Weekly Pulse by William Meller | Week 49, 2022

The Weekly Pulse is my content curation and my highlights from readings, books, podcasts, insights, and everything I discovered during the week.
The Weekly Pulse is my content curation and my highlights from readings, books, podcasts, insights, and everything I discovered during the week.

So, let’s go with some discoveries from the week!

#1 – The Set-up-to-Fail Syndrome
#2 – Pipelines, Platforms, and the New Rules of Strategy
#3 – Innovation at the Speed of Information
#4 – Dunbar’s Number: Why We Can Only Maintain 150 Relationships
#5 – Designing the Hybrid Office

The Set-up-to-Fail Syndrome

Source: Harvard Business Review
Author: Jean-François Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux

Summary: When an employee fails—or even just performs poorly—managers typically do not blame themselves. The employee doesn’t understand the work, a manager might contend. Or the employee isn’t driven to succeed, can’t set priorities, or won’t take direction. Whatever the reason, the problem is assumed to be the employee’s fault—and the employee’s responsibility.

3 Highlights:

“… Up to 90% of all bosses treat some subordinates as though they were part of an in-group, while they consign others to an out-group…

“… What bosses do not realize is that their tight controls end up hurting subordinates’ performance by undermining their motivation

“… As part of the intervention, the boss should bring up the subject of how his own behavior may affect the subordinate’s performance…” 

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Pipelines, Platforms, and the New Rules of Strategy

Source: MIT Sloan Management Review
Author: Constance N. Hadley and Mark Mortensen

Summary: How can we explain the iPhone’s rapid domination of its industry? To understand how the rise of platforms is transforming competition, we need to examine how platforms differ from the conventional “pipeline” businesses that have dominated the industry for decades. Apple’s handset business is essentially a pipeline. But combine it with the App Store, the marketplace that connects app developers and iPhone owners, and you’ve got a platform.

3 Highlights:

“… Badly managed platforms often suffer from other kinds of problems that create negative feedback loops and reduce value. For example, congestion caused by unconstrained network growth can discourage participation. So can misbehavior, as Chatroulette found. Managers must watch for negative network effects and use governance tools to stem them by, for example, withholding privileges or banishing troublemakers…” 

“… Pipelines seek to maximize the lifetime value of individual customers of products and services, who, in effect, sit at the end of a linear process. By contrast, platforms seek to maximize the total value of an expanding ecosystem in a circular, iterative, feedback-driven process. Sometimes that requires subsidizing one type of consumer in order to attract another type…” 

“… Finally, platforms must understand the financial value of their communities and their network effects. Consider that in 2016, private equity markets placed the value of Uber, a demand economy firm founded in 2009, above that of GM, a supply economy firm founded in 1908. Clearly, Uber’s investors were looking beyond the traditional financials and metrics when calculating the firm’s worth and potential. This is a clear indication that the rules have changed…” 

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Innovation at the Speed of Information

Source: Harvard Business School
Author: Steven D. Eppinger

Summary: The exchange of information is the lifeblood of product development. When an electronics company’s circuit designers know what the casing designers are doing, they design a better-fitting circuit for the casing. And when the casing designers know what the circuit designers need, they design a casing where it’s easier to put in a better circuit. Such flows of information allow for experimentation and innovation, and for that reason, many companies encourage feedback and iteration in their product development processes. This practice is known as concurrent engineering.

3 Highlights:

“… Developing a new product involves trial and error, but beyond a certain point, redesign becomes wasteful. A practical and proven tool, the Design Structure Matrix, can help streamline the way a company innovates…” 

“… A coupled process encourages iterations and the search for creative solutions. But sometimes speed is more important than innovation…” 

“… Keeping interdependent tasks separate can cause considerable waste, and this is where grouping tasks differently can speed along the development process...” 

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Dunbar’s Number: Why We Can Only Maintain 150 Relationships

Source: McKinsey
Author: Simon Blackburn, Jeff Galvin, Laura LaBerge, and Evan Williams

Summary: According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the “magic number” is 150. Dunbar became convinced that there was a ratio between brain sizes and group sizes through his studies of non-human primates. This ratio was mapped out using neuroimaging and observation of time spent on grooming, an important social behavior of primates. Dunbar concluded that the size, relative to the body, of the neocortex – the part of the brain associated with cognition and language – is linked to the size of a cohesive social group. This ratio limits how much complexity a social system can handle.

3 Highlights:

“… What determines these layers in real life, in the face-to-face world… is the frequency at which you see people…” 

“… It makes sense that there’s a finite number of friends most individuals can have. What’s less clear is whether that capacity is being expanded, or contracted, by the ever-shifting ways people interact online…” 

“… For instance, if someone is wealthy enough to hire assistants to partly manage their relationships – or to outsource some of the emotional labor to others – they might be less constrained by the number of relationships they can comfortably maintain. As in so many aspects of social life, the super-connected are the super-privileged…” 

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Designing the Hybrid Office

Source: Harvard Business Review
Author: Anne-Laure Fayard, John Weeks, and Mahwesh Khan

Summary: The natural experiment forced on the world by the coronavirus demonstrates that the academics and tech visionaries who have been talking since the 1980s about the possibilities of remote work were not exaggerating. After months of working remotely, we have all learned that most tasks are accomplished and most meetings go just fine without the office. The authors conclude by showing how design, technology, and management practices can be used to make tomorrow’s offices more effective as social, learning, and innovation spaces.

3 Highlights:

“… But that, the authors warn, doesn’t mean companies should suddenly abandon their workplaces. Going to the office, they argue, has never been just about work. And technology won’t make socializing less dependent on direct interpersonal contact anytime soon. In this article, they describe the important social functions of an office…” 

“… It’s where people build trust through personal interaction, learn the nuances of their job, and build and maintain an organizational culture…” 

“… And it’s through random in-person encounters between people from different functions and cultures that many of the most innovative business ideas are born…” 

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