Weekend Briefing No. 61

Welcome to the weekend. Hello from Portland! I’m in Oregon to speak on Success & Significance at Oregon State University. It was great to discuss these topics with college students. I’m encouraged that so many students are asking these big questions.


This week Obama lobbied for engagement in Iran & Cuba, the Large Hadron Collider was switched back on, & South Carolina charged police officer Michael Slager with murder after a bystander filmed him on a cameraphone shooting at Walter Scott eight times.








The Road to Character. I can’t wait! One of my favorite New York Times columnists and authors, David Brooks, is releasing his new book The Road to Character. Having heard a few talks about the book already, I think it’s going to be his best yet! In The Road to Character, he focuses on the deeper values that should inform our lives. Responding to what he calls the culture of the Big Me, which emphasizes external success, Brooks challenges us, and himself, to rebalance the scales between our “résumé virtues”—achieving wealth, fame, and status—and our “eulogy virtues,” those that exist at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty, or faithfulness, focusing on what kind of relationships we have formed. Looking to some of the world’s greatest thinkers and inspiring leaders, Brooks explores how, through internal struggle and a sense of their own limitations, they have built a strong inner character. For a little preview, watch his 5 minute TED Talk Should You Live For Your Resume or Your Eulogy?, then go directly to Amazon and pre-order this soon-to-be bestseller.



Robots directing traffic in DRC. The capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa – which boasts a larger population than New York City – is notorious for dirty cops, gridlock, and traffic deaths. In Kinshasa, a group of local female engineers has come up with a particularly fantastical and unexpectedly practical solution to the city’s dangerous roads and unreliable traffic police: RoboTrafficCops. We’re talking real humanoid, eight-foot-tall robots stationed at traffic intersections in the capital. Boxy and made of shiny aluminum, they look a bit like something ripped out of a 1950s sci-fi film. The automatons feature hand-mounted traffic lights with LED displays and cameras powered by inbuilt solar panels, swiveling their torsos around to address pedestrian and vehicular flows on major streets. Using their visual capabilities, they can take pictures of those they detect committing traffic violations and feed footage of cars or faces back to police stations, dispatching flesh-and-blood officers to collect fines from recorded offenders. Read more about this fascinating use of robots in this GOOD article.



Human Centered Design. A huge mistake in the design process of any product or service is not bringing the users / clients into the design process. Bad design is arrogant and assumes that it has the answers. Good design is humble and asks questions. Ok… so how do you ask the right questions? My friend Jocelyn Wyatt and her team at IDEO.org helps answer that question in their latest book The Field Guide to Human Centered Design, which reveals IDEO.org’s process for design in the social sector. It features 57 clear-to-use design methods for new and experienced practitioners, and from-the-field case studies of human-centered design in action. The Field Guide has everything you need to understand about the people you’re designing for, to have more effective brainstorms, to prototype your ideas, and to ultimately arrive at more creative solutions. If you are working in the social sector, this needs to be on your bookshelf.



Using sound waves to detect cancer. According to a new study published in this week’s issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have developed a system to detect traces of cancer in blood using sound waves. Since malignant cells react differently to the sound waves than healthy cells, clinicians are now able to sort normal white blood cells from cancerous cells. This method would enable not only a more accurate, comprehensive analysis of cancer tumor cells but will also offer the potential for better cancer treatment options, such as noninvasive testing of drug susceptibility of cancer patients over the course of chemotherapy, and possible early detection. Learn more in this Fusion article.



What did Twitter, Instagram, Uber, Pinterest, Airbnb, & other billion dollar companies look like at Series A? The good folks at Shasta Ventures studied 32 billion dollar + companies to see if they could find any patterns. The key takeaway is that there are large companies to be built by offering new, innovative and superior customer experiences to large markets, regardless of how competitive the sector already is or how successful the founders have been before. More specifically, they found that the common traits are: 1) Easy to dismiss ideas. 2) Competitive markets. 3) Reinventing existing customer experience. 4) Untested founders. 5) Zero monetization. Dig deeper in this Medium post.






Grilled cheese lovers. The survey suggests grilled cheese lovers have more sex & are more generous.


Seven up and upcoming artists you should know. From a graffiti artist who employs the ancient art of Arabic calligraphy to a choreographer exploring black female identity in dance, these seven young artists are challenging the status quo.


The drone is my shepherd. Robots are setting their sensors on one of the world’s oldest jobs: herding sheep.







Getting your passion project off the ground without quitting your day job. You’ve finally figured out what you want to do with your life — start a company, launch a website, design an app, or found a nonprofit. The only problem is that you can’t afford to quit your job (and lose your benefits) in order to pursue it full time. So, where should you start? What’s the best way to get your passion project moving? And how can you tell when you’re ready to strike out on your own? Read this Harvard Business Review article to learn what the experts say.


A job or a higher calling? Can a job be just a job anymore or do we need to find our higher purpose in our work? Firms from motorcycle manufacturers to accounting firms are touting how they “change the world”. The words “mission,” “higher purpose,” “change the world” or “changing the world” were mentioned on earnings calls, in investor meetings and industry conferences 3,243 times in 2014, up from 2,318 five years ago. The question is, how does the lofty rhetoric align with day-to-day activities? Only about one-third of individuals feel their work is a calling. Those who can connect their work to a higher purpose—whether they are a janitor or a banker—tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, put in longer hours and rack up fewer absences. But for the two-thirds who view their job as a paycheck or a necessary rung on the corporate ladder, campaigns around meaning can highlight the fact that those workers don’t derive deep meaning from work. Learn more in this Wall Street Journal article.Thanks to Brooke Hames for sending this my way.


What is the long-term impact of microfinance? This policy brief on microfinance is a summary of seven randomized control trials on four continents, from the research organization Innovations for Poverty Action and the Poverty Action Lab. Some key findings are: (1) Only about one in four or five households wanted a small loan. (2) Some of them used the money to grow their very small businesses, but this rarely led to higher profits. (3) None of the seven studies found a significant impact on household income. (4) And there’s no evidence it empowered women or led more children to go to school. But the loans give a little freedom. People make the same money as before, but in different activities that they chose. Learn more in this Washington Post article.


In defense of boredom. I just got off the trail from a 5-day trek in Patagonia. One thing that became abundantly clear to me is that there is very little time in our lives to be bored, and although I’m pretty relentless in my search for productivity, one has to wonder if we are missing the opportunity for deeper thinking, imagining and daydreaming when we push boredom out of our lives. To be bored is to be unafraid of our interior lives — a form of moral courage, central to being fully human. To be bored is to give space for the genesis of game changing concepts. Check out this thought-provoking collection of 200 Years of Ideas on the Virtues of Not-Doing from Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds including: Bertrand Russell, Søren Kierkegaard, Andrei Tarkovsky, Susan Sontag, Adam Phillips, Renata Adler, and more. Curated by the amazing Maria Popova.





The Weekend Briefing is a selection of the best stories from around the web about innovation and society curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway & Co.


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. Follow me on twitter and instagram for updates throughout the week.