Weekend Briefing No. 226

Welcome to the weekend. I hope that summer is off to a good start for you. I’m writing this briefing poolside at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn. Not a bad way to spend a day.

Prime Numbers

85 – What’s popular with the kids these days? 85% use YouTube, 72% use Instagram, 69% use SnapChat, 51% use Facebook, and 32% use Twitter.

53 – How much will the Harvard class of 2018 earn in their first year on the job? 53% say they will earn salaries of $70,000; 11% of respondents who will take home more than $110,000 per year.

31 – The Tesla Model 3 is now the best-selling mid-sized premium sedan in the USA with 31% market share.

Flat Earth

If you are only just waking up to the twenty-first century, you should know that, according to a growing number of people, much of what you’ve been taught about our planet is a lie: Earth really is flat. These people are known as Flat-Earthers – they live in a post-truth landscape. As a group, its residents view themselves as staunch empiricists, their eyes wide open. Flat-Earthers have lists of reasons why round-Earthers—globers, globetards—are wrong. Many of the proofs fall into the you-can’t-definitively-prove-that-I’m-wrong category. If Earth is spinning on its axis at a thousand miles per hour, as scientists say, why isn’t there a powerful wind blowing exclusively from one direction? If Earth is a ball, why are there no direct flights across Antarctica from Chile to New Zealand? The movement’s core belief: ninety-nine per cent of received wisdom is questionable; if you can’t observe it for yourself, it can’t be trusted. Trust in your senses. Don’t accept the word of a talking head. Science is really an excuse for people to be stupid. One attractive aspect of the flat-Earth theory, it seemed, was that it served nicely as an umbrella for all the other coverups. It’s the mother of all conspiracies. New Yorker (26 minutes)

Transportation Economics

It’s cheaper to take Uber than to own a car in Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles. However, Dallas, the final city in the nation’s top five, it’s cheaper to own a car. For me, this is a no-brainer I long ago came to the same conclusion. Taking Lyft whenever I want I rarely spend more than $150 a month. A parking space for a car in my apartment building is at least $350 a month. So, I can get a ride and not have to worry about parking, insurance or a car payment for less than half of what it would cost for me to just leave my car overnight — kind of a no-brainer. In the rare instance when I do “need” to drive, I use Zipcar. Lifehacker (3 minutes)

Chinese Reserves

Government officials from 14 African nations in eastern and southern Africa are meeting in the Zimbabwean capital Harare to discuss sovereign reserve management. Beside strategizing on how to improve the weakened external positions of member nations during the global economic downturn, policymakers will also debate how to keep pace with large shifts in the global economy, where China has risen as a dominant and disruptive player. This is leading central bankers to question whether they should move from the US Dollar to the Chinese Renminbi as part of their foreign reserves.With China as the largest trading partner of many African countries, this move kind of makes sense. Quartz (5 minutes)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at America’s favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers. A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination. It received a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. I was fortunate enough to see it pre-release, and I was blown away. I didn’t expect to get so emotional (I went through a number of tissues) over Mr. Rodger’s simple concept of loving your neighbor. In our polarized and politicized world, this is the message we need to embrace. Do yourself a favor and go see it in theaters. YouTube (2 minutes)

Everyday Low-Priced College

The nation’s biggest private employer announced that it will begin subsidizing the cost of higher education for its employees who’ve yet to earn a college degree. Starting Wednesday, they will be able to enroll and study at either the University of Florida, Brandman University or Bellevue University. Employees will contribute $1 per day, for 365 days every year, toward their education, so long as they’re enrolled. Walmart will cover the rest of the tab. Workers have the option of taking classes online with the flexibility to study during the evenings or on weekends. The company said it estimates as many as 68,000 of its employees initially could sign up for the new college program. CNBC (4 minutes)

Price’s Law

Ever notice that a few people in your company drive the most results? (If you’re a WB reader, this is likely you.) Derek Price, who was a British physicist, historian of science, and information scientist, discovered something about his peers in academia. He noticed that there were always a handful of people who dominated the publications within a subject. Price found out the following (now called Price’s law): 50% of the work is done by the square root of the total number of people who participate in the work. That means, for instance, if you have a sales team of 25, 5 people (square root of 25) will  bring in 50% of the sales.  Only a handful of people are responsible for the majority of the value creation. It’s very similar to the Pareto principle (the difference is that Price looked at the relationship between people and the work they produced). Darius Foroux (8 minutes)


Virtues such as generosity are complicated. They involve more than just outward behavior. A person’s underlying thoughts, feelings and motives matter, too. If those aren’t in good shape, then one cannot qualify as a generous person. So , how can we understand if our attempts at generosity are genuine? Christian Miller has three questions for us: 1) Is there evidence that the gift was important to the person, that she cared about it in some way? 2) Does the person tend to give even when external rewards, such as publicity or tax benefits, do not come into play? 3) Does the person seem to be donating out of a sense of obligation, or is this a free gift of money or time that she could have used in other ways? Aeon (7 minutes)

Reply All

According to this definition, has anybody ever done something truly generous for you? Click here to vote.

Feedback Loop

Last week’s Reply All question was: What’s your parenting style?

You responded: 77.6% Gardeners, 10.2% carpenters, 12.2% neither.

Weekend Wisdom

Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do. –Kahlil Gibran

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 Fabrice Villard