basic idea behind German sociologist Wolfgang Streeck’s increasingly popular work, with titles like How Will Capitalism End? (Justin Fox in Bloomberg). Streeck does not sees the cumulative woes of the global economy as an engineering problem amenable to a fix. That would be an economist’s approach, for which Streeck has some dismissive language. Here’s his description of former U.S. treasury secretary Lawrence Summers: “the most influential service mechanic of the stuttering capitalist accumulation machine.”
Instead, Streeck takes a historical approach with an almost biological spin: If economic systems have life-cycles, we should consider the possibility that ours is in mortal decline (a view that’s echoed in the widely used terminology of “late-stage capitalism”).
As Fox explains Streeck’s analysis, “It’s only when democratic political forces can keep the market in check that it really delivers the goods as far as growth and prosperity, but in a global economy without a global state, those democratic forces don’t have much power,” and the system starts to fail. That doesn’t guarantee that we’re in for capitalism’s death throes. But we can surely count on an era of economic crisis and conflict.
CEO Coach Or Buddhist Therapist?
Why do fledgling tech CEOs keep turning to a coach named Jerry Colonna for advice, training, and support? A cofounder of the dotcom-era venture fund Flatiron Partners, Colonna has plenty of business experience, but his appeal lies in a more psychological direction (Jessi Hempel in Backchannel).
In working with his CEOs, Colonna “empowers them to take on — and tend to — their own mental health issues,” Hempel writes. He does so, in part, by telling stories of depression and recovery from his own rollercoaster career.
Colonna tutors his charges with New Age touches and dashes of Buddhist philosophy leading to a “radical self-inquiry.” If these executives can come to terms with their own conflicts and doubts, they’re more likely to be able to help their companies and their colleagues achieve their goals. It sounds kind of like therapy, and it probably is, but whatever you call it, it seems to work.
What Patent Maps Reveal About Company Culture
There are many different ways to understand the work of a giant tech corporation. Here’s a fascinating one that may not be on your radar: Map their patent networks. That’s what design studio Periscopic did to Apple and Google (Co.Design), and the result is two strikingly different images: Both look like biological cells, but Apple’s has distinct nuclei whereas Google’s is more of a hazy blob.
That’s because Apple’s innovations are centered on its design studio, led by Jony Ive, whereas Google’s patent ownership is more broadly spread out in the company, thanks to its more decentralized approach. Apple has fewer total inventor/patent-holders, but individually they’re more productive, on average.
Patents, of course, are only one measure of what’s really important at a company. Next we’d like to see similar distribution charts for metrics like tweet frequency and coffee consumption.