Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This is often interpreted as culture being more important than strategy. These might not even be his words, which makes it hard to know his thoughts, but having built a company to almost 500 people, it’s obvious to me that culture isn’t more important than strategy, it is strategy.
I am confident he knew this. He worked with the Japanese manufacturing companies in developing their culture of kaizen, which helped them to dominate the automobile manufacturing world, and their practices have gone on to fundamentally change manufacturing as an industry.
Launching at Shift Forum, JFF Labs partners with innovators to scale economic advancement solutions for the 99 percent
As many of you know, this year’s Shift Forum is the second annual gathering of leaders convening to address big issues we won’t have a second chance to solve. If last year’s event symbolized a collective recognition of the problems we face, this year marks a shared commitment to move the needle in addressing them. Key pillars include business transformation, politics and policy, and the future of work. All of us are concerned with how we will pull off the moonshot of our time — establishing social contracts for the 99 percent. Specifically, how will we sustain families and opportunity for dignified work in the face of automation and rapid change?
To that end, I’m heartened to spotlight a unique effort — the launch of JFFLabs — and I am equally thrilled to say it was created as a result of last year’s Shift Forum.
I caught up recently with Maria Flynn, CEO of JFF, a leading national nonprofit that drives transformational change in the American labor and training markets. Maria was a powerful star at the Department of Labor before spending 10 years leading JFF’s Workforce team. Last year she became CEO at JFF and is casting a vision for a future in which economic mobility, dignified work, and automation are equal partners in the American dream.
The trend of disruption in traditional media and entertainment models seems to be growing stronger every day. It’s now commonplace to read about mega mergers between enormous companies, record contracts doled out to content producers, and newly minted businesses overseen by brilliant minds that promise to finally capitalize on the opportunity presented by new formats like mobile video.
In an environment where there are a virtually endless amount of interesting cases, though, one in particular stands out to me, Hulu. Sitting at an intersection of a few different pieces of the media environment, Hulu offers a unique case. It’s a streaming service, and it recently added a package with live TV. It boasts The Handmaid’s Tale, a show that won Outstanding Drama series before any show from Netflix or Amazon did, but it is not typically considered to be on the same tier as either of those players. It’s owned by Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, and Turner, meaning that it has a major interest in how both the AT&T/Time Warner (Turner’s parent company) and Disney/21st Century Fox mergers play out. It has an impressive 17 million subscribers, and yet it lost a reported $920 million last year.
It’s time for the platforms to admit their response is flawed, and work together to protect our civil discourse.
This is not an easy essay to write, because I have believed that technology companies are a force for good for more than 30 years. And for the past ten years, I’ve been an unabashed optimist when it comes to the impact of social platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and even Facebook. I want to believe they create more good than bad in our world. But recently I’ve lost that faith.
What’s changed my mind is the recalcitrant posture of these companies in the face of overwhelming evidence that their platforms are being intentionally manipulated to undermine our democracy. This is an existential crisis, both for civil society and for the health of the businesses being manipulated. But to date the response from the platforms is the equivalent of politicians’ “hopes and prayers” after a school shooting: Soothing murmurs, evasion of truly hard conversations, and a refusal to acknowledge the core problem: Their automated business models.
A friend of mine worked for an online dating company whose audience was predominantly hetero 30-somethings. At some point, they realized that a large number of the “female” accounts were actually bait for porn sites and 1–900 numbers. I don’t remember if users complained or if they found it themselves, but they concluded that they needed to get rid of these fake profiles. So they did.
And then their numbers started dropping. And dropping. And dropping.
P&G, Unilever and others are throwing their weight around with Google and Facebook. The platforms can afford to ignore them.
The IAB annual meeting — an industry event featuring all manner of digital media and marketing folk — is in full swing right about now, and it’s managed to capture a news cycle by releasing an early draft of a speech from Keith Weed, CMO of consumer packaged goods giant Unilever. The Journalcovers the story here, and here’s the (literal) money quote: “‘We will prioritize investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society,’ [Weed] will say, according to prepared remarks.”
Put another way: Clean up the fake news, the addictive manipulation, and the AI-driven kid bait, or we’ll pull hundreds of millions of dollars from YouTube, Facebook, and Google. The result could be a major bonanza for huge publishers like Oath and Amazon, and perhaps for media outlets with less scale such as Vox, Axios, and Buzzfeed. Sounds like a big loss for the platforms, no?
Well, maybe. I was on the board of the IAB for many years, I helped lead its fraud efforts, and I’ve worked closely with huge advertisers like Unilever. And upon seeing this news, my only question is this: Will it even matter?
Our best stories of the past month, served up fresh.
Here’s your latest edition of NewCo Shift Monthly, a roundup of top NewCo Shift stories. Highlights include Facebook’s conundrum, tech addiction, an alternative in Pinterest, the impact of Amazon Go, and a sneak peek to NewCo Shift Forum February 26th-28th, in which we will be discussing some of these issues with key players in business and society.
Let us know the type of stories you are interested in us covering at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, and for those Medium claps. It means a lot to us.
In the world of the future, automated perfection is going to be common. Machines will bake perfect cakes, perfectly schedule appointments and keep an eye on your house. What is going to be scarce is human imperfection.
We are still early in the early days of these developments, but we’re already seeing an uptake in artisanship. As Economist’s Ryan Avent writes, the trend offers clues about the future economy:
Craft is, in general, far less well-paid than professional work. Yet the benefits it offers — the satisfaction of controlling one’s own destiny, acquiring a range of skills, creating beautiful and delicious things, forming friendships with suppliers and customers — make up for the reduced incomes and ensure that there is a small, steady migration of professionals into the craft economy.
Clearly, we’re tired of politics. Bring on the escapism, please!
Was it me, or did the Super Bowl feel … less frantic than usual this year? It was as if the collective will of capitalism — because let’s face it, that’s pretty much what the Super Bowl has become — had decided to ignore the anxiety of our political climate, and instead focus on the essence of entertainment: Humor, shared values, and advertising for advertising’s sake. The point is to sell stuff, after all. And given we’ve all been addicted to a potent and poisonous political drug for the past year, it seems we’re all in the mood for some serious group rehab. The ads didn’t disappoint. (The game was damn good too, and that certainly helped immensely.)
Another major theme was corporations touting their essential goodness — Bud sending water to disaster zones, Hyundai saving kids from cancer — but these well intentioned approaches failed to truly land their punches (more on that in a second). I watched the entire five or so hours — it was strange to release my thumb from hovering over the fast forward function on my DVR remote. And while plenty of the ads elicited eye rolls, very few were out and out duds. Here are some of my picks.
We’re in the final stretch leading up to NewCo Shift Forum and are pleased to announce the nominees for the NewCo Honors, our annual awards for organizations doing well by doing good. Nominees are all market leaders and well-known names in their respective sectors, but what makes them significant through the NewCo lens is their commitment to leading in a new market with significant positive impact. They are the embodiment of business on a mission. NewCo Honors are given annually for actions in the previous year.
All of these organizations are “NewCos” based on our editorial narrative, which we have written about extensively, refined, and clarified over the years. They are a new kind of company, one that measures its success by more than profit. They are purpose-driven, information-first, networked, and, most importantly, on a mission.