Monday, October 30, 2017

AI Algorithms Are Facebook's Most Valuable IP

I recently read a Wall Street Journal article about Facebook and Instagram (which is owns).

When Facebook wanted to create an AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm to select which items should be featured on users' News Feeds, it spent a lot of time and manpower creating it.

However, when its Instagram unit wanted an AI algorithm to create a curated photo feed for users, "three or four engineers got the job done in less than five weeks".

This is because they took Facebook's algorithm, tweaked it, and trained it with Instagram data.

Arguably, these algorithms are the most important IP (intellectual property) at Facebook because:

1. They control the user experience and customer value.  If the algorithms don't do a good job selecting appropriate content, users may find a competing platform that gives them what they are looking for.

2. They provide leveraged simplicity for Facebook engineers because, every time they want to create a new application, the algorithms build on their accumulated learnings and because quicker to implement.  We're talking exponential leverage.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thought Leadership = Simplicity

Today's Google Doodle honors Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar from the University of Chicago, who was the first astrophysicist to win a Nobel Prize.
Reading his biography, I noticed That the main thing he is famous for is a simple, but profound fact named after him: "The Chandrasekhar Limit", which states that stars below 1.44 of the sun's mass can become white dwarfs. If they weigh more, they can become neutron stars or black holes.

Instead of saying the mass limit for white dwarves was some huge number that would make people's eyes glaze over, he compared it to something known (our sun's mass) and reduced it to a simple 1.44

This makes his IP (intellectual property) catchy and sticky.

My October Chicago Business Journal Column

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Branding Simplicity: University of Illinois Consolidating Around The Block "I"

Branding Simplicity is part of Message Simplicity, an essential component of strategic simplicity®, which allows companies to have a competitive advantage in today's Attention Scarcity Age.

The University of Illinois recently recognized the value of branding simplicity when it announced that the university will retire the column "I" (in blue) and only use the block "I" (in orange):

The orange block "I" was first used in 1892 and has been a big part of athletics. But, since 1997, the U of I's nonathletic units have been using the blue column "I".

As Chancellor Robert J. Jones stated in the U of I alumni magazine: "The fact that the public is presented with multiple versions of a campus logo represents a significant problem and creates needless confusion."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Joe Flacco: Like Business, NFL Quarterbacking Depends on Time Management, Simplicity

Since Mitch Trubisky, the #2 pick in this year's draft, is now starting at quarterback for the Bears, the Chicago media is asking opposing quarterbacks about their rookie experiences.

This week, it's Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens.

Flacco was drafted in 2008, started all 16 games, and got the Ravens into the playoffs.

His advice: Don't make football bigger than it is—just play the game you love, practice time management skills, and "finding ways to keep everything simple."

These are the same traits that will help you lead a successful business in today's Attention Scarcity Age, where your customers and employees are overwhelmed with information and speed of change.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Perfectly Imperfect - The Cost of Perfection

This chart shows the Cost of Perfection:

If you want to achieve 100% perfection on any project, product, service, or process, it will take about 70% of the cost (time, money, etc) to reach 90%.  The return of the final 10% is not worth the cost (final 30%).  There is a large diminishing return.

Therefore, unless you are a brain surgeon or rocket scientist, don't strive for perfection.  Instead, you want to achieve success and provide value.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Project Management Lesson from New York's Lincoln Center Renovation

I recently read that Lincoln Center scrapped their $500 million renovation because, according to a New York Times article,  they "got the sense the project got too complicated".

The turning point came when the project teams said the orchestra would be in temporary quarters for a third year.

Now, the new plan will be to do the project in phases—it will be "less monumental and more incremental".

For years, I have advocated for projects to be broken up logically into phases (like how the Lord of the Rings movies were broken out into 3 movies).

The diagram above shows the difference.  The solid curve represents doing a large project in one shot.  Notice that, as the complexity increases, the chance for the project to be on time and budget plummets.

The dashed lines represent the project done in phases.  Notice how, as complexity increases, the project still has a good chance to be completed on time and budget.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Peanut Butter Sandwich "Hack" Backlash—People Hate Unnecessary Complexity

I just read a Yahoo article about how the Food Network revealed a  Peanut Butter Sandwich "Hack". It involved spreading the peanut butter on wax paper and freezing it, so that you now have peanut butter "slices" that can be laid on the bread.  One of the "advantages" was not tearing the bread.

As evidenced from the comments section, people instinctively recoiled at this unnecessary complexity:

"I hate these buzzwords. everything is a 'hack'..."

"Worlds most complicated pb sandwich.Sounds like she has too much free time.Peanut butter is supposed to be quick and convenient."


"Brilliant. Too bad the Nobel Prizes have already been handed out."

"Dip knife in jar, spread peanut butter from knife to bread. Done.  This 'hack' is stupid. Sounds like she just likes round about ways to do simple things."

"Sounds like it takes more time then to just carefully spread peanut butter so you don't tear the bread, never have that problem. This person just likes busy work."

"She needs a lesson in how to use a butter knife to spread peanut butter. If she's unable to do that, she's not qualified as a chef. Sounds like another millenial who wants to build her twitter account with more useless advice."