No one ever said that this business of doing business the right way was going to be easy. The “shareholder value uber alles” philosophy of management that took hold in the 1980s remains powerful even as we’ve seen the rise of alternative visions that add other stakeholders’ interests to the equation.
Now there’s a wave of setbacks for idealistic firms like Juno, the ride-hailing platform that scaled back its profit-sharing plans after being acquired, and Etsy, the handmade-goods marketplace that fired its CEO and laid off workers to try to boost its share price.
It’s not easy to rethink education from a blank sheet. But that’s what AltSchool is built to do.
Max Ventilla, CEO of Alt School, is reimagining education through a “full stack” platform that includes technology, classrooms, and new approaches to curriculum. Hear more about Alt School in this short video, below. A full transcript, edited for clarity, is also included.
Max Ventilla: I left Google and started a search company, which they bought back, and then I was, among other things, the person running personalization across Google. Working at Google you become very addicted to the intersection of social impact, technology and business.
Yesterday Apple announced a new $1 billion fund to invest in “advanced manufacturing” in the U.S. (CNBC). Though CEO Tim Cook didn’t come out and say it, the move is in line with many other U.S. companies’ efforts to appease President Trump, who has made reviving domestic manufacturing one of his most loudly proclaimed goals. (Vanity Fair: “Apple Just Handed Trump a Billion-Dollar P.R. Win.”)
Trump pines to revive the 1950s golden age of great factory jobs for high-school grads. But that word “advanced” before “manufacturing” is a tip-off that Apple, like everyone else, is going to be looking to hire people with training and skills.
There’s a common theme in news analysis about the economy: it tells you about how some new development will prove excellent for the rich, terrible for everyone else, and help bring about the decline of civilization. So it’s a bit hard for me to say this, but I think there may be some actually positive news all around for once — and it has to do with a change in telecommuting.
The story begins with the graph above, which comes from Christopher Groskopf’s recent article about the rise of telecommuting among software engineers. His article collects a variety of data and graphs, which show that this is becoming significantly more popular, one of the most-desired perks of a SWE job, and has in particular been on the rise since around 2012.
Why do we do this thing called “work,” anyway? Is it just about putting cash in our pockets and food on the table? The narrow, strict-constructionist take of classical economics answers with a resounding “yes!” We work to minimize our pain.
A team at Facebook studying employee engagement there came to a different conclusion: They found that the most powerful motivator for Facebook workers is pride in the company they work for — a pride that encompasses optimism about the firm’s future, belief in its mission, and confidence that it’s making the world better (Fast Company).
“I believe that this instinct to perpetuate useless work is, at bottom, simply fear of the mob. The mob (the thought runs) are such low animals that they would be dangerous if they had leisure; it is safer to keep them too busy to think.” George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, p. 119
In the extraordinary memoir Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell masterly describes what it is like to be poor. He tells us how he came to be in a situation of extreme poverty; he is living in Paris teaching English and is suddenly left without students. By a series of steps, he describes how he gradually becomes penniless and hungry, and the different feelings experienced through this new reality that takes over all aspects of his life.
Is the office obsolete — or mutating into something new and wonderful? Backchannel offers views from both sides of the future-of-the-office question in two recent pieces. The rise of “digital nomads,” writes Ben Snyder, accelerated in 2016. Companies in desperate need of talent, particularly in software, have abandoned the old-school idea of gathering everyone in one physical space and accepted that they’re only going to assemble a great team by going to a distributed model.
But wait a second, writes Greg Lindsay: At the same time, we’re seeing a boom in new-model coworking spaces like WeWork. In these offices, traditional behind-the-firewall watercooler culture gets replaced by a more open model that’s still able to take advantage of the dynamics of face-to-face interaction. “WeWork’s great innovation,” Lindsay argues, “was to convince companies of all sizes that sharing an office with hundreds or even thousands of strangers was an opportunity instead of a liability.” This new-style office is more of a “talent platform” that helps entrepreneurs find the skilled collaborators they need.
Welcome to 2017! If you’ve been disconnected from work for a little while, as many of us have been, you’ll be interested to hear this news: If you lived in France, you would now have a right to disconnect from work on a regular basis (Yahoo News). The French aren’t facing any more of a work-life boundary collapse than the rest of us, but their culture and political system seem better equipped to push back.
France’s new “right to disconnect” law isn’t actually a rigid regulation; it looks more like a modest attempt to bolster the fast-eroding sandbar that separates our work from our personal lives. Companies with more than 50 employees are encouraged to identify times when employees aren’t expected to reply to emails, for instance.The “right to disconnect,” it turns out, isn’t a right at all. It’s more like the latest round of negotiations between companies and employees about how we draw lines around labor in the digital age. Don’t expect a final settlement any time soon.