Weekend Briefing No. 269

Welcome to the weekend. Two quick notes:

First, thanks for all the positive feedback on the new Bookshelf section. I’m going to continue to include it for the time being.

Second, many of you were curious to hear more about the trip we took across the American South to explore race and justice. I’m co-hosting an event with Toks Malik Ashiru this Thursday in Brooklyn to discuss our experiences. Click here to RSVP if you are interested in joining.

Prime Numbers

18,000 – The Maersk Triple E is the largest ship on the planet. It can carry 18,000 shipping containers – stacked 11 levels high on the inside and 10 levels high on the outside. It takes only 15 crew to operate.

37 – YouTube makes up 37% of mobile web traffic worldwide.

20 The Matrix was released 20 years ago. Yeah… we’re old.

Poverty & Canada

According to recently released data, between 2015 and 2017, Canada reduced its official poverty rate by at least 20 percent. Roughly 825,000 Canadians were lifted out of poverty in those years, giving the country today its lowest poverty rate in history. How did it do it? They begin by gathering, say, 100 people from a single community. A quarter have lived with poverty; the rest are from business, nonprofits and government. They spend a year learning about poverty in their area, talking with the community. They launch a different kind of conversation. First, they don’t want better poor; they want fewer poor. That is to say, their focus is not on how do we give poor people food so they don’t starve. It is how do we move people out of poverty. Second, they up their ambitions. How do we eradicate poverty altogether? Third, they broaden their vision. What does a vibrant community look like in which everybody’s basic needs are met. After a year they come up with a town plan. Each town’s poverty is different. Each town’s assets are different. So, each town’s plan is different. The plans involve a lot of policy changes on the town and provincial levels — improved day care, redesigned transit systems, better work-force development systems. These city-wide and community-wide structures started 15 years ago with just six cities, but now they have 72 regional networks covering 344 towns. New York Times (9 minutes)


How can the GDP be redesigned for the 21st century economy? Economists have developed a new metric that doesn’t directly measure happiness or wealth or development, but calculates something else GDP neglects—free digital goods and services. These 21st-century technologies have basically broken 20th-century practices for measuring the economy. MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, along with Avinash Collis, W. Erwin Diewert, Felix Eggers and Kevin J. Fox, have developed “GDP-B”. It’s designed to capture the numerical value of the things that we don’t pay for but still have plenty of value, such as online maps, photos taken on smartphones, Wikipedia, social media… and, I suppose, this newsletter. Quartz (9 minutes)

Blockchain Occam’s Problem

Conceptually, blockchain has the potential to revolutionize business processes in industries from banking and insurance to shipping and healthcare. Still, the technology has not yet seen a significant application at scale, and it faces structural challenges, including resolving the innovator’s dilemma. Some industries are already downgrading their expectations. The question is not whether blockchain technology can be a solution to business problems, but whether it needs to? Occam’s razor is the problem-solving principle that the simplest solution tends to be the best. On that basis, blockchain may not yet be the right answer. Companies set on taking blockchain forward must adapt their strategic playbooks, honestly review the advantages over more conventional solutions, and embrace a more hard-headed commercial approach. They should be quick to abandon applications where there is no incremental value. In many industries, the necessary collaboration may best be undertaken with reference to the ecosystems starting to reshape digital commerce. If they can do all that, and be patient, blockchain may still emerge as Occam’s right answer. McKinsey (14 minutes)

The World’s Cheapest Hospital

The world’s cheapest hospital needs to get cheaper. Cancer surgery for $700, a heart bypass for $2,000. Pretty good, but under India’s new health-care system, it’s not good enough. In 2000, Dr. Devi Shetty launched the first Narayana hospital in India, which took an assembly line approach to surgery. Initially focused solely on cardiac procedures, Shetty gradually expanded Narayana’s remit to include most major operations and set up regional hospitals that could feed patients with complex conditions into its two largest facilities: the Bangalore flagship and another in Kolkata. Within a decade, the company has a national network and, in 2014, even opened in the Cayman Islands, in part to attract medical tourists from the U.S. Two years later, Narayana Health went public in Mumbai; it’s been continuously profitable since. They essentially run a low-margin high-volume business. But can they rise to the challenge of giving basic coverage for the first time to 500 million of India’s poorest? Bloomberg Businessweek (12 minutes)


Sorry, Wall Street. The vest purveyor of choice for tech and finance bros now is prioritizing bulk orders of corporate swag to mission-driven companies. Apparently… Patagonia has nothing against the finance industry, it’s just not an area they are currently marketing through their co-brand division. While they have co-branded here in the past, the brand is really focused right now on only co-branding with a small collection of like-minded and brand aligned areas; outdoor sports that are relevant to the gear they design, regenerative organic farming, and environmental activism and B Corp Certified companies. Patagonia, the person said, is reluctant to co-brand with oil, drilling, dam construction, etc. companies that they view to be ecologically damaging. Orders are now approved on a case-by-case basis, this includes financial institutions. Buzzfeed (4 minutes)


Some thoughts for founders (or really anyone) on vulnerability. Here’s the difference between talking about failure and getting truly vulnerable: Vulnerability is necessarily personal while failure is not. Don’t conflate the two. It’s one thing to bring up how you’ve failed in the past, especially when you’ve since attained success. Talking about issues you still struggle with and showing any kind of weakness — present tense — feels more daunting. Don’t just read about industry deities — take inspiration from the founders that surround you. You need to hear the stories from the trenches that will help keep you going. Failure is not an indictment of who you are. It’s a learning process. You went through it. And from a probability standpoint, you’re more likely to be successful next time. First Round Review (18 minutes)


B= f(P,E), known as Lewin’s Equation, means that behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment. Known today as Lewin’s Equation, this tiny expression contains most of what you need to know about building good habits, breaking bad ones, and making progress in your life. Let’s break down these two areas, personality and environment, and talk about how you can improve them to build good habits and break bad ones. 1) Personality. In other words, your identity and beliefs play a role in your habits and if you’re looking to create a new identity, you have to cast a vote for that identity. As I have covered before, the best way to improve your abilities and skills is through deliberate practice. 2) Environment. Design for laziness. For example, a man wanted to reduce the amount of popcorn he ate, so he took the bag of popcorn out of his kitchen, climbed the ladder in his garage, and put the popcorn on the highest shelf. If he really wanted popcorn, he could always go to the garage, get the ladder, and climb up to get it. But his default decision when he was feeling lazy would be to make a better choice. By designing his environment for laziness, Fogg made it easier to stick with healthier habits. James Clear (5 minutes)


White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo. The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality. In this vital, necessary, and beautiful book, antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’. Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively. White Fragility

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by Alistair Philip Wiper.

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Weekend Wisdom

Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think. Brene Brown