•  2 min read

Data, the Amish, MBAs and Totoro

I'm going to kick off this week with some great Observations on Product Management — here's my personal favorite:

Being data-driven is not vision (emphasis mine). People who cling to being data-driven rarely create anything new or interesting. I also personally find it hard to explain why to them.

I'm not suggesting (and I'm certain the author isn't, either) that data isn't valuable in product management, but sometimes it's used as a crutch for a sketchy value prop or lack of vision. That's not cool.

Different, but also data-related: How the Math Men Overthew the Mad Men.

Moving on, maybe the Amish are on to something with their approach to technology (and no, this isn't a precursor to a 'kill all the computers' rant)—their approach of watching and evaluating the effects of a given technology before deciding whether or not to adopt it has a lot to recommend it:

It's not that the Amish view technology as inherently evil. No rules prohibit them from using new inventions. But they carefully consider how each one will change their culture before embracing it. And the best clue as to what will happen comes from watching their neighbors.

"The Amish use us as an experiment," says Jameson Wetmore, an engineer turned social researcher at the Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. "They watch what happens when we adopt new technology, and then they decide whether that’s something they want to adopt themselves."

Thinking before we act? What a novel idea.

While we're thiking about our actions and the effects of technology, we should probably spend a bit more time working out what we're going to do with all the stuff we toss out.

As for cleaning up the manner in which we run businesses more generally, maybe looking at the way we educate our future business leaders could help shift the needle?

...in their current forms as managerial training camps, (MBA Programs) lock students in a double bind. We can’t ignore shareholder capitalism’s obvious ethical lapses, but we also don’t entertain anything like systemic analyses of it. To square this circle, we pretend honest managers can autonomously pursue aims other than profit, and convince ourselves through largely performative "debates" that we’re exactly these kinds of people. Rarely do we admit that incentives can override principles, or that the duty to be a good executive doesn’t automatically align with the call to be a good person. Rarer still do we talk about how to fix this misalignment through changes—whether to institutions public or private—that might burden the managerial class...

A lot of the back end of this article is about the political implications of the way train future execs, but the first half is definitely worth thinking about.

After mentioning last week that I was having trouble finding ways to waste time on the internet, I came across this. While the broader point of the original article stands, I did manage to sink a bit of time into poking around the various movie social graphs.

And I know where I'm going to eat next time I'm in Bangkok.