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Polymathic Monthly - Issue #17: BigCo Systems, AI and Cities.

We'll dive into the BigCo/NewCo conversation from the last newsletter...

Polymathic Monthly

January 28 · Issue #17 · View online
A curation of articles, tech, books and innovation strategy to enrich your career and personal lives.

We’ll dive into the BigCo/NewCo conversation from the last newsletter…

In the early days of NewCo, the founders and the early team are in search of a business model that works (product/market fit). While the model might be fluid and uncertain in these times, one thing that is definitely being set is the culture of the organism or system (the business). Paradigms, culture, and goals are the highest Points of Leverage (image below*) in any company and this is where the bulk of NewCos time goes. Even though the team does not realize it.
Also known as Points of Leverage.
Also known as Points of Leverage.
The opposite is the case for BigCo. Numbers and structures are the lowest leverage points within a system/company. It is at these lowest Points of Leverage within a system that the majority of the employees of at BigCo operate. Competition and disruption impact the paradigms and goals, higher Points of Leverage, but the true information about how much is going on with competition/disruption never reaches the executives. This information gets filtered and sanitized within the company and the size of that company determines how much filtering is going on. Using sanitized information, executive decisions are made. An example: employees get a directive to grow X% this year and the employees have to make up numbers so the boss doesn’t get pissed. And when the numbers come in below projections everyone wonders how it happened. And the larger the organization, the longer it takes to go from goals to numbers to accountability (the necessary feedback loop). 
And we haven’t even gotten to paradigms. Those are pretty much set for every large corporation. Unless your NewCo gets flagged as a goal impeding entity (unlikely) or paradigm-shifting possibility (you’ve stopped being NewCo at that point), as determined by executives, NewCo won’t be a competitive factor or even an acquisition target.
In the example above, all the decisions at BigCo were made without true consideration of the frantic and internal culture-defining actions of NewCo. What NewCo needs to try to do is to be intentional about its own internal paradigms, a tough ask in the early days of wondering whether your company will see another day, and ensure they are powerful enough to disrupt the industry paradigm. 
Only then will BigCo pay any attention…and it might be too late.
* I’m oversimplifying a complex topic here. There are books on Points of Leverage and, in of itself, is a subtopic under the ever-evolving field of systems thinking.
Shameless plug: I provide strategy and systems thinking workshops where we empower teams/employees with the tools required to think about how their jobs are a key part of the whole, innovate and impact their companies. Contact me

  1. Are the AI doomsday scenarios that the Elon Musks of the world suggesting more about how they as capitalists have approached business than any threats that AI itself might suggest.
  2. While it’s an ad for Google Cloud, this CIO guide to Data Analytics and Machine Learning is a simple quick guide for thinking about your data strategy. Second shameless plug: I also provide technical ghostwriting to teams/companies and the results are similar to this Google pdf. Contact me.
  3. We might have to stop using the phrase ’useless degrees’ as those useless degrees might turn out to be exactly what’s needed to stay relevant. Read with clarity about the bias as this article comes from the chair of public understanding of the humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.
  4. How do you design the User Experience (UX) of Artificial Intelligence (AI)? Google dives into this discussion with its Clips product.
  5. McKinsey offers some reasons why digital initiatives fail. Put your Points of Leverage hat on as you read this one.
  1. In Rise of The Creative Class, Revisited, Richard Florida uses new data to update his thinking on the critical elements required to make a city desirable for The Creative Class. Richard Florida was spot on in predicting the rise of some 2nd-tier US cities. In listening to the mayors clamoring to attract Amazon HQ2, you can hear the same exact justifications for why Amazon should choose their cities. But…
  2. …the problem with dissecting and analyzing systems is that we lose sight of “the intangibles that make the whole being greater than the sum of its parts” and miss the unintended consequences of providing a “formula” for nurturing cities. Richard Florida admits the unintended consequences (aka consequences we did not think about) in The New Urban Crisis
  3. For someone who’s had less 2 actual mentors in my career, Tim Ferriss’ ’Tribe of Mentors’ is proving to be a goldmine of perspectives and views. The book recommendations are, to borrow a technical term, AH-MA-ZING!
  4. Life Is A Verb by Patti Digh is inspirational, chaotic and engaging. Like most self-help inspirational books, you’ve read this before. What sets it apart is the art and the worksheets that help it live up to its title.
  1. This interactive website combines sound and an interactive visual timeline to show how music tastes have evolved. Warning: you might spend too much time on this if you love music!
Do send any thoughts, comments and mentor recommendations my way. All the very best as we dive right into the 2nd month of 2018. ’Where is the time going’ I hear you ask…
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