Cloud, Succession, Taste and Weak Signals
Issue No 37
Hey welcome to Issue No 37, of this newsletter. This newsletter is a collection of the ideas and people who shone brighter in the sky this week.
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Putting your money where your cloud is
This week the big news was that Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon’s Chief Executive and devote more time to his climate-change project as Executive Chairman. His successor is Andy Jassy who built Amazon’s cloud computing division - Amazon Web Services. Just to put it in perspective, AWS is a $35 billion business.
When Steve Ballmer was quitting Microsoft, he put Satya Nadella (who was running Microsoft’s Cloud business). Bezos did the same. You may also remember that Thomas Kurian was headhunted by Google to lead their Cloud business. It would not surprise me if he took over from Sundar Pichai some day. Cloud is the future for the next decade. Choosing an internal CEO who has led that business is a sound strategy. Tim Cook has proved to be an awesome choice to replace Steve Jobs at Apple.
Getting a CEO from outside is a good idea if the core business needs to pivot and that in turn needs a different leadership team. An internal candidate is often unable to make the changes in the leadership team. The result is that the business may experience a constant nosebleed, just because it does not have the right leadership team to take the new pathway.
What to build in your direct reports
While writing Dreamers and Unicorns, I got the opportunity to meet several business leaders. Most leaders said that their next level of leaders will take “a few years before they can step into my shoes”. Narcissistic leaders have an oversized opinion about their own capabilities and underestimate their team leaders.
The principles of talent management are straightforward: Deadwood has to be fired. The right talent has to be hired. Talent stagnates unless it is developed. But what should the leadership development agenda be? Think of it in four buckets
How to sustainably grow the business from being a Dreamer to a Unicorn to a Market Shaper. Or in cases reviving an Incumbent business to grow again.
How to add value through your role and to add new deliverables in your role that the business needs.
Designing organisation structures that help a business grow is a rare skill. It can truly unlock value.
Leaders are role models who have a disproportionately high impact on the culture of the firm.
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Do you need to have good “taste” to design things?
Every designer uses the same elements but creates different outputs. That is where “taste” matters.
The elements of design are the same: Lines, balance, colour, proximity, texture, size, scale and direction - to name the most prominent ones. I have used these elements to write out these words in a certain manner. Learn more
Can you explain to me WHY you like it or do not like it? Check if your views differ from other readers. Go ahead, write it down before you read more.
If you liked the piece of calligraphy I have shared, does it mean you have good “taste”? When you applaud your phone’s design, does it mean that your taste is no different from all others who bought that phone? Or has the designer used certain well known principles of design that will always result in us finding it “tastefully designed”.
When you're forced to be simple, you're forced to face the real problem. When you can't deliver ornament, you have to deliver substance.
Paul Graham (founder of Y Combinator) says that if you follow certain principles of design, the end result is something ‘tasteful’.
Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. - Steve Jobs
Remember, design is how it WORKS. Good design is simple. Good design is timeless. Good design looks easy. For example in photography, when you use the rule of thirds, it makes the photo look great. Try it and watch the number of likes go up on your Instagram page. Read about the rule
What is taste? Read this note by Paul Graham
What is a ‘weak signal’
“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. It really is winner take all. If you’re there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom. There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G to company M.”
That was Bill Gates lamenting that he missed the weak signal. But many others have missed listening to “weak signals”. Most business leaders have missed out on social media as a trend. It was the inflection point when the leader’s greatest strength was seen to be listening - and not speaking. To separate the signal from the noise is a tough act.
So what is a weak signal? A weak signal is the first indicator of a change or an emerging issue that may become significant in the future
A weak signal often
Has Novelty: a weak signal is an indicator of something new or a new perspective on a known subject
Is Surprising: a weak signal is surprising to its interpreter
Is Challenging: a weak signal forces one to challenge existing assumptions and is therefore often difficult to detect or easy to overlook
Is Significant: a weak signal describes something that may have an impact on the future
Has Delay Built In: a weak signal describes something that is not yet significant but requires time to mature
The next LinkedIn live Chat is on Wednesday 10 Feb 2021 at 7:00pm IST and I have an interesting guest who will talk about something useful.
My next guest Dr Marcus Ranney is a medical doctor. He has worked at the Kennedy Space Center, the Royal Air Force and is also a Guinness record holder in something unusual. He has recently written a book that explores the limits of the human mind and body. The book explains that what the human being can do is truly astounding. That is what I will bring for you. You cannot afford to miss the chat. Block your calendar
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That’s all for this week. See you at 9:00am IST next Monday 15 Feb 2021.
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