Weekend Briefing No. 346

Welcome to the weekend. 

Long time readers know that I’m into music. What you may not know is that I spend many of my Fridays listening to newly released music. This week, I invite you to listen along with me while you work (or not) at noon ET on Friday. If you’re into music and you want to join, click here and I’ll send you all the details. 

… and here’s my October playlist for your listening pleasure.

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Prime Numbers

62.4 M—The total time Americans spent commuting to work dropped nationally 62.4 million hours per day. Aggregating that number from mid-March to mid-September, the national time savings was more than 9 billion hours. 

69,293—An analysis of 80,000 websites with a new tool called Blacklight found that third-party trackers are incredibly common, with any third-party tracker appearing on 69,293 of the sites.

—In the last 29 years, the mortality rate of children under 5 was reduced by 59 percent, but 20,000 children still die every day, mostly of preventable or treatable causes.

Gen Z

ZebraIQ (a Gen Z consultancy) just released its 2020 Gen Z Report. (1) Gen Z by the numbers: Born between 1995 and 2010. 3 billion worldwide. 35 percent of global population. $143 billion in spending power. (2) Communication. They are a video-first generation. 65 percent prefer Facetime to keep in touch with friends. Mobile video is how they learn and get their news. They use ironic emoji-driven communication. They control their various online personas through multiple accounts on any given platform because they value their privacy and want to control who sees what content. (3) Money and work. Gen Z is the side-hustle generation. They make money as freelancers, building meme pages and flipping streetwear. Their values strongly influence their purchases and where they want to work. (4) Activism. “OK Boomer” has been a rallying cry against the (perceived) destruction the Baby Boomer generation has left them. They have a low threshold for racism, sexism, genderism and harassment. 62% of their political news comes from social media. BTS stans are a force to be reckoned with. ZebraIQ (27 minutes)

Follow Through

The pandemic and the movement for racial justice have tested corporate pledges to elevate social concerns alongside shareholder interests. A new study finds companies are failing to follow through. “Since the pandemic’s inception,” the study concludes, the Business Roundtable statement “has failed to deliver fundamental shifts in corporate purpose in a moment of grave crisis when enlightened purpose should be paramount.” The new report singles out Wells Fargo for rejecting a shareholder proposal that sought to implement the Business Roundtable pledge by exploring the possibility of converting the bank’s legal structure into a benefit corporation, which would allow it to subordinate shareholder interests to other concerns. The report highlights examples of Business Roundtable signatories that have performed better than most, including Baxter International Inc., an Illinois-based manufacturer of medical devices; SAP, a German software firm; and Willis Towers Watson PLC, a British insurance company. All three have made progress on racial inclusivity, the study finds. New York Times (11 minutes)

Going for Broke

It took decades, but Chuck Feeney, the former billionaire co-founder of retail giant Duty Free Shoppers, has finally given all his money away to charity. He has nothing left now—and he couldn’t be happier. As a philanthropist, he pioneered the idea of Giving While Living—spending most of your fortune on big, hands-on charity bets instead of funding a foundation upon death. Since you can’t take it with you—why not give it all away, have control of where it goes and see the results with your own eyes? Feeney is understated (he lives with monk-like frugality), oversize impact. No longer a secret, his extreme charity and big-bet grants have won over the most influential entrepreneurs and philanthropists. His stark generosity and gutsy investments influenced Bill Gates and Warren Buffett when they launched the Giving Pledge in 2010—an aggressive campaign to convince the world’s wealthiest to give away at least half their fortunes before their deaths. “Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge,” says Warren Buffett. “He’s a model for us all. It’s going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he’s doing within his lifetime.”  On September 14, 2020, Feeney completed his four-decade mission and signed the documents to shutter the Atlantic Philanthropies. The ceremony, which happened over Zoom with the Atlantic Philanthropies’ board, included video messages from Bill Gates and former California Gov. Jerry Brown. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent an official letter from the U.S. Congress thanking Feeney for his work. Forbes (16 minutes)

Stepping Up

During the COVID-19 crisis, social innovators and entrepreneurs have once again shown their capacity to act as first responders, bringing affordable healthcare to those in need, protecting jobs and providing emergency relief swiftly. Some examples include: (1) Jan Sahas in India, a 20-year old community organization that has responded to the crisis by providing food to more than 420,000 migrants, as well as 11,000 PPE kits and emergency transportation to 17,000 migrants and their families. (2) The Instituto Muda in Brazil that stepped in to provide recycling cooperatives that employ people living below the poverty line with financial help to pay their workers to support their families. They also ensured that these workers were supplied with masks, equipment and disinfectant gel. (3) Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, which pivoted its call centers to scale up the capacity of South Africa’s Unemployment Insurance Fund to handle over 1.2 million calls within a span of two months in the wake of economic shutdowns. World Economic Forum (11 minutes)

Dalio on Capitalism

Ray Dalio, founder of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, certainly is no radical idealist. But in his frequent writings and media appearances, the veteran investor consistently calls for Americans to rewrite their longstanding contract with capitalism so that it is fairer and generous to more people. Otherwise, he predicts, life in the U.S. will increasingly be marked by: mountainous debt that stunts economic growth; fewer opportunities for ordinary citizens to get ahead financially; and a worldwide lack of trust in the U.S. dollar that diminishes Americans’ purchasing power and could lower their standard of living. “Capitalism and capitalists are good at increasing and producing productivity to increase the size of the economic pie,” he says. Then Dalio stands this tenet on its head. Capitalists don’t divide the economic pie very well, he says, and so today the capitalist system, the foundation of the U.S. economy, is not working efficiently and effectively enough for all. “Capitalism also produces large wealth gaps that produce opportunity gaps, which threaten the system,” Dalio says—a system that has been and still is key to the health and success of U.S. businesses, workers, government and investors alike. Marketwatch (18 minutes)


The CIA has toppled governments and negotiated hostage crises. But when it comes to attracting tech-minded college grads, it just can’t beat Silicon Valley. The government agency doesn’t have the funds to compete with Facebook’s mammoth starting salaries. So instead, it’s trying to recruit candidates with patents. Under a new initiative, CIA Labs, any employee who patents an invention for the agency gets a cut of the proceeds. The agency has its own venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, that commands more than $120 million per year in cash. It has recently invested in quantum computing startups and data-mining companies. CIA Labs is an attempt to bring more innovation in-house. You might invent some stuff with morally gray uses. The agency’s patent history ranges from lithium ion batteries to controversial warfare tools, like drones. But given the surveillance power of some tech companies, inventing for Big Tech isn’t always so idyllic, either—and the CIA is hoping that some workers won’t blink. The Hustle (6 minutes)

How to Say No

Listen up, people pleasers out there. When your top priority is to be liked all the time, you aren’t in touch with what you need. Here are some tips for saying “no.” (1) Conduct a “yes” audit. Over one week, observe how you spend your time and energy. Lue recommends keeping note of how many times you say “yes,” “no” or “maybe” to a request. Don’t judge it—just observe. (2) Understand your bandwidth—and learn to respect it. Document your energy level and your calendar. How full was your plate? Did saying “yes” to too many things mean your days were too busy? We might look at our week and realize, “I spend, like, 90% of my week doing stuff that feels like I’m trapped. … This is why I’m anxious.” (3) Before saying “yes,” pause. (4) Learn the art of the “soft no.” For example: “Thank you so much for asking me to do this project. It sounds really exciting, but I don’t have the bandwidth for it at this time.” Simple. NPR (9 minutes)

Most Read Last Week

A Free Market Manifesto That Changed the World, Reconsidered—Milton Friedman’s libertarian economics influenced presidents and inspired “greed is good.” So what did Friedman get right—and wrong? Today’s business leaders and economists weigh in.

Profit & Purpose—How social innovation is changing the world for good.

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 Bruno Nascimento.

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Weekend Wisdom

I don’t dislike money, but there’s only so much money you can use. Chuck Feeny

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