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Hi there. I'm a Partner at Undercurrent, where I lead a team focused on helping ambitious organizations operate in ways that are beneficial to all their users.

More Regulatory Capture

As the debate reminds us, large companies enjoy power as lobbyists. When they are monopolists, the incentive to lobby increases because the gains from because the gains from convenient new rules and laws accrue solely to them. Monopolies are no friend of a healthy democracy.

They are, alas, often the friend of government bureaucracies. This is not just a case of corruption but also about what is convenient and comprehensible to a politician or civil servant. If they want something done about climate change, they have a chat with the oil companies. Obesity is a problem to be discussed with the likes of McDonald’s. If anything on the internet makes a politician feel sad, from alleged copyright infringement to “the right to be forgotten”, there is now a one-stop shop to sort it all out: Google.

I hadn’t really thought of this point – that monopolies are easier for a government to deal with. Or at least, they were until the internet came around. Now, with an increased focus on interoperability, APIs, working with smaller vendors, etc., at least the tech-savvy parts of government are starting to realize that a panoply of partners is in fact the easier thing to manage. Again, because Internet.

No policy can guarantee innovation, financial stability, sharper focus on social problems, healthier democracies, higher quality and lower prices. But assertive competition policy would improve our odds, whether through helping consumers to make empowered choices, splitting up large corporations or blocking megamergers. Such structural approaches are more effective than looking over the shoulders of giant corporations and nagging them; they should be a trusted tool of government rather than a last resort.

So much this. Our regulated things – banks, car dealerships, whatever – are crappy because the regulations are crappy on purpose.


Read more: Monopoly is a bureaucrat’s friend but a democrat’s foe

What’s Your Purpose?


For more, go here.

How Spotify Ships

how spotify prototypes

Skateboards and Ferraris are both complete solutions to a transportation problem. They differ in their number of features, level of finish, and capability. But they’re complete solutions all the same.

Via The Internet.

Lexical Distance

lexical distance

Found this via Tumblr yesterday. It’s basically a map that depicts the vocabulary commonality across Indo-European languages (with some Uralic thrown in for proximity’s sake).

Made me think about language, culture and connectedness.

As we’ve been studying companies and organizations with Responsive Operating Systems, it’s clear that they refer to a lot of things using the same terms. They’re linguistically similar – pattern languages aside, which I’ll get to someday – and they prize phrases that might scare off folks from other cultures. More than once on our Explorers’ Club visits, I’ve heard employees at startups talk about 20-hour days with excitement.

It’d be interesting to mine the emails, texts and IMs of startups and endups, and map their lexical distance. I’d wager that you’d see some interesting patterns.

Z Self-Sufficient With Holacracy

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 11.46.12 AM

One of the coolest things about Holacracy is Glassfrog, the software that you use to facilitate ongoing edits to governance. Even cooler: that you can set it to “public” and be 100% transparent. HolacracyOne, the organization behind Holacracy, makes all their day-to-day operations and governance completely public. Including projects.

For example, check out that last project – “Z self-sufficient w/ Holacracy” – notable as Zappos announced its transition last week.

Transparency is the future. The above was snapped from this page. Enjoy the rabbit hole!

100 Strategy Charts

I don’t know if this is helpful or funny, or both.

5 Deck-Making Tips

My pal John asked for my five best deck-making rules for newbies. Here’s what I emailed him, cleaned up a bit (language):

  1. No section intro slides, unless they’re saying something really fucking important
  2. Write a full, conversational narrative first, and then split it across multiple slides in the presenter notes…you’ll be a better presenter, and move faster than you would if you blocked out slides
  3. All headlines must say something aggressive and substantial
  4. No alignment inconsistencies, ever
  5. Respect your master slides by keeping them clean and using them frequently. If you come up with a new design, turn it into a master. This is the key to speed

Seinfeld on Jokecraft, Difficulty

I’m not sure jokecraft is a word, but perhaps it should be.

Via Russell Davies, via the New York Times, I give you Jerry Seinfeld on his process for developing and refining a joke. It’s fantastic.

And in typical fashion, Mr. Davies has come up with something that I’ve been recycling/retelling to people near constantly over the last week: “It’s not complicated, it’s just hard.” (NB: complicated ≠ complex, and complex probably = hard. Right?)

And if you think about that for a minute, and read/believe in the thesis of this piece by The Economist on the end/slowing of innovation, you’d start to think that everything around us, everything that we do, isn’t nearly as complicated as it’s made out to be. It’s just hard to do right.


Not sure why, but this video popped into my head a few times recently. It’s worth a watch.

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the core things I’m looking for in a Strategist is taste. And the shortest path to having great taste is having a really refined sense of empathy. My hypothesis is that you’ve got to train for it, too.

Now This is a Project Plan

Do your strategies stretch out 120 years?

Didn’t think so.

This was drawn up in the 1980s by Rockwell International. It’s epic. And there’s too much here to go through, so I’ll encourage you to download the PDF, and start at a box that interests you, and work backward.

Have a great weekend.

Via the brilliant Josh Green.