Evolving Uber’s internal culture isn’t only the right thing for staff and drivers — it’s the most powerful way to repair the broken Uber brand.
So it looks as though Dara Khosrowshahi intends to accept the offer to become Uber’s next CEO.
Khosrowshahi’s name wasn’t talked about much during the endless who’s it going to be? machinations over the Uber CEO vacancy. But his appointment makes plenty of sense. After all, he’s been a stunningly successful CEO at Expedia for 12 years now. And both Expedia and Uber are, when it comes down to it, platform businesses that connect individual consumers to providers who can serve them. Khosrowshahi has quadrupled Expedia’s revenue since taking over in 2005.
Discussing the super AI debate with a man who helped start it
I recently recorded a wide-ranging interview with documentary filmmaker and author James Barrat about the actual risks a super AI could pose to humanity. His book, Our Final Invention, first rocketed to prominence after Elon Musk tweeted approval of it in the summer of 2014.
To access our interview, either:
Type “After On” into your podcast app’s search field, or . . .
Click the “play” button at the top of this page, or . . .
Click here, then click the blue “View on iTunes” button in the upper left corner of the page (requires iTunes, of course),
Legacy brands should find the global challenge they are best placed to solve, and get to work.
So Trump’s business councils fell apart after a host of CEOs quit in the wake of Charlottesville. For those of us obsessed by the future of business, last week was a telling one.
That the POTUS can’t hold together a collection of some of the country’s most senior business leaders says a lot. And it’s deeply welcome that so many CEOs decided after Charlottesville that they could no longer be associated with Trump (though, guys, who did you think he was when you joined the councils?).
The Google anti-diversity manifesto story is just one example of a powerful shift in what it means to be a brand.
So you took some time during the weekend to process the whole Google Anti-Diversity Manifesto scandal.
Just in case you virtuously stayed offline: an anonymous Google employee wrote a 10-page argument against the company’s efforts to improve diversity. It leaked and predictably got a lot of attention. You can read the whole thing here. But the core argument (warning, sexism ahead): there are fewer women in technical and leadership roles partly because of innate ‘biological’ differences between men and women. The author says that Google’s diversity initiatives ignore this core truth. In consequence they are ‘unfair, divisive and bad for business.’
Launching today, Brandless is rethinking everything about CPG, from its purpose to its pricing, distribution, and value proposition
Technology and mobility have redefined a huge swath of our lives, but when it comes to the brands we use every day — from laundry detergent to toilet paper — not much has changed. Sure, you can order online, but consumer packaged goods, or CPG as the category is called, are still run on a business model of mass media advertising and mass market distribution. Long time entrepreneur Tina Sharkey is on a mission to change that, and rethink CPG from the ground up. Her company Brandless launches today, but we had Sharkey at the NewCo Shift Forum back in February, where she gave an overview of her new company’s purpose.
Tina Sharkey: I’m going to give you an overview of what we’re doing and hopefully you’ll understand that we think we’re starting a revolution. Steve Jobs said in ’84 — I know he set the bar really low — he said mainframes, PCs, it’s all going to change. It absolutely did change, and we never looked back from that moment.
I don’t think they thought at that moment that this would happen. They thought merging music player and a phone was a great idea, but I don’t think they thought that you were going to hail taxis. I certainly don’t think they thought they were building a remote control for your life.
Launch Forth represents a new approach to product development
You’ve probably seen Local Motors’ unique and arresting automobiles around the Internet (the company is credited with creating the first 3D printed car), but what you may not know is that Local Motors has birthed a maker community and platform, Launch Forth, that engages more than 70,000 “solvers” who engage with projects from companies as diverse as GE, Boeing, and many more. In this short talk at the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, Elle Shelley, lead at Launch Forth, walks us through an entirely new kind of innovation platform.
John Battelle: The next speaker, Elle Shelley from Launch Forth, a division of Local Motors. If you haven’t heard of Local Motors, you just got to go Google it because the cars that they make are insane.
There’s a great story about a Zen master and a professor. When the professor visited the master to learn about the essence of Zen, the master served tea. He kept pouring after the professor’s cup was full, until the tea spilled onto the table. When the professor protested, the master put down the tea pot and said, “Just like your cup, you’re full of your own ideas. How can I show you Zen if you already think you know everything?”
When it comes to the transformation of our organizations in The Emergent Era, we’re all pretty much in the place of that professor. And in the place of the master, we’ve got the forces we’re all up against: acceleration, the rise of mobile and distributed systems, and the blending of the physical and digital worlds, to name a few.
We’re caught in between the structures of the future, which are still self-assembling, and the structures of the past, which are being disassembled. When it comes to getting things done, what we think we know about the how the world works is not always useful. To keep things moving, we have no choice but to unlearn.
This is a tough one for me.
I was one of those “little miss can’t-be-wrong” girls in school. Before the question was even out of the teacher’s mouth, my hand was up and my mind was straining with the desire to share what I knew. I loved the sense of control that came with being certain (as well as the gold star stickers that we got as rewards for having the right answer).
To move forward in my own career, and to help my organization move forward, I’ve had to change. I’ve had to make it a habit to clear my mind of what I know, including my unspoken assumptions, and approach things with a blank slate.
Here are three opportunities to unlearn that I try to spot and take advantage of:
Unlearning From the Customer. I have Eric Ries to thank for this one. If the essence of the work you’re doing is testing out a hypothesis, an assumption about the world, then the customer is where all your experimental feedback comes from. It’s the customer that tells you if your hypothesis is wrong or right. There is truly nothing that will clear out old assumptions faster than taking what you’re building and sharing it with somebody who might want to use it. If you’re willing to set your ego aside and really listen, the potential for productive unlearning here is vast. This is actually tougher than it sounds. As somebody who loves to share what I’ve learned and what I think is awesome about my projects, I’ve had to curtail that impulse to make this practice work.
Unlearning Through Curiosity. Sometimes, setting aside your emotions and direct impressions is a crucial skill. When we have a tight deadline, we can’t indulge every stray thought. But selectively listening to stray thoughts can be productive. If you find yourself dreading a project or consistently annoyed by it, it’s worth taking ten or fifteen minutes to think back to the moments when you felt that way and why. It might help you see the outlines of a problem that’s just below the surface. The same goes for sudden bursts of curiosity. At first blush, curiosity can actually look like distraction. But if something about your project is causing you and your team to ask a series of questions or go off on tangents, take a moment and ask yourselves why. Is there a potential opportunity lurking behind this curiosity, an assumption that could turn your work on its head? When curiosity crops up, don’t always ignore it. It might point out where your assumptions are holding you back.
Unlearning In Advance. Because of my vantage point at GE, by the time I see a project for the second or third time, a lot has happened. I’m often seeing work that a team has been digging into for weeks, even months, and I’m being asked to make an assessment. When I encounter works in progress in this way, I have to set a sharp limit for how much detail I’m going to allow myself to absorb. Too little, and I won’t be able to make an informed call. Too much, I’ll lose my outsider’s perspective, which is probably the most useful thing I can offer the team at that point. The ability to come in with a set of (carefully) uninformed questions can help people who’ve been close to something for too long see new ways forward. The catch is that I can’t allow my own curiosity to get the better of me — I have to consciously make myself stop taking in new information. As weird as it sounds, the less you know about a project, the more creative you can be.
How do you get rid of what you think you know? Do you know anybody who unlearns particularly well? What assumptions am I making here that I’m not even aware of? Let me know in the comments.
The fall of the Uber CEO signals a profound shift in what we mean by the word brand.
So Travis is gone. After persistent accusations of endemic sexism, a memo telling employees not to have sex ‘if you are in the same chain of command,’ and that time he berated a driver and the video went viral (obviously), the Uber CEO bowed to pressure from investors and stood aside this morning.
There’s a lot of talk right now on how this heralds a new era for the Valley. The beginning of the end for the aggressively non-corporate, roll with me, bro-CEO. And there’s probably some truth in that.
A comparison of AI with previous technological breakthroughs
There’s no shortage of hype around artificial intelligence. Fueled by recent scientific advances in the field, AI is now characterized as the “new electricity”—a technological breakthrough that will revolutionize the world.