The Queens Gambit, Spotify, Population growth, Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 & Cool/Not Cool
8th November 2020 Evolution Partners Newsletter
“If you think about a pyramid, the right way to think about leadership is you’re not at the top of the pyramid. You should invert the pyramid and envision yourself as the guy at the bottom. You are there to enable all the work being done. That’s my mental image of what I’m here to do at Spotify.” – Daniel Ek – Spotify founder
Hope you’re Thriving!
I’ve had a very busy week, typically starting around 6 am, and finishing late at night. I get lots of energy from the work I do, so I’m really energised but tired. During the week I had one private workshop and one 2-day group workshop with the group workshop having four leadership teams in the same room, simultaneously building four plans where we all nailed BHAGs, Hedgehogs and Organisational charts as well as broader strategy. I love the environment and the challenge of building 4 plans at the same time, and when I originally was working with the concept years ago, in my mind I thought about the images you see of Grand Chess masters playing many people at the same time, how challenging that must be for them, and how much they would learn from it. I’d been to public workshops to build business plans before that were really more like a speaking event, and I wanted no part of that, I wanted to do the difficult work with the teams, and stretch my memory muscle to learn as much as possible.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching one of the best drama series I’ve seen in a long time called The Queens Gambit which follows a young chess prodigy’s rise from an orphanage to the world stage. Now anyone who knows the basic rules of chess would probably beat me in ten minutes, but the series isn’t so much about chess, as much as the cost of genius, competition and hard work, with some fantastic insights for entrepreneurs.
Spotify Founder Daniel Elk interview
In the same way that I’m using a creative environment of one to many to grow, as is the Grand Chess master, interestingly so does Beyoncé.
For example, when Beyoncé records an album, one of the things that she does, which is just remarkable, is she keeps almost four or five different studios running at the same time in a city.
She uses different musicians, different producers and she actually goes from room to room: brainstorming ideas, trying different things, working on different songs. Whenever the moment leaves, she will go to the next studio and do the same thing. I’m not sure if it’s a predetermined schedule or if it’s more spontaneous, like when she’s in a vibe, but the process is essentially not a singular thing. It’s something that she does in multiple parts.
I learned this from a fascinating must-read interview with Swedish CEO and founder of Spotify Daniel Elk.
It’s a detailed account which includes:
– How he structures his day
– What good meetings look like
– What ‘company bets’ are at Spotify
– Dealing with a board
– Working within a flow
Population growth and thinking long term
Last week I recorded a podcast with a New York based Family Business expert (which will come out soon) and it had me thinking about a couple of statistics we discussed.
According to Family Enterprise USA, family businesses in the US account for over 64% of GDP and employ 62% of the workforce.
Then in the past week, I was chatting with an Australian family business CEO who said that family businesses have a distinct advantage that listed companies and privately held first-generation companies don’t. That is the later think over quarters, while family businesses think over decades.
So where are the growth economies in the coming decades?
In the past few decades, we’ve seen dramatic rises in Chinese urbanisation, with resulting growth and opportunities for entrepreneurs globally. So looking decades ahead we can look at where the most populated cities will be, and the image below provides an amazing look at the top 20 cities by population comparing 2010 to 2100.
To contextualise the change, 80 years ago (1940) the 10 most populated cities in the world were:
– New York
– Buenos Aires
– Los Angeles
80 years from now (2100) the 10 most populated cities in the world are predicted to be:
– Lagos, Nigeria (21m currently going to 88 million population!)
– Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
– Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
– Mumbai, India
– Delhi, India
– Khartoum, Sudan
– Niamey, Niger
– Dhaka, Bangladesh
– Kolkatta, India
– Kabul, Afghanistan
The opportunities for entrepreneurs who think globally across a multi-decade horizon are enormous. All these growing economies need infrastructure, education, food, security etc.
One other thing, by 2100, the prediction is that only one western city (New York – 30m) is in the top 20 most populated cities.
State of Artificial Intelligence
This population growth prediction is interesting, and if you’ve watched the recent David Attenborough film it’s concerning, but there is much to be hopeful for. One of the things we should be grateful for is the growth in the capability of technology and artificial intelligence, and its ability to help solve problems such as those that arise from population growth.
A couple of weeks ago AI investors Nathan Benaich and Ian Hogarth released their third State of AI Report 2020 and it is 177 slides of the most fascinating and detailed information about AI today. If 177 is too many, then just go to the industry section.
Here are just a few of the interesting takeaways:
- AI R&D costs are soaring, 85% of AI research papers do not publish code & startups won’t be able to catch up to companies like Google
- Machine learning accuracy is stagnant in mature areas, to improve ImageNet error rate from 11.5% to 1% would cost over one hundred billion billion dollars!
- Biology is experiencing its first ‘AI moment’ with this year signalling a new era for AI-first drug discovery, AI chemists are now 10% more accurate than human chemists
- There are 3x more job postings than job views for AI-related roles, and job postings are growing at 12x, there’s a real problem with universities losing professors to private industry
- Companies like Berkshire Grey are providing pick, pack & sort fulfilment AI solutions that reduce direct labour cost by 70%
- CNC Machining is being automated by CloudNC to soon achieve >95% productivity (humans are 9%)
- There’s an explosion of governments adopting AI technologies for military applications
Below is one of the more interesting slides from the State of AI deck where they are running the world’s largest clinical study and aiming to predict COVID-19 without a physical test. After analysing symptoms from 4 million contributors they found that the most predictive symptom of COVID-19 is loss of smell — probably no surprises there. But, the second most predictive symptom is skipped meals, which I hadn’t heard of before.
For me as a runner, in another interesting breakthrough this week, Stanford School of Medicine researchers have found a way to regenerate the cartilage that eases movement between bones.
Says assistant professor of surgery Charles K.F. Chan, PhD “Cartilage has practically zero regenerative potential in adulthood, so once it’s injured or gone, what we can do for patients has been very limited. It’s extremely gratifying to find a way to help the body regrow this important tissue.”
Read the article here – Researchers find method to regrow cartilage in the joints
Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0
A few months ago I helped facilitate an online event with Jim Collins and as part of the discussion, delegates were asked to name their favourite Jim Collins book. Of course, all the votes went to Good to Great or Great by Choice, and a few went to How the Mighty Fall, but my vote and one of the only votes from the audience went to Jim’s first book, Beyond Entrepreneurship. I was first prompted to read it when Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix said in an interview with Stanford Graduate School of Business that it’s the one book he recommends entrepreneurs read. The reason I like it is that it’s more instructional that Jim’s other books which are research-based – which makes them fantastic, but this is just a different flavour.
Now, on December 1st Jim is releasing a new book, the second version of Beyond Entrepreneurship with four new chapters and fifteen new essays. BE 2.0 pulls together the key concepts across Collins’ thirty years of research into one integrated framework called The Map, which is the new one-page framework for the practical implementation of the Good to Great® concepts.
You can pre-order Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 now in anticipation of its release.
A moment to thank you
This week marks the one year anniversary since I released my book Made to Thrive which has sold many copies in countries all over the world. I’ve had so many messages from CEOs and leaders and coaches thanking me and saying how the book helped them which has all been so very humbling.
Equally, I re-started this newsletter on 18th August 2019 initially to discuss the book, which has now evolved into what you read today, a collection of the interesting things I’m seeing each week. Also, every time I get an email from someone about the newsletter it makes my day, it takes me a lot of work each week to construct, but the replies I get keep me going.
So thank you.
This week on The Growth Whisperers podcast
On episode 30 of The Growth Whisperers, Kevin Lawrence and I talk about the following.
When entrepreneurs lose their vision and what to do about it
This week Kevin and Brad talk about what happens when entrepreneurs want to sell their business because they are tired and want a change. They talk about what the potential causes are for this and share stories about CEOs who have found their way through these obstacles that seemed insurmountable in their minds.
Also, they provide a 5 step process to understand what to do if you’ve had enough and want to sell your business, and how to re-engineer your business so you can once again be passionate about it.
Listen to The Growth Whisperers
From the vault
Cool / Not Cool Core Values theme
Taking a page from Towne Park’s “Daily Basics” “Cool/Not Cool” is City Bin’s latest quarterly theme. There are 31 behaviours – one for each day of the month – 16 Cool and 15 Not Cool – that are intended to drive up City Bin’s Net Promoter Score (NPS). The relevant behaviour is highlighted during each daily huddle and a daily email is sent to each staff member highlighting that day’s Cool, Not Cool message. Below you will see the brilliant visuals Browne’s team created to represent each behaviour. It’s all about having a handful of rules and then repeating yourself a lot. It’s also about behaviour change, NOT culture change (no such thing).
“The theme is going down very well. The biggest difference I see now is that it’s much easier to have that ‘awkward’ conversation with a colleague. All you have to say is ‘Not Cool’ and the message is understood.”
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