Week in Review: Snapchat beats a dead horse

Hey. This is Week-in-Review, where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about how Netflix might have some rough times ahead as Disney barrels towards it.


3d video spectacles 3

The big story

There is plenty to be said about the potential of smart glasses. I write about them at length for TechCrunch and I’ve talked to a lot of founders doing cool stuff. That being said, I don’t have any idea what Snap is doing with the introduction of a third-generation of its Spectacles video sunglasses.

The first-gen were a marketing smash hit, their sales proved to be a major failure for the company which bet big and seemingly walked away with a landfill’s worth of the glasses.

Snap’s latest version of Spectacles were announced in Vogue this week, they are much more expensive at $380 and their main feature is that they have two cameras which capture images in light depth which can lead to these cute little 3D boomerangs. On one hand, it’s nice to see the company showing perseverance with a tough market, on the other it’s kind of funny to see them push the same rock up the hill again.

Snap is having an awesome 2019 after a laughably bad 2018, the stock has recovered from record lows and is trading in its IPO price wheelhouse. It seems like they’re ripe for something new and exciting, not beautiful yet iterative.

The $150 Spectacles 2 are still for sale, though they seem quite a bit dated-looking at this point. Spectacles 3 seem to be geared entirely towards women, and I’m sure they made that call after seeing the active users of previous generations, but given the write-down they took on the first-generation, something tells me that Snap’s continued experimentation here is borne out of some stubbornness form Spiegel and the higher-ups who want the Snap brand to live in a high fashion world and want to be at the forefront of an AR industry that seems to have already moved onto different things.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
lucas@techcrunch.com

On to the rest of the week’s news.

tumblr phone sold

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

  • WordPress buys Tumblr for chump change
    Tumblr, a game-changing blogging network that shifted online habits and exited for $1.1 billion just changed hands after Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) unloaded the property for a reported $3 million. Read more about this nightmarish deal here.
  • Trump gives American hardware a holiday season pass on tariffs 
    The ongoing trade war with China generally seems to be rough news for American companies deeply intertwined with the manufacturing centers there, but Trump is giving U.S. companies a Christmas reprieve from the tariffs, allowing certain types of hardware to be exempt from the recent rate increases through December. Read more here.
  • Facebook loses one last acquisition co-founder
    This week, the final remnant of Facebook’s major acquisitions left the company. Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell announced he was leaving. Now, Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus are all helmed by Facebook leadership and not a single co-founder from the three companies remains onboard. Read more here.

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

  1. Facebook’s turn in audio transcription debacle:
    [Facebook transcribed users’ audio messages without permission]
  2. Google’s hate speech detection algorithms get critiqued:
    [Racial bias observed in hate speech detection algorithm from Google]
  3. Amazon has a little email mishap:
    [Amazon customers say they received emails for other people’s orders]

Adam Neumann (WeWork) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. My colleague Danny Crichton wrote about the “tech” conundrum that is WeWork and the questions that are still unanswered after the company filed documents this week to go public.

WeWork’s S-1 misses these three key points

…How is margin changing at its older locations? How is margin changing as it opens up in places like India, with very different costs and revenues? How do those margins change over time as a property matures? WeWork spills serious amounts of ink saying that these numbers do get better … without seemingly being willing to actually offer up the numbers themselves…

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week, we published a major deep dive into the world’s next music unicorn and we dug deep into marketplace startups.

Sign up for more newsletters in your inbox (including this one) here.

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Eric Geusz: Apple engineer by day, spaceship designer by night

As a kid, my parents refused to buy me the action figures that Saturday morning cartoons programmed me to crave. Instead, they insisted that I make do with wooden blocks and other more general purpose toys, with the money-saving argument that this would somehow help build imagination. As a 6-year-old playing with a squared-off chunk of tree instead of a fancy Optimus Prime figure, I didn’t totally buy it. As a 30-something-year-old, I kind of do. And one of the reasons is Eric Geusz.

apple engineer draws objects as spaceships eric geusz mass effect

Like a slightly nerdier Bruce Wayne/Batman or Clark Kent/Superman, Albuquerque, NM-born Geusz has carved out something of a diurnal/nocturnal divide for himself. While working days as a 3D software engineer at Apple, Geusz’s nights have seen him cultivate a growing online fanbase as an artist — largely thanks to his sci-fi drawings transforming everyday household objects into starfighters, futuristic rockets, and space shuttles.

A regular bottle opener? With some Mobius-style flourishes, it’s rendered as an imperious blade-like space leviathan cutting through the stars. An ordinary egg whisk? Try some kind of futuristic satellite or International Space Station-type structure. Barbeque tongs? An A-frame shuttle, which looks like it belongs on some future construction site. A bottle of Sriracha? More like Star-racha! You get the point.

apple engineer draws objects as spaceships eric geusz canopener

“My favorite one is probably still the can opener,” Geusz told Digital Trends. “As an artist there will be art pieces that you do where you look back and realize you ‘leveled up’, where your skill had a noticeable jump in improvement. It’s one of those.”

Dealing with artist’s block

Ironically, the images which have captured people’s imaginations were never intended to be Geusz’s calling cards. “The idea behind it is to help clear artist’s block,” he said. “Sometimes you’ll be bored sitting there thinking, ‘I want to draw, but I don’t know what.’ Well, a cool spaceship; that’s what! Even the dumbest, most mundane things can be awesome.”

Fetishizing the everyday, and elevating the mundane into something extraordinary is, of course, something of a national pastime on the internet. And while few of us without the surname Musk or Bezos can relate to spaceships as commonplace objects, anyone prone to a spot of daydreaming can relate to fantasizing that some totally boring desk object, such as an eraser, is actually a shuttlecraft straight out of the imagination of George Lucas.

With that in mind, it’s little wonder that Geusz’s scribblings have earned him an impressive 134,000 followers on Instagram, where he posts under the moniker Spacegoose.

apple engineer draws objects as spaceships eric geusz penship

“My favorite [response to this work] is the, ‘I thought I was the only one who did this’ comment which I get a lot,” Geusz continued. “It means it connects with people. I’m glad I can help people rekindle a little of their childhood. There is also this idea that real artists create and imagine things in a vacuum. They stare at a blank white paper and, bam, a masterpiece just appears. But any actual real artist will tell you that is not true at all. Artists use references, and gather inspiration from all sorts of places.”

Making the everyday extraordinary

Geusz isn’t kidding. What he’s doing is part of a long tradition among sci-fi prop designers, who reappropriated other more Earthbound technologies when they were called on to create their futuristic or interstellar designs. This can be both directly (the Psychokinetic Energy Meter from Ghostbusters being an actual 1970s shoe polisher) or indirectly (simply inspiring the look of the design.)

“Even the Star Wars ships are World War II airplane and battleship models smashed together,” he said. “I think that misconception makes a lot of people feel like they suck at art or they will never be creative, but being creative is really just looking at stuff from new perspectives.”

A similar thing can be seen the other way around. It’s impossible not to look at the space age rocket designs of the 1960s and not see the influence in the everyday products of the following decades. Devices like the iPad and today’s smart speakers were created as on-screen props for science fiction long before surprisingly similar designs began to pop up in our homes. Heck, tech giants including Microsoft, Google, and Apple have all hired sci-fi writers for the express purpose of writing “design fiction” that will eventually lead to tomorrow’s commonplace commercial products.

apple engineer draws objects as spaceships eric geusz sriracha

So does Geusz’s nightly work as a reinterpreter of the commonplace of the mundane help him with his day job? “Being artistic really helps me with engineering,” he said. “It’s nice to switch your brain off from being purely analytical. It helps me relax from long days of coding and troubleshooting — and I recommend it to everyone as a form of meditation.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to stare at the contents of my kitchen cupboard. And, if the results should lead to the next great spaceship design, I’ll drop my parents a call to thank them for not buying me that Optimus Prime figure.

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Two Cheers for Pete Buttigieg’s Proposal for “Place-Based Visas” for Immigrant Workers

Pete Buttigieg (Jeremy Hogan/Polaris/Newscom).

South Bend, Indiana Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg recently put forward a proposal for "placed based visas" for immigrant workers, based in large part on a similar idea advanced by economists Adam Ozimek, Keenan  Fikri, and John Lettieri (Buttigieg refers to them as "community renewal visas"). Matthew Yglesias of Vox has a helpful summary of the plan, and some of its potential advantages:

Many struggling American communities are, among other things, losing people. Meanwhile, many millions more people would like to move to the United States of America than the country is prepared to allow in.

Three economists have called for leveraging the latter into a solution for the former, allowing both communities and immigrants to opt into a special program that would allow communities experiencing population loss to issue temporary visas to skilled foreigners that would allow them to live and work in places that want more workers.

The economists, John Lettieri, Kenan Fikri, and Adam Ozimek, call them "heartland visas" or "place-based visas" in their original policy proposal for the Economic Innovation Group think tank. The idea has spread: South Bend, Indiana, mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s larger plan for rural America included them under the name Community Renewal Visas, and the US Conference of Mayors endorsed the concept in a resolution passed on a bipartisan basis earlier this summer….

Part of the tragedy of the situation is that in global terms, Akron is one of the very best places in the whole world to live. Declining Midwestern cities tend to have bad weather, but so do thriving Northeastern ones. And while the city’s median household income of $36,000 is on the low side for the United States, it compares favorably to what you’d find in Poland, Hungary, Greece, Croatia, or Chile — to say nothing of India, Bangladesh, or Vietnam.

Lots of people, in other words, might jump at the chance to move to Akron if they were given the opportunity. And we know from the lottery for H1-B visas that American companies would like to import many more foreign-born workers with technical skills than they are currently allowed to hire.

Instead of giving work permits to skilled workers that tie them to a specific company, as the US does now, a new category of visas would tie them to a specific place.

A certain number of place-based visas would be allocated to a city — Akron, say — that wants to opt into the program. And then foreigners with skills who want to take a chance on Akron can apply for an Akron Visa. If you live in the specified city for a certain period of time — Buttigieg’s implementation sets it at three years — you can convert to a regular green card. The lure of the permanent green card, among other things, is supposed to create a strong incentive to comply with the terms of the program.

The theory is that the presence of a pool of skilled workers in a given city would be a lure for companies to start investing there to hire them. This in turn would have a series of related benefits…

A reasonably large share of Akron visa holders would end up moving elsewhere after their initial three-year stint, especially at first. But it’s also the case that people have a tendency to stick around a place once they’ve put some roots down there. And once an immigrant community is established somewhere, its very existence becomes a draw for other people with similar cultural roots.

Place-based visas would be a significant improvement over the current system of H-1B visas that tie immigrant workers to a specific employer.  They would enable workers to switch jobs (so long as they stayed in the same locality). That is good for both economic efficiency (enabling workers to go where they are likely to be more productive) and for avoiding mistreatment of workers by employers. In the H-1B system, workers who leave an abusive employer risk deportation. I also agree with many of the other points Yglesias makes in favor of this proposal.

The main shortcoming of the idea is that, by confining eligible workers to a single community, it severely limits their options. That’s a flaw from the standpoint of both liberty and efficiency. In some smaller communities, they might even be limited to just one or a small handful of employers (depending on how many local businesses employ workers with their particular skills). Another limitation of Buttigieg’s version of the plan is that it would be restricted to "counties that have lost prime-working-age population over the last 10 years, and smaller cities that are struggling to keep pace economically with larger cities." Other communities should also be allowed to participate.

These are the main reason why the plan deserves only two cheers, instead of three. On the other hand, the prospect of getting a green card within 3 years significantly mitigates these problems, as it makes the location restriction temporary and gives employers some incentive to avoid abusive behavior (lest the most productive workers leave as soon as their three year term is up).

The Buttigieg proposal for place-based visas has much in common with a proposal for state-based visas offered by Republican members of Congress Senator Ron Johnson and Rep. Ken Buck in 2017, which I analyzed here. The big advantage of the Johnson-Buck proposal over Buttigieg’s is that a state-based visa gives immigrants far more options than one confined to a single city. On the other hand, their plan—unlike Buttigieg’s—would not grant a green card after  three years. So the locational constraint would continue indefinitely. The Johnson-Buck plan provides for three year visas, which can be extended at the option of the state government in question.

There is, potentially, some conflict between giving immigrants a choice and promoting development of depressed communities, as many would prefer to move to areas with more vibrant economies, if given  the option. But immigrants have diverse preferences, and many might well be willing to move to less successful areas, so long as there are jobs available, and the cost of living is relatively low compared to the big cities of the East and West Coast. Even today, a good many immigrants do in fact move to less-affluent parts of the United States, as shown by such examples as the fact that immigrant doctors service many poor rural areas.

Many of the points I made in my assessment of the Johnson-Buck proposal apply to this one, as well:

For the last century or more, immigration policy has been dominated by the federal government. That’s an inversion of what most of the Founding Fathers expected. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, among many others, objected to the Alien Acts of 1798 in large part because the original meaning of the Constitution did not give Congress any general power to restrict immigration, but rather largely left the issue to the states.

We are unlikely to fully restore the original meaning of the Constitution. But [the Johnson-Buck proposal would move us some degree in that direction]….

If the bill passes, the guest workers admitted by the states would be among the biggest beneficiaries. Many thousands would get freedom and economic opportunity, and escape having to languish in poverty and oppression….  But American citizens also stand to gain, because immigrant workers make major contributions to the American economy. By channeling immigrants into legal employment, this program could also diminish deportations, which come at a high cost to taxpayers….

As with political decentralization on other issues, it could also help mitigate the poisonous partisan conflict created by federal control, where a single, one-size-fits all approach is imposed the entire country. Regional visa programs have worked well in Canada and Australia, two diverse federal democracies with histories and political traditions similar to our own….

Ultimately, decentralization of immigration policy to the state level is not as good as the even more complete decentralization that would occur if these decisions were made by individual workers and employers. Among other things, the latter are in an even better position to judge relevant economic needs than state officials are. But a state-based worker visa program would still be a major improvement over the status quo.

It is worth noting that Jason Kenney, the new United Conservative Party premier of Alberta (Canada’s most conservative province) has recently proposed a plan somewhat similar to Buttigieg’s in an attempt to attract immigrant workers to rural parts of his province, which currently suffer from declining population.

The above analysis assumes that the Buttigieg plan or the Johnson-Buck proposal would expand the total number of immigrants allowed in the US, without diminishing numbers admitted under other categories. The proposals are in fact currently structured that way. If they are altered to cut immigrant admissions elsewhere, that greatly reduces the good they might do (though it might still be net beneficial if community or state-based visas replace H-1B visas).

My post on the Johnson-Buck plan  describes some of the political obstacles it faces, many of which would also apply to the Buttigieg proposal. Those obstacles likely help account for its failure to get much traction in Congress. But the endorsement of  similar ideas by prominent liberal Democrats might increase the chance of building a bipartisan coalition over time.

It may well be too much to hope for. But perhaps at some point in the future, we could get a bipartisan proposal that combines the best features of both plans, while mitigating their respective downsides.

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This Neuroscientist’s Strategy For Success: Reinvent Yourself Every Seven Years

Being an entrepreneur takes hard work. Continuing to create, innovate and ideate after experiencing failure takes grit. Success comes when one is open to pivoting careers, business strategies and life habits. A thriving example of this is Dr. Vivienne Ming, a five-time entrepreneur and an American theoretical neuroscientist. She is breaking the barriers on aged-old philosophies on innovation, education and inclusive economies through her company, Socos Labs, which is an independent think tank.

Dr. Vivienne Ming, five-time entrepreneur and neuroscientist, speaking at the UCSD Convocation in 2016

Erik Jepsen – UC San Diego

She credits her success to the philosophy of reinventing yourself every seven years. It is through these actions that skills are mastered and the ability to expand one’s potential multiples. On the surface, that philosophy sounds simple and straightforward. At its core, it is intricate and delicate, making a person analyze his or her actions and habits and step out beyond the comfort zone.

“It takes about seven years to master something,” Dr. Ming states. “I mean the science is more complex than that but the spirit of this statement is true. Therefore, starting at age 11, if you live to be 88, you have 11 opportunities to become truly great at something. These are your lifetimes…You’re all in on what you’re doing right now, but once you hit year three, year five, you should be thinking, ‘this is wonderful. I’ve truly made a difference in someone’s life. I have achieved as much as can be achieved here. I changed the world, even if maybe it’s just for one person. Now, it’s time to die and be reincarnated as a whole new person. But, I’m still serving that same purpose.’ If you take that path, it actually frees you.”

Dr. Ming has experienced failure like many of us will never know, and has achieved at the highest level like many of us will never know. She didn’t just go from being an academic to an entrepreneur or an entrepreneur to a writer. She went from being homeless to creating her life’s purpose.

Dr. Vivienne Ming giving the keynote speech as SXSW Edu in 2014

RobSantos

From a young age, people told her that she was going to win a Nobel Prize. However, within the first year of college, she flunked out. Almost five years later and homeless, one night she contemplated suicide. “I spent the night trying to figure out why not to kill myself,” she states matter-of-factly. “No cry for help here. This was just pure euthanasia. I was miserable. I failed everyone. I failed at everything…What pulled me through was there were only two people really meaningful left in my life. It was my parents, and I have to admit, I didn’t want to do this to them…I needed to come up with some reason to be alive. At the time, I thought, pretty rationally, that I never would be happy. So, I concocted this purpose. I wouldn’t have called it that at the time; it was just a way to make a decision that sounds very self-congratulatory. Literally, I just had failed at everything, I needed a different set. So, living a life that makes other people’s lives better.”

After deciding she was going to make a change in her life, Dr. Ming began working to earn money to pay for her tuition. Within 10 years after leaving college, she re-enrolled and completed her undergraduate degree in one year. From there she did Ph.D. work in psychology and computational neuroscience. Now, she is changing and improving lives through artificial intelligence, and, with the help of other creatives, is expanding the impact on global policy issues, both inside companies and throughout communities.

Dr. Vivienne Ming, five-time entrepreneur and neuroscientist, addressing the Adobe 99U Conference attendees

Ryan Muir

Dr. Ming shares the three vital steps for reinventing yourself:

Go all in. No matter what Dr. Ming is working on in the moment, she goes all in. “Your parents are making you get a degree in engineering or you’ve stumbled into a writing job on a television show you don’t love,” she explains. “Whatever it is. That’s great. Right now be the absolute best engineer in the world you could possibly be…Go all in! How will you know what you can be great at, if you don’t devote yourself entirely to it?”

Build your purpose. “There isn’t one thing you’re meant to do in this world,” Dr. Ming continues. “I feel it’s a tragedy every time I hear someone say ‘I’ve got to go find myself or find a purpose.’ No, tonight, you get to do it right now. You probably know yourself pretty well, not perfectly, but pretty well, whatever you choose, probably not going to be terrible. So now you’ve gone all in, and you’re building this purpose.”

Set a deadline. Dr. Ming explains that setting deadlines helps with mastering a skill, expertise. Reinventing yourself helps with seeing the world from a different point-of-view and understanding ideas differently. “If you’re that engineering student,” she states, “it’s going to end. You’re going to graduate probably in five years. Then, go be a journalist, and you will see the world differently than all of the other journalists because you’ll see it through the eyes of an engineer. Every one of those lives, set a deadline. When you master it, when you truly get great at something, that’s when you go do something else; not when you hit a brick wall, not when you feel like ‘God, why am I spending my life this way?’ No, when you’re having your peak impact on the world go do something different. Your job across all of these lifetimes, where you’re going all in, is to get better and better at that purpose.”

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3 Budget-Friendly Facebook Marketing Tips For Entrepreneurs

There’s a reason entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses use Facebook as part of their marketing strategy – it works. When you own a small business, competition is tough and keeping your customer’s interest can be a challenge.

The good news is that even with a small budget, you can make an impact and reach more of your market share using social media. And Facebook is one place to do it, giving you maximum exposure to existing and potential customers at no cost.

Here are the top 3 budget-friendly tips for Facebook marketing.

1. Create a Business Page.

Facebook Business is designed for the entrepreneur with a small and limited budget, helping you market your business without using any of your marketing budget. There is no cost to creating a Facebook page for your business and it comes with numerous tools for creating content and managing all your needs as a small entrepreneur.

When building your business Facebook page, you can get ideas on how to create and customize your Facebook business page in this article. The overall guidelines are to include as much information as possible about your brand and business, such as how to contact you, your website, hours of business, and of course your products and services.

Once you’ve set up your business page, use some of these free Facebook page features to reach your customers:

Call-to-Action.

One of the best advantages of Facebook marketing is being able to add a call-to-action button on your page. Using this feature is the ideal way to drive more customer traffic to your business. You can customize call-to-action buttons that achieve different goals, such as a “Contact Us” or “Sign Up” button. You can also encourage customers to make direct bookings with you by creating a “Book Now” call-to-action button, which can be integrated with scheduling software.

Schedule Posts.

Create posts and schedule them to publish on your page on a future date. This allows you to create content in advance and engage with your followers even when you’re not online.

Similar Page Suggestions.

Turn on “Similar Page Suggestions”, found on your settings menu. When turned on, your Facebook page will be recommended when people visit a page that’s similar to yours. This can drive up the traffic to your own Facebook page.

2. Use Attention Grabbing Visual Content.

Visuals need to be an integral part of your marketing plan. Why? Marketing research shows that people engage 2.3 times more with Facebook posts that have images. Even on a limited budget as a small entrepreneur, you can effectively use images and video throughout your business page and within posts to capture the attention of your customers. You can do this by choosing free images from Unsplash, Pexels, or other websites offering free images.

Here’s how to implement effective visual content:

Optimize the cover photo.

The cover photo at the top is what people are going to notice first when they land on your page. Make sure your cover photo stands out and lets people know exactly who you are. Choose one that’s related to your business and make it memorable.

Eye-catching profile picture.

Choose an image that’s easy for people to recognize, such as your headshot or the logo of your brand. It’s this thumbnail image that’s going to be displayed when you post on other Facebook pages.

Content images.

Add images to content when appropriate – but don’t go too far with images, which can also be overwhelming if there’s too many of them.

3. Promote Your Brand.

As a small business owner, Facebook can help you build your brand and build a relationship with your customers. This is your platform to connect with customers and prove how amazing you are. Here’s how to gain more exposure on Facebook and reach more followers:

  • Focus on customer service by responding quickly to any customer messages or feedback.
  • Pin important posts to the top of your Facebook page – this way you get the most leverage out of one post.
  • Include special offers and contests on your page. 39% of Facebook users will follow pages that are offering a special promotion or a discount.
  • Share milestones and achievements with your followers, such as your first anniversary.
  • Share customer feedback and use it to open a discussion and engage other followers.

Final Words.

Facebook isn’t just a place for people to connect with family and friends – using Facebook as an entrepreneur is a smart and effective way to grow your business. As a marketing tool, Facebook lets you share your products and services and promote your brand in creative ways. Using these budget-friendly tips, you’re on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

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How To Effectively Handle Conflict Within Your Team Without Becoming the Bad Guy

Lead

How To Effectively Handle Conflict Within Your Team Without Becoming the Bad Guy

Stop thinking about conflict as a fight and start viewing it as a chance to grow and collaborate

By Tanya PrivePartner, Legacy Transformational Consulting@TanyaPrive1
Getty Images

From a young age, most of us were taught that conflict or fighting is bad. But is it really? It can be if the intention of the conflict is self-serving, but if everyone’s focus is on the greater good of the company or team, it’s an opportunity for growth. 

The best way to improve how you deal with conflict is to look inward first. Start by learning what your perception of conflict is. Do you associate conflict with dysfunction? Disrespect? Time loss? Something else? Then, see if you can create a new and more empowering perception, such as conflict is a learning opportunity or it means we care. Whatever works for you.

Here are some additional ways to take control of conflict throughout your organization and specifically among your team members.

Plan for conflicts by design.

No team is conflict-free. Period. And conflict presents itself in various forms, but many have predictable patterns. For example, every leader is tasked at one point in their career with how to manage an underperforming employee. It’s also common to deal with overly critical employees who harm the morale of a team. Another is serving as moderator for two employees who disagree with each other. The list is a long one.

So get in front of this by studying resources that help develop mental frameworks on how to handle conflicts, and you may also want to explore working with a coach. A good one will create scenarios for you to practice how to respond, and then help you develop your own leadership style that is adaptable to a variety of situations.

Don’t always come to the rescue.

Liane Hornsey, former Vice President of People Operations at Google, noted that she would never mediate a conflict between employees. She said there were instances at Google where two coworkers were openly upset with one another and the only message from management was for them to work it out themselves.

This may seem counterintuitive, but it sets a precedent for how much organizational leaders trust and empower their teams to solve personal conflicts.

Your approach to disagreements may be more hands-on than what’s practiced at Google, but here’s the important takeaway–while you can maybe fix the immediate conflict by jumping in, you likely are creating a bigger problem later from a cultural and team trust standpoint. 

When you must get involved, don’t add fuel to the fire.

As an example from my own experience, my consulting firm was hired to work with the executive team of a large public company. The CEO and his direct reports were all present. Mid-way through our second day, two senior executives in the leadership team start going at it, and it got ugly fast. One executive said to another, “you are a micromanager and the people around you don’t trust you.”

The receiving executive was enraged. The conversation quickly turned to threatening legal action. This moment erupted from the build-up of months of back-and-forth between them. As you can imagine, this dysfunction (which is not uncommon by the way), seriously got in the way of this team’s ability to perform.

It took several hours of guided coaching for each party to be able to hear each other, but they eventually reached a resolution, granted each other their trust, and worked together effectively through the following year. 

In this case, it is advisable to bring in a neutral party that is highly-trained to deal with this type of scenario, but if that’s not possible, here’s our core philosophy: don’t pick sides, give each party the opportunity to voice their discontent and guide each one to see and experience (notice I didn’t say agree with) what the other is feeling. But above all, stay neutral. Think Switzerland.

Identify and mitigate against your weaknesses.

Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review and the author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict found that most people can be classified into two categories: those who avoid conflict and those who seek it. People who have a tendency to avoid disagreements are usually focused on not hurting the feelings of those around them, while the conflict seekers are focused on finding the truth.

It’s not bad to belong to either camp, but it’s important to recognize your weaknesses and work to improve them. She noted that working through conflict with another person forms a close bond between them.

So just because differences are sometimes expressed in a negative way, it doesn’t mean your team is going to fall apart. It may just show your team is becoming more like a family than a loose collection of acquaintances.

Published on: Aug 18, 2019
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16 Great Books for Anyone Who Wants to Get Ahead in Life

Grow

16 Great Books for Anyone Who Wants to Get Ahead in Life

Reading is a daily habit commonly practiced by high achievers because it’s an effective method of sharpening oneself.

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Reading is a daily habit commonly practiced by high achievers because it’s an effective method of sharpening oneself. While non-fiction is the genre which likely comes to mind when it comes to self-improvement, even non-fiction is good for broadening your perspective and ability to be creative. Here are more than a dozen good titles to check out, according to successful executives who offer their rationale for reading them.

1. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

“While this isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill motivational self-help read, [this book] breaks down how to create and maintain motivated cultures. Most entrepreneurs and professionals in leadership positions are pretty self-motivated, but fostering that motivation throughout an entire organization is often where the difficulty lies. Coyle starts with big ideas and dials them into systems, justifying them all with case studies. He defines three key skill sets successful cultures share: building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing purpose. He clarifies organizational challenges we all face like ‘status management’ and breaks them down to their essence to be overcome. Using case studies from the Navy Seals to the San Antonio Spurs to elementary school students, he demonstrates both successes and failures in cultures and, more importantly, the ‘why’ behind them. I found it to be an informative and inspiring read on one of the most important motivational topics any leader faces — building culture.”

–Kelechi Okere, EVP of business development at RSP Nutrition, a nutrition brand distributed at retailers such as Amazon, Bodybuilding.com, GNC, and Vitamin Shoppe, in over 5,000 U.S. retail locations and over 80 countries

2. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman 

“The most valuable books I’ve read in my life are those that help me shape the principles that underpin the way I live my life, as opposed to practical business advice. [This book] is the perfect guide to stoicism, a school of philosophy which, at its root, is a philosophy for minimizing the negative emotions in your life and maximizing your gratitude and joy. Working for a fast-paced startup for the past four years, you encounter just about every emotion you can in business. Practicing stoicism helps you remain leveled throughout the highs and lows. Remaining leveled mentally is an underrated characteristic of leaders, and in times of uncertainty people will always seek support from the calmest person in the room.”

–Cathal Berragan, U.S. creative director at The Social Chain, an integrated social media company with clients including Amazon, Coca-Cola, Nokia, DreamWorks, and Disney

3. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

“There are so many distractions in business today — so many people trying to convince you that they have the next thing that will take your business to the next level. It is important to not let these people and tactics distract you from what works. [This book] is an evergreen reminder of the fact that the basics in business still work, and work well if you focus on them. In the book Greg renames the CEO from Chief Executive Officer to Chief Editing Officer, which is how I see myself when I step into a new business to lead its turnaround so that we can sell it for a multiple of revenue in one to two years. I need to edit out all the nonessential stuff for my team so that they are focused on revenue generating activities. The thing about being a Chief Editing Officer is that it is a never-ending job. You always need to be distilling the focus of yourself and your team into what matters most.”

–Chris Dominello, director of business development at Reliefband Technologies, which offers patented, FDA-cleared, wearable technology that treats motion sickness through neuromodulation and is available at retailers such as SamsClub.com, Amazon and FSAStore.com

4. How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick by Letty Cottin Pogrebin

“Shortly after undergoing a major surgery, I stumbled upon this book and have read it several times since. There is no manual on how to navigate life with a colleague, friend or family member who is sick yet this comes very, very close. This book makes you think about the ways in which you can improve your communication. Most people don’t know how to approach so many situations as it relates to illness and this book provides valuable tips on how to navigate this. Letty has been the patient, caregiver and friend as well as interviewed many patients for the book, so she tackles all angles necessary to write about this topic. It’s extremely heartwarming, tactical and valuable for anyone who is looking to become more compassionate.”

–Harper Spero, host of the Made Visible podcast which has featured guests including Ally Hilfiger, Genevieve Gorder, and Gunnar Esiason, with sponsors including LOLA, Beekeeper’s Naturals, NDOband, and Ouchie

5. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

“For anyone starting a company or thinking about it, they need to read this book. Startups aren’t for the faint of heart and Ben does a great job describing the personal and professional sacrifices [involved in them]. He also explains that startups are messy, full of mistakes and even big ones have many near-death experiences where not making next payroll is very real. There’s nothing that can prepare a startup founder better than jumping in the deep end. Future founders should take his messages literally and see if they have the fortitude and guts. The ‘struggle is real’ and this book is a great wake up call for the startup world.”

–Patrick O’Leary, founder and CEO of Boostr, a media-specific CRM and order management platform which grew more than 250 percent last year

6. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

“This book is about Louis Zamperini, a problem teenager, college athlete, Olympian, WWII airman and Japanese POW. While he experienced countless achievements throughout his life, the book hones in on the most challenging of all, surviving Japanese entrapment. It’s a testament to the overwhelming power of the human mind and body to overcome desperate times and events. Not only is it an enticing read, but it also shows what you can really do if you put your mind to something and don’t let others or outside factors break you.”

–Michael Fox, vice president and chief commercial officer at Valid, a global provider of technology solutions for mobile, identity, data and payments that is the fifth-largest producer of SIM Cards in the world, and is among the world’s 10 largest manufacturers of banking cards

7. The Road Less Stupid by Keith J. Cunningham

“Most entrepreneurs are going 100 miles per hour in dozens of different directions, but most of us don’t even take five minutes of quiet time to think and plan. At the very start of the book, Cunningham asks: ‘How much money would you have right now if I gave you the ability to unwind any three financial decisions you have ever made?’ We all have great ideas, but sometimes the best successes are the mistakes we didn’t make. Cunningham’s book is full of insightful concepts, and I have seen tangible results from an amazingly simple one — set aside thinking time every day to work out all the variables and consequences in your plan so as to avoid those mistakes.” 

–Avi Weintraub, Fort Lauderdale chair of TIGER 21, a peer membership organization with more than 700 high-net-worth wealth creators and preservers worldwide, and CEO of The Weintraub Companies, an Inc. 500 construction company

8. Feck Perfuction by James Victore

“My Stevie award-winning sister sent me [this] book… [T]he main theme: action over perfection. Everything about your life is a test of your character. From obstacles in front of you, to the fear inside you, to the naysayers beside you. Success is how you tackle these tests. And it’s all up to you whether you play the victim or the hero. The imperfect actions of the hero are far greater than the inaction of the victim. It comes down to fighting to find the light, by being resourceful and breaking through to the other side of your greatness, and most importantly influencing your employees and colleagues.”

–Lori Taylor, co-CEO of Better Choice Company, a global health and wellness business for animals, serving 150,000 customers with 62,000 product shipments per month 

9. The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma

“I live this methodology. I wake up at 4:45 a.m. and I am in the gym by 5:00 a.m. The mental clarity and focus that owning the morning provides me sets my day up for success. It gives me the opportunity to work through my thoughts and goals for the day to ensure I make every day a meaningful and productive one. The routine provides me with discipline that radiates throughout all aspects of my professional life.”

–Ryan Webber, VP of enterprise mobility at SOTI, a provider of mobile and IoT device management solutions, with more than 17,000 enterprise customers and millions of devices managed worldwide

10. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

“Written 2,500 years ago, this book is of a disconcerting pragmatism. Far from dogmas, principles or ideologies, the objective of this book is to give readers the information that they need to win. On the one hand, it’s a great manual for managers that advises leaders on humbleness, integrity and an inflexible fairness. On the other, it provides the keys to intelligence, observation and analysis for various cases so that leaders can act in a timely, composed manner. During my entrepreneurial life [this book] has always been a reliable source for me to look to during countless situations. It’s a must-read.”

–Dr. André Choulika, CEO of Cellectis, a publicly traded biopharma company that recently received approval from the U.S. FDA to initiate clinical trials with UCARTCS1 for the treatment of multiple myeloma with the first off-the-shelf CAR T-cell therapy

11. Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

“As an entrepreneur, I am always interested in how to take my company to the next level. [This book] is the secret to take a company from one to one billion as quickly as possible and truly stand out from the competitors. This book cites the stories of the rapid rise of great companies of Facebook, Netflix, and Airbnb. The tools to support successful ‘Blitzscaling’ are the right business model, right hiring and managing practice, evolving culture, marriage of responsibility and velocity for the greater good.”

–Dr. Lan Huang, cofounder, chairman and CEO at BeyondSpring, a late-stage biopharma company focused on developing cancer therapies for non-small cell lung cancer and for the prevention of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, which recently raised $35 million during a public offering of ordinary shares 

12. Leveling the Playing Field: A Guide to Successful Business Development Transactions for Private and Small Public Life Science Companies by Larry Horowitz and Larry Ellberger

“This book is short step-by-step analysis of how to approach negotiations, auctions and development transactions. Both of the authors have immense experience and share it in a straightforward and honest read. While the book did not impact my personal life, it certainly provided me with a wealth of knowledge that has enabled more successful negotiations and better commercial outcomes. I would highly recommend it.”

–Dr. William Levine, chief scientific officer of CannRx, a company developing scientifically-based cannabis technologies and products, and founder of Izun Pharmaceuticals, a company specializing in botanical medicine with an IP portfolio of over 65 patents

13. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

“This is the book you need to read to realize that perseverance is probably the most important factor required to succeed both in business and in life, and may be more important than natural aptitude. The author illustrates through many examples how the power of interest, passion, and perseverance move people and ideas forward. I can really identify with this book’s message: ‘believe in your passion, identify a goal, and persevere through grit.’ Grit is really all about the reaction to getting knocked down again and again, and how success is achieved by learning from failure. In the book: ‘To be gritty is to fall down seven times and rise eight.’ I really cannot count how many times I have been down face first. A couple times not even sure I would be able to get up again. But I always seem to, and most times move forward after the knockdown with a better understanding of what I have to do to succeed. To me, this is really the essence of being gritty.”

–Dr. Paul MacKoul, cofounder of The Center for Innovative GYN Care, a surgical practice with five practice locations in four states, treating complex gynecologic conditions with trademarked minimally invasive surgical techniques 

14. Alchemy by Rory Sutherland

“So many of us are trained to focus on data and the logical, and Alchemy makes a great argument for the irrational. I think everyone, myself specifically, could use a reminder that asking dumb questions, reframing old ideas and in turn, trying to create a bit of magic, can lead to unexpected solutions for some of our most difficult problems. Alchemy was a reminder of that and then some.”

–Daniel Kane, cofounder and CEO of The Ridge, an accessories company which makes a front-pocket wallet that has been purchased by more than 1 million people globally

15. Start with Why by Simon Sinek

“I was recently recommended this book and absolutely devoured it, and then immediately re-read it. The main concept, as told by Sinek, is that ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Although it is an admittedly challenging task, being able to articulate why your company is doing whatever it’s doing — and not just what it sells — is really powerful and helps to drive decision making with much more clarity. This book gives you the framework to better develop and more clearly express your ‘Why’.” 

–Adam Callinan, cofounder and CEO of BottleKeeper, which earned a $1 million combined offer from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner on Shark Tank in November 2018

16. Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“I read this great classic by the Nobel prize winner Solzhenitsyn when I was in graduate school. [This book] is best known for its brilliant macro insights of Soviet life at the depth of the Cold War in the 1950s and micro insights of an individual confronting death. The story is told through characters representing different aspects of Soviet life, from the ex-political prisoner who survived years in the brutal gulags to the Soviet official who ratted out non-communists. For me, the inspirational aspect of the book was the change of behavior of a young cancer victim, who first entered the clinic with a stack of books he was committed to reading. As he realized his plight, his motivation was replaced with despair. Remarkably, he survives, but his outlook on life dramatically changes. Solzhenitsyn brilliantly addresses how life changes our motivations and how we view the world.”

–Dr. Jonathan Rothbard, chief scientific officer at cannabis biotech CannBioRx Life Sciences Corp., who was responsible for helping to establish a variety of successful biotech companies, including Amylin Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2012 for $7 billion), ImmuLogic, CellGate and Cardinal Therapeutics

Published on: Aug 18, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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The Conquest of the United States by China

In 1898, after the United States’ quick victory in the Spanish-American war, the great Yale social scientist William Graham Sumner gave a speech titled “The Conquest of the United States by Spain.” He told his audience, “We have beaten Spain in a military conflict, but we are submitting to be conquered by her on the field of ideas and policies.”

He argued that early Americans “came here to isolate themselves from the social burdens and inherited errors of the old world” and chose to “to strip off all the follies and errors which they had inherited…. They would have no court and no pomp; no orders, or ribbons, or decorations, or titles. They would have no public debt. They repudiated with scorn the notion that a public debt is a public blessing; if debt was incurred in war it was to be paid in peace and not entailed on posterity.”

The American citizen “was, above all, to be insured peace and quiet while he pursued his honest industry and obeyed the laws.”

But, he said, if America became a colonizing nation like the empires of Europe, we would become afflicted with “war, debt, taxation, diplomacy, a grand-government system, pomp, glory, a big army and navy, lavish expenditures, and political jobbery – in a word, imperialism.” And in that day we would have thrown away the American principle of liberty for “a Spanish policy of dominion and regulation.”

I was reminded of Sumner’s warning when I read a column in the Washington Post by Eswar Prasad, a prominent trade economist at Cornell University and the Brookings Institution. Prasad warns that in its trade war with China the Trump administration seems determined to emulate China:

China might seem in a better position to cope with a trade war, since it is a heavily managed economy and the government squashes political resistance. Yet its every maneuver carries enormous risks. Meanwhile, Trump, who manages a durable and flexible economy, is not exactly seeking victory for the American way of doing business. His approach, in some ways right out of Beijing’s playbook, would make our economy quite a bit more like China’s.

Prasad enumerates some of China’s “advantages” in a trade war: a state-dominated economy, with state-owned banks, and an autocratic government that can shut down dissent and censor bad news. Trump, on the other hand, has the advantage of an “enormously flexible and resilient” economy and bipartisan support for “getting tough on China.” But Prasad warns:

Yet in exercising his power, he could end up making America’s economy a bit more like the state-dominated one operated by Beijing — and, in so doing, permanently damage the U.S. free market. To rescue the agricultural sector from the consequences of the trade war, Trump has already dispatched $28 billion in government subsidies. He has also jawboned American companies to move their production bases back to U.S. shores, rather than letting them make their own commercial decisions. Trump has even pressured the Federal Reserve, whose independence is seen as sacrosanct, to lower interest rates and suggested that the Fed should help drive down the value of the dollar. With such moves, he risks undermining the true strengths of the United States: the institutions that make the U.S. dollar and the American financial system so dominant.

What’s worse, Trump suggests that the rule of law is up for negotiation. After imposing sanctions on Chinese technology companies such as ZTE and Huawei for running afoul of U.S. rules, he hinted that those sanctions could be negotiated away as part of a trade deal.

Much as Sumner worried in 1898 that the United States was trading its peace and liberty for “a Spanish policy of dominion and regulation,” Prasad fears that

China has made its lack of independent institutions a source of strength in dealing with external economic aggression. In that model, Trump sees something Washington should copy — and seems ready to abandon what makes the United States special. 

We faced a similar challenge in the 1980s when powerful American voices called for an industrial policy similar to the one they credited with the success of the then-booming Japanese economy. But critical analysis from Cato scholars and others across the political spectrum stopped that campaign, just in time for us to watch Japan sink into its “lost decade” of economic stagnation.

Sumner got a lot right. The United States did become a globe-circling imperial power burdened by war, debt, taxation, regulation, and rent-seeking. Will Prasad prove equally prophetic? Will we fight a trade war with China, only to discover that we have adopted “a Chinese policy of dominion and regulation”?

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