Rad Reads, Volume 60
This Week: “Managers who give a damn, can genius be learnt in 10,000 hours, Shane Battier on “Glue Guys”, Nuclear Fusion primer, Economics of Abundance, welcome GIFs”
Each week, we curate five unique articles, the Rad Reads. The topics are expansive and groovy, ranging from leadership, technology, pop culture, science, policy, self-improvement, philanthropy and finance. Subscribe below:
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero.” Charlie Munger
My Management Lessons from Three Failed Startups
7 mins | Link: Firstround.com
One of my favorite management articles of all time and one I re-read on an annual basis. Learn what it means to “Give a damn” as a manager. And unfortunately, that doesn’t scale. Shit. This is why Scott recommends max seven direct reports (a principle also held by Andy Grove) which gives the flexibility for one hour, weekly touch-bases. How does one give a damn? Well, it begins by deeply caring about your reports at a personal level. Understanding both their past and their bigger aspirations (What are the three to five things they really want to be?). Recognizing that their life path may not be inextricably tied to their path at your company (I never understood bosses who discouraged MBAs because they were scared of “losing” the employee.) Then there’s feedback — balancing clear, direct, and immediate feedback “tough love” (or Radical Candor, another Rad Reads gem, also written by Scott) while also being parsimonious with praise (particularly the unwarranted kind). And finally, there’s customizing your style for the trajectory of each report, specifically using a quadrant of Growth vs. Performance and recognizing the role that High Performing, Yet Gradual Growth achievers play within a company.
Elite “Glue Guys” 101
4 mins | Link: The Players Tribune
Shane Battier was also featured in a previous Rad Reads (The No Stats All-Star, by Michael Lewis). So what is a “Glue Guy/Gal?” One who “makes everything work,” “does the things nobody notices to help win games,” and “often responsible for organizing fantasy leagues, team outings, and resolving internal disputes.”
But in a league of flashy and flamboyant “me me me” stars, a Glue Guy is considered a putdown by most. The Glue Guy doesn’t make the highlight reel, lacks the LeBron James athleticism, and doesn’t operate out of fear of looking dumb. But on the flip side — the Glue Guy displays the following team enhancing (and pie-expanding) behavior: Playing to maximize your teammates, helping the team win at all costs, and never caring about individual credit (just that of the team).
So where does the fantasy football come in? Similar to the Kim Scott article above, extending the mindset beyond the court (or the “job”) — making it personal. Battier organized charity events and survivor pools with the belief that “Teammates can never be too connected” and Cohesiveness Wins. (For our Rad Ballers, some more NBA-related Rad Reads)
Nuclear Fusion (Two articles)
Fission, Fusion… Tomato, to-mah-to. Last week I confessed not knowing much about Universal Basic Income and this week it’s nuclear fusion. These are two old articles, but felt like together they can provide overview (NYT) and technical deets (Nature). Our current nuclear plants are tomato — I mean fission (!) — which means splitting big atoms into smaller ones. But there are drawbacks: uranium is scarce, building the plants are expensive, and as Fukushima (and others) have shown, they can be hazardous. Fusion is the reverse — squashing atoms to form bigger ones. It has the same upside power potential, releases no carbon dioxide and their fuel (derived from water) is abundant.
However, fusion technology has been elusive for many, many decades. Read the second paper to learn about the various technologies (Tomahawks, magnetized target reactors, colliding beam fusion) and the main project (ITER) is a $14 Bn project funded by five governments and eleven years behind. So can a group of Silicon Valley backed companies with a couple hundred millions of funding disrupt nuclear technology?
Bringing Up Genius
14 mins | Link: chronicle.com
“Every healthy child is a potential genius.”
Last week, I made a passing comment to the Gladwellian notion of 10,000 hours without knowing that the specific psychologist (K. Anders Ericsson) would be prominently featured this week. So back to the Nature versus Nurture question, this time around the game of chess. Does success depend more on the accidents of genetics or the decisions of upbringing? Nature or nurture?
In communist Budapest, Lars Polgár was determined that he could raise his daughters to be geniuses — specifically in chess . They homeschooled their girls, defying a skeptical and chauvinist Communist system and they produced three chess prodigies, also leading them to fame and wealth.
We grasp at the 10,000 hours narrative, it is a hopeful and democratic message, and clearly hard work is a major ingredient in many types of success. But is there any role for native intelligence or genetics in success? It turns out that there is a lot of variability in the 10,000 hours figure, but also, this approach seems to marginalize working memory, general intelligence, feedback, and drive. And what role does luck play in success?
The Lifestyle Guru of Frugality
4 mins | Link: Bradford-delong.com
Scarcity versus abundance — a recurring framework over at RadReads, particularly around shifting one’s mindset from the former to the latter. Last week we introduced the concept of Universal Basic Income, letting everyone share in the future economic surplus arising from automation and artificial intelligence. Do we need to go further to modify our economic theories, to accommodate this age of abundance? For context, 150 years ago middle class Americans were spending 2/5th of their marginal income on acquiring calories; today approximately 1% of our labor force goes to growing these calories and essential nutrients and another 1% to transporting them. A much larger percentage is dedicated to convenience, experience, taste, and “entertainment.” Clearly a shift from scarcity to abundance. But then how do we reconcile this with the fact that one third of the world’s population still struggles to get enough food? And as the nature of work evolves (or disappears), how do we define our self-worth? How will marginalized laborers maintain social inclusiveness?
- Doing a TED Talk, WaitButWhy (Link, 8 mins) — On Tim Urban’s fears of public speaking
- Authenticity in Leadership, Tomasz Tunguz (Link, 2 mins)
- We’ve Hit a Troubling Milestone in Climate Change, Boston Globe (Link, 4 mins)
- These are the Long-Term Effects of Multi-Tasking, Fast Company (Link, 4 mins)
And finally, we learned from Shane Battier that a “Glue Guy/Gal” goes beyond what’s expected from the role — and here’s an awesome story about a new company makes sure their new hires get an Unforgettable Welcome. Make sure you scroll through all the GIFs, while remembering that this is a seventy person company. Now that’s how you onboard talent and build cohesiveness!