In 1840 Thomas Carlyle produced the Great Man theory, aimed at making a universal theory of what makes great leaders. He studied a large number of leaders and came up with a definitive theory of that time. It is fascinating to read about it with today’s context. A lot has changed ( it should now be called great man/woman theory for starters), but so much remains the same. There are many points in the theory which over time were proven to be monumentally wrong but it makes an interesting read nonetheless. For me, the hygiene of success is well covered and discussed, ruthless prioritization, time management and a long list follows.
But the most interesting aspect of success (according to me) is seeing something that others don’t. The multiple fables of Steve Jobs and his fascination for features assumed to be not needed spring to mind. Or the backing of young players by Sourav Ganguly which seemed naive in the early days. Once you can see things that others can’t, that is a good start. The validation is purely by success. Was that vision right ? Did you make a dent in the world? Sometimes the bigger the skepticism, the more successful the idea is proven to be.
So for this week, I have chosen articles that highlight three special abilities: the ability to see what others don’t, the ability to make others understand your vision, and the ability to see what is hidden in what is being said. All three are the modern weapons of today. In the age of information, the real skill is how to analyze information and figure out the above three. So with no pun intended we look at two articles around maps to understand the world better. One about how maps are drawn and one around how they can be worth a billion dollars. We look at what Reed Hastings saw that no else did in the beginning of Netflix and what he still continues to see differently from others. In the modern world the way to look at things changes quite a bit:Rising debt can also be a good thing. We then end by looking at how the challenge for Ant Financial will be to make others look at it like a tech company and not a financial one.
1. The Biggest waste of money in the entertainment industry was supposed to be $100 Million spent on producing a new web series. How would you recover that money? That show was called House of Cards. Reed Hastings has repeatedly genuinely reinvented the wheel from the bets that Netflix places to the way that talent is hired and retained. Our understanding of management theory and strategy should actually change from lessons from Netflix. His new book is also out. I would highly recommend reading the article. The core of how companies are managed changed with Netflix and it provides an invaluable lesson to everyone. Also do read the book. It’s the best lesson in modern management anyone could get.
2. There are two ways to put it. The first way is to say that the number of migrants moving to Europe across the Mediterranean has fallen by 90% in 2019 as compared to 2015. It makes you think that migration is not a big issue. The second way to say it is to say that more than 130,000 people migrated to Europe through the seas. Makes it seem like a major issue. The world map is the biggest lie told in human history and it was made to suit particular narratives. Probably it is time to change the maps and the way we look at them. The problem is that some stories sell better and some narratives are more appealing to human emotion. The truth is often inconvenient if it doesn’t sell. But you would rather not be ignorant about it. Do read this article. This will “literally” change the way you look at the world.
3. No one believed Noam Bardin when he said that they were building something special. It seemed like a gigantic waste of time for something that was not needed. To be clear the company could not articulate it themself either. Bigger companies had similar products but they turned out in the long run to be much worse. Then one day even Tim Cook recommended using the app over the Apple app. In 2013, Google bought them out for more than a billion dollars. They even have 27 users in Antarctica. It is a fascinating story of seeing and believing what others can’t and sticking to it. Sometimes that is worth a billion dollars.
4. The debt to GDP ratio (how much borrowed vs how much is produced) was always one of the most important metrics of the national economy. It told you about productivity, the strength of the economy and a bunch of other issues. As always the ratio was expected to be low because debt is never good. But the new world of stimulus and ageing population is very different from anyone seen before. The USA is one of the most indebted countries in the world. Its debt is 1.37 times its GDP. For Japan, it is 2.58 times its GDP. And economists don’t know if that is bad or good. When the world changes you need to figure out how to look at old metrics and find a new interpretation that explains the randomness. From outside it is fascinating to look at.
5. The most touted IPO of all times was Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s cash cow. It raised 25.6 Billion Dollars. Now Ant Financial wants to break the record. It is trying to raise $30 Billion dollars. But the interesting thing is what do you see it as. In the COVID world, a tech company is much loved and a bank is pushed as far away as possible. The trick is to convince the world that it is a tech company. In the world of recency biases, we sort of associate Chinese tech with Tik Tok and PUBG (South Korean owned, Tencent as an investor to clear the air). But China is about Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba,SMIC and Ant. They form arguably the nerve center of the tech world. Sometimes in the rhetoric we forget that the best way to grow is to learn. DO read about it.
Have fun reading !