Weekend Briefing No. 27

Welcome to the weekend! This week’s headlines have been dominated by the chaos in Iraq. ISIS controls a significant portion of the country, religious minorities are being oppressed, and US is being drawn back into the conflict that we just extricated ourselves from. So, what went wrong? Frontline just did a brilliant piece of journalism called Losing Iraq, which details the US engagement in Iraq and how we got to this point. I would highly recommend giving it a watch this weekend if you want to learn more about the issue.




Corporations are not being disrupted. If you spend any time in the startup world, you probably hear a lot about how lean startups are disrupting established corporations. My book Profit & Purpose is filled with examples of this like Warby Parker, Method and Burt’s Bees. But on the whole, the business sector of the United States, economists Ian Hathaway and Robert Litan wrote in a recent Brookings Institution paper, “appears to be getting ‘old and fat.’” In 2008, more Americans worked for big companies — those with at least 500 employees — than for small ones. In the late 1980s, two-thirds of U.S. companies were 10 years old or less. In 2011, only about half were. Read more in this FiveThirtyEght article.


Beyond Profit. Unilever’s COO talks about the concrete steps it is taking with its brands to blend profit & purpose. This 8 minute TED Talk touches on women entrepreneurs, sustainable palm oil and sanitation as examples of how a massive corporation that has 2 billion customers can think differently about its purpose. A big thanks to Sara Doody for sending the video my way. She’s brilliant. If you’re into user experience, you should sign up for her weekly email. I love it!


The six-second pitch. Your 30-second elevator pitch is way too long. Attention spans are shortening and our attention is being fragmented by our ubiquitous smartphones. When was the last time you were on an elevator and somebody wasn’t staring at their phone. This blog from the Unreasonable Institute advocates for the six-second pitch.


Companies with women in leadership perform better financially. According to a recent study by DDI and The Conference Board, in the companies that have the top 20% of financial performance, 27% of leaders are women. Among the bottom 20% of financial performers, only 19% of leaders are women. This study took into account leadership at all levels, not just CEO. Find out why women in leadership matters in this Forbes article.


Swarms of tiny robots. The kilobot comes out of the labs at Harvard, but it’s a relatively dumb robot, but it plays well with others. So, in a group, by using spatial monitoring and based on a preprogrammed algorithm, they can work together in a greater group action, like a flock of birds a school of fish or a swarm of bees. Right now, they are just making shapes, but the potential of this technology is promising as a means to make the world a better place. A couple ideas that come to mind are demining a minefield or building shelter in harsh environments. Check out the video of them in action from Harvard.




A future where everything is customized. We are just beginning to understand the power of distributed production through 3D printing. In the next decade, it will be rare for us to buy products off the shelf, we will likely be 3D printing personally customized products. With Normal, custom 3D printed, headphones, we are getting a glimpse into that future reality. But, technological advances also have a dark side. Another, potentially more dystopian use of 3D printing is making your own guns. Check out this fascinating piece in the New York Times about the rise of the plastic, untraceable 3D Printed guns.


You are super smart, so I’m interested in your thoughts. If you have any story ideas, questions or just want to say hi, just hit reply to this email. I’m looking forward to chatting with you. If you have friends that would like the Weekend Briefing, please forward it along. They can sign up for free here. Follow me on twitter for updates throughout the week.

Have a restful & thoughtful weekend.