Make A Decision
August 27, 2017
Author: Bianca Yang
I finally cleaned out my email newsletters folder this weekend. Over the past year, I accumulated subscriptions to about 10 different email newsletters services, half of which I hated reading. Because I hated reading so many of these newsletters, and because there were so many flooding my inbox each morning, I created a rule to shove them into a dark closet of my mail application. What this meant is that I never read those newsletters, even ones from sites I liked. So, over the past few months I accumulated over 2000 unread newsletters. That number is now down to 770 and will shrink as I consume my backlogged reading load.
Why is this important? Because I finally made the decision to optimize the ratio of amount of information I gain to the time spent acquiring that information. Making decision is easy. Getting around your brain’s defects regarding change and inconsistency is the hard part. Execution can also hard, but understanding how to make change gradually by forming good habits makes the process a lot easier.
Out of the sand in my inbox, I found a couple of diamonds. One of those diamonds is Stratechery. I don’t subscribe to Ben’s strategy newsletter because I’m a lazy cheapskate, but his writing is well worth your time, especially if you want to get a grip on your understanding of business strategy. He also runs a podcast called Exponent that is tonic for your ears and will cure you of any manias you’ve acquired from listening to the drivel that news stations broadcast 24/7. Enough of my maddening criticisms.
I want to comment a bit on Ben’s piece about [Disney’s choice to break with Netflix] (https://stratechery.com/2017/disneys-choice/). The problem with Disney’s down-the-middle approach is that it doesn’t optimize for anything. You cannot expect radical change to happen if you don’t make the hard choices that align you with certain forces and trends. To optimize means to minimize or maximize; there is no minimize a little, maximize a little. You choose one side and you stick with it.
This problem is also afflicting Apple, as it tries to demonstrate a strong commitment to services (https://stratechery.com/2016/apples-organizational-crossroads/). Apple, cannot maintain its relentless pursuit of perfection and brand control and create a services model which demands a looser, iterative delivery schedule. But culture is hard to change, because people are afraid of giving up their identities.
The younger you are, the more flexibility you have in changing your identity because your reputation doesn’t matter. Besides, everybody around you is also constantly changing, so being a goth one year and switching to a hipster the next doesn’t faze your friends that much.
But for older, more stable people with a track record, changing identities means invalidating so much of their reputation and believability that they’d rather not make the change. And so it is with Apple. Apple has such a strong brand of sleek perfectionism and a strong culture of functional organization that it’d be blasphemy to shift into a multi-divisional form that allows for distinct consideration of the core products and the services. But that’s a choice Apple will have to make. Whether Apple and Disney commit to profitable new ways of life before market forces sweep them away will be a test of their leadership.