Built to Level Up

Larry Page spoke the other day at the Fortune Global Forum Event. His talk was about “Alphabet”.  Alphabet is a holding company – and that sounds pretty boring, right? Well, perhaps not.

Alphabet is the company that Larry Page wants to be dedicated to building things for the future – things that have great value added.

Under Page’s purview, Alphabet subsidiaries control the world’s largest search engine (Google), a smart home manufacturer (Nest), a self-driving car project, an internet balloon project, and a venture capital arm. And that’s just the beginning.

Very cool. Al Wenger wrote about how capital constraints are giving way to attention constraints. This example provides us with a glimpse of what this looks like. Th pitch is about the lure of the mission rather than the potential return to investors.

Companies Built to be Mobile

Fast Company offers an interesting article about how work will change in 2016. The ideas presented reflect best thinking about how trends will extend into the next period.

One idea in particular is worthy of deeper reflection. Companies are less fixed institutions than they are aggregations of teams. And teams operate in more autonomous manner than ever before Teams work more and more from remote locations — not from a single location. Here is an example. tech workers being lured out of London.

Enabled by advancements in communication technology, the “remote-firs”t structure provides a variety of conveniences. For example, research by online freelance marketplace Upwork suggests that finding and onboarding talent in the brick-and-mortar world takes an average of 43 days, compared with three days in the virtual world..

This imposes a new leadership paradigm

“Most companies, even big companies, are much less hierarchal and much less top-down in their execution than they used to be,” says Bersin. “Leaders are finding that they have to be more inspirational, they have to be more collaborative. The traditional approach to performance management and performance appraisals is being revolutionized, they’re throwing away ratings, they’re putting in systems to provide feedback, and the gap that’s being created is, ‘Who are the right leaders?'”

So who is the right leader? Leadership in this setting means delivering the right vision in order to focus a team’s attention. It requires an appreciation of strategy and learning from doing.

Thinking about Flipboard

Full confession – I am a big fan of Zite, a news curation platform that not too long ago was sold to its competitor Flipboard.

It was just a few years ago that the idea of a mobile device news curation service was revolutionary. The idea that I could access a flow of content from many different sources on any topic that I wanted beat the hell out of only being able to access what one content provider could generate.

How could this go wrong? Well, it is going wrong. As time has gone by, other big players in the mobile game have realized that they can stream  news content as well. And while Flipboard is not going out of business, it is no longer the darling of the mobile content provider world.

There is a broader issue here. As a daily user of Zite (essentially the same thing as Flipboard) I see it. The problem is that while I can ask for articles on a given topic – let’s say London or Paris or cooking – that ask does not generate precisely what I am looking for at that moment. Instead, it generates a lot of crap with a few interesting things. In other words, the curation does not “level up”. And because it does not level up, it can be copied.

The question — and it is a question that no one really has figured out yet — is how to do that leveling up. How do you empower content users to get precisely the content they need in order to learn.

Stay tuned!