Weekend Briefing No. 80

Weekend Briefing No. 80 | Companies That Change The World, Design For Action, Tinder Generation, Creative Apocalypse, The Way We Work

Welcome to the weekend. This week after nearly 13,500 cases and almost 4,000 deaths, it looks like Ebola may be over in Sierra Leone (a big thanks to Stefanie Chang and her team at Partners in Health for their tireless effort to make this happen), at least 22 people have died, many of them tourists, and around 120 were injured after a bomb detonated at a popular shrine outside of Bangkok, US authorities approve “female Viagra” and a colleague of mine at Harvard Law Lawrence Lessig is running for president on a single issue: getting the corrupting power of big money out of politics.


51 companies that are changing the world. Fortune, known for its rankings on wealth, just released it’s first global “Change the World” ranking, considering four criteria: the degree of business innovation, the measurable impact on social challenges at scale, the contribution of the shared-value activities to the company’s profitability and competitive advantage, and the significance of the shared value effort to the overall business. The top 3 companies were: (1) Vodaphone / Safaricom for their work on mobile-money platform M-Pesa, (2) Google (Alphabet) for organizing the world’s information, (3) Toyota for bringing the first hybrid car to the mass market. See the full list in Fortune.

Design for action. Successfully launching a disruptive product or concept is no small feat. But the launch is just one of many steps. Before the launch, designers are confronting increasing complexity in early dialogues with both the product’s intended users and the decision maker responsible for the design effort. A solution with lower complexity should be introduced at the outset, and the product should be designed to evolve as users respond. Iteration and an explicit role for users will be a key part of any intervention design. Read more in Harvard Business Review.

SPONSORED BRIEFING // New generation of start-ups integrate profit & purpose. Traditionally, entrepreneurs created start-ups with the goal of turning a profit. All resources were used towards that end (including as many espressos and all-nighters as necessary). While larger, well-established corporations often have charitable arms, conventional start-ups haven’t prioritized social impact. That’s changing with a new generation of socially responsible enterprises, which also happen to make products the social-impact set loves. From comfortable, sustainably-made shoes to luxury mattresses, consumers can purchase premium goods while giving back. Read more at Fox Small Business. As a special offer for Weekend Briefing readers, Leesa is offering $75 off the purchase of a mattress.

Tinder generation. “We don’t know what the girls are like, and they don’t know us,” says the 20-something finance guy in New York referring to the five “Tinder-ellas” – women he met on the dating app Tinder – he’s slept with in the last eight days. “It’s like ordering Seamless, but you’re ordering a person.” In an age of apps that optimize hooking up, it seems that there is a generation coming of age that is gorging itself on sex (apparently high quantity, low quality sex if you ask the women). Where does this all lead? Will they ever be satisfied with true intimacy? Read more in this fascinating long form Vanity Fair piece. Thanks toNicole Pietrini for sharing this with me.

The creative apocalypse that wasn’t. In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art. Instead, creative careers are thriving — but in complicated and unexpected ways that never existed before the rise of the internet. For instance, selling the ‘‘knowledge of craft’’ online through video tutorials, find a market for art in far flung geographies, composing scores for video games and the like. Learn more in the New York Times Magazine.

The way we work is shifting from a firm model of work – where every contributor is a full time employee – to a networked model – where few contributors are full time staff, but will contribute specialized skills to a project. (Indeed, even my law firm is the latter, not the former.) There are two fundamental problems to organizing economic activity: motivation (getting people to expend effort and companies to allocate resources to an activity) and coordination (arranging activities so that they fit together, such as making sure a part needed for production arrives on time). There is a tradeoff between the two and the degree of tradeoff is influenced by the available information technology. It turns out, better, faster, cheaper access to information reduces the degree of the tradeoff and makes the network model possible. Learn more at Continuations.


Chinafication of Africa. China isn’t just providing the manpower to fuel quickly urbanizing African cities, it is exporting its own version of urbanization. Check out this photo essay to see more.

Mother robot. A team of researchers has created a “mother robot.” It’s capable of building its own baby cube-bots.


The problem we all live with is the achievement gap between black kids and white kids in America. This American Life just ran a two-part series on this issue. It’s amazing journalism. Check out part 1 and part 2.


The Weekend Briefing is a selection of this week’s top stories on innovation and society, curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway Law. I consider it a privilege to be a part of your weekend routine. Thanks.