BEING BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / NIKE BACKS LEBRON / DO WE NEED MANAGERS?
WOZNI A K RE V E A L S THE TRUE JOB S
“My work is never a job. My work is my life.”
JA RED LE T O,
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THE SECRETS OF GENERATION FLUX HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS AND LIFE
FEBRUARY 2015 FASTCOMPANY.CO.ZA
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INSIGHT S FROM INNOVATI V E SOU TH A FRICA NS Boy Genius: SAM BERGER The Power of Sound: TOYA DELAZY Doing the Indie Shuffle: JASON GRISHKOFF From Corporate to Consulting: ANN NUROCK
CONTENTS COVER STORY 30 What Drives Generation Flux?
In an era of rapid change, companies that operate with a sense of purpose have a competitive edge. Businesses as diverse as PepsiCo and Ahalife, and entertainers like Jared Leto, are changing the economy by envisioning a better future. A SPECIAL REPORT BY ROBERT SAFIAN
FE ATURES 54 The Tale of Two Steves
Apple co-founder Wozniak gives us the inside story of what really happened in the early days of the company BY JT FOXX
76 Is The Crowd Too Loud?
New York–based invention company, Quirky, became a star by sourcing ideas from the masses—but when it partnered with GE on the Aros air conditioner, its democratic ideal was tested BY JJ MCCORVEY
Is Jared Leto a musician, an actor, a director, or an entrepreneur? “I’m a multi-hyphenate whatever. I’m a creative and an artist.” (page 30)
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NEXT 50 Do We Really Need Managers?
If you have strong, achievement-driven team members, you don’t require a manager for that team to excel BY COLETTE SYMANOWITZ
68 Changing Lanes
Going into consulting after 20 years in the corporate world is not for the faint-hearted. A few pointers from someone who has taken the leap BY ANN NUROCK
CRE ATIVE CONVERSATIONS 18 Sam Berger: Boy Genius
A South African computer coder already has one successful app to his name and has been offered the position of chief technology officer—and he’s only 13 years old BY EVANS MANYONGA
22 Being Benedict
Benedict Cumberbatch can’t do it all, but he sure likes to try. Inside the Sherlock star’s insane schedule—and how he prepped to play Alan Turing in The Imitation Game BY JASON FEIFER
The human factor has been the key to Indie Shuffle’s success, says Jason Grishkoff. “Our stuff is written by real people.” (page 44) 6 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
To The Beat of His Own Drum
How Indie Shuffle founder Jason Grishkoff turned a blog into a booming business BY MIRIAM MANNAK
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Contents Quirky taps into the collective imagination of the masses. It’s the democratisation of innovation—but can a helpful crowd get in the way of success? (page 76)
REGULARS 11 From the Publisher 12 From the Editor 14 The Recommender 26 Don’t Worry, Be Happy The solar-powered Millbug Vuya Tablet enables everyone to have the Internet at their fingertips— even in rural areas
28 Get Smarter What connected devices must do to succeed beyond the ‘Internet of Things’ hype BY OM MALIK
48 Infrastructure, Lost and Found Cities across the world are repurposing outdated landmarks BY ADELE PETERS
62 This Little Light Schoolhouse Electric’s tiny mobile lamp is a throwback to the industrial era
64 Shoes Made For The Man LeBron James and Nike walk us through designing the next edition of his multimillion-dollar signature shoe, the LeBron 12 BY JASON FEIFER
66 Making (Sound) Waves Musician Toya Delazy is the Voice of Africa with a global sound BY EVANS MANYONGA
72 Video Games For Grown-ups Funomena’s first game won’t feature guns or aliens—it’ll help you become a better person BY ADAM BLUESTEIN
74 Sustainable Storytelling Information about environmental issues can be somewhat dry. Greenpeace USA’s Annie Leonard is out to change that BY ARIEL SCHWARTZ
82 The Great Innovation Frontier Creativity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful innovation. It’s what you do with it that counts BY WALTER BAETS
84 Fast Bytes 88 One More Thing Algorithms can’t solve everything BY BARATUNDE THURSTON
8 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
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10 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
FROM THE PUBLISHER
New Year’s Evolutions Robbie met his hero Sir Richard Branson in 2013 at the Arabella Hotel in Kleinmond
Every year, most of us sit down just before we head back to work, grab a pen and paper, and take part in some major omphaloskepsis before writing out more or less the same New Year’s resolutions we wrote out the year before, with the best intentions and convictions of finally ticking them all off this time around. In case you are wondering what on earth the word ‘omphaloskepsis’ means, it is defined on Wikipedia as “contemplation of one’s navel as an aid to meditation”. Feel free to put that word on this year’s list so you can throw it around at a dinner party to impress people! May I suggest that instead of going through the same dreary, routine resolutions you made in your last annum, make some New Year’s ‘evolutions’: Create goals that will be achieved through “a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form”. The reason even the most well-intentioned resolutions often fail quite soon is because we don’t ground them well. If who we are does not shift to support the resolution, then nothing changes. The result is that our life stays the same year after year, instead of EVOLVING. So ditch the “Learn Zulu fluently” and “Play Stairway To Heaven on the guitar” resolutions you have had on your list for the last decade and be more realistic. When drawing up your 2015 New Year’s Evolutions list, Sir Richard Branson’s tips to entrepreneurs should be a good place to start: Listen more than you talk. Keep it simple.
Take pride in your work. Have fun—success will follow. Rip it up and start again. (Don’t ever let failure be the be-all and end-all.) If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. You must love what you do. Be innovative. Create something different that will stand out. The art of delegation is key. Your employees are your best asset. A smile won’t cost you anything, and the return on your business will
start right away. There you go. Now you can perhaps include some of the more frivolous ones such as “Get fit” and “Drink Less”—although I do always add that life is too short to drink bad wine. We have already hit the ground running on Fast Company South Africa and this year is going to be an immense one for us, with loads on the cards. We have teamed up with Glenfiddich and will be doing our first of four sublime events on a national road show, starting in Gauteng at the end of March. So if you want to be part of this, best you get onto our Twitter and Facebook platforms! We are also in the final throes of putting together our South African website (Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Fast Company) and we are proud to announce that from this edition, the magazine is available to all Android phone and iPhone users, so go and download our digital version pronto. These are just a few of our important evolutions already taking shape and form, and we hope that you, our loyal readers, have much success with your own ones in 2015. In the wise words of Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Publisher firstname.lastname@example.org @daStamman
FEBRUARY 2015 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 11
FROM THE EDITOR
Generation Flux We are in an age where multitasking and thinking on our feet are the norm. We really do not have much time to reflect, self-congratulate and compliment, or even bask in past glories. If 2014 was an important year, then 2015 should be even more significant. When I first came across the term ‘Generation Flux’, I was both excited and curious. After delving deeper and doing some research, many things in modern business made sense. Generation Flux is a term that was coined by Fast Company US editor and managing director, Robert Safian. He explains that the dizzying velocity of change in the modern economy has made chaos the defining feature of business. He argues that new companies and industries now rise and fall faster than ever. Accepted models for success are proving vulnerable, and pressure is building on giants such as GE and Nokia, as their historic advantages of scale and efficiency run up against the benefits of agility and quick course corrections. Meanwhile, the bonds between employer and employee, and between brands and their customers, are more tenuous than ever. The term ‘Generation Flux’ describes the people who will thrive best in this environment. It is a psychographic, not a demographic. In other words, it is not limited to age but rather particular characteristics that will enable certain individuals to thrive. GenFlux characteristics include an embrace of adaptability and flexibility; an openness to learning from any individual or environment, and a decisiveness tempered by the knowledge that business life today can shift radically. In essence, nothing is cast in stone. GenFlux is not only limited to business owners but also to employees. You can be a Generation Flux employee at any age as long as you tailor your lifestyle to the new way of doing things in order to thrive. 12 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
A mindset that embraces instability, tolerates recalibrating careers, while moving away from assumptions and works smart is key. Our first issue for the year will try to give you an overview of how to achieve this. There are various fascinating narratives: from a local 13-year-old computer whiz-kid, a South African artist who has earned global recognition, to an international multi-award winning actor. The highlight is the South African exclusive we have on Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak. For the first time ever, he reveals some fascinating details on the founding of the company and his relationship with Steve Jobs. Enjoy it, soak it in, question it—but above all, apply what you learn. I personally hope 2015 will be one of progress and breaking new ground.
C ONGR AT UL AT ION S TO T HE W INNE R S OF O UR L A UNC H E DI T ION S UB S CRIB E R C OMP E T I T ION! N ATA L I E V E L L A A N D G R E G P R I N C E W I N A C I T I Z E N WAT C H VA L U E D AT O V E R R 6 0 0 0 E A C H . E N J O Y Y O U R P R I Z E !
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What are you loving this month?
Founder & MD, Zanenza Communications
CEO, The Fulcrum Group
RICKETY BRIDGE THE F O U N D AT I O N S T O N E 2 0 1 2
PRETTY’S SUMMER SALAD I love my niece’s salad for its intricate tastes. Pretty is really adventurous in the kitchen and she has been able to combine just the right colours, textures and flavours to create the most mouth-watering combo of strawberries, feta, smoked salmon, rocket, baby tomatoes, watermelon and herbs. Perfect with just a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic dressing, it’s a must for every summer celebration!
I’M A BIG FA N OF THIS WINE BY W Y N A ND GROBLER. IT ’S A WELL-PRICED A ND E ASY-DRINKING BLEND TH AT ’S A FAVOURITE FOR ME AT A N Y DINNER TA BLE. THE FARM IT ’S M A DE ON ISN’ T H A LF BA D EITHER, A ND IS WELL WORTH A VISIT WHEN YOU’RE NE X T IN FR A NSCHHOEK IN THE CA PE.
Hayley Joy Weinberg
Founder & head designer, HJ Boutique
DW ELEVEN-13 I love food, and I particularly love creative food, so having DW Eleven-13 as my neighbour is a real reward and a truly special experience. I remember the restaurant’s humble beginnings in the back of the Dunkeld West Shopping Centre, and have watched on in awe as it has risen to become a true gastronomic force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t get better than being voted one of the top 10 restaurants in South Africa. I get to experience the pure genius of owner chef Marthinus Ferreira on a daily basis. The incredible aromas wafting into my store remind me that I’m continuously observing true foodie greatness. Every dish affirms the passion and dedication, but it’s the desserts that showcase his true love for his art. Four words sum up the dessert menu: Worth. Every. Guilty. Pleasure.
Co-founder & CEO, RainFin.com
BY R A C H E L B O T S M A N Access is the new privilege, and ownership is the burden. In the Sharing Economy, no industry is safe from disruption—even the old traditional banks. This book is an early one that explains the impact of the Sharing Economy on the economy, and how the power shifts to people.
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W H AT ’ S M I N E I S YO U R S
Marketing & land product manager, STA Travel
INDIA My favourite destination, hands down, has been incredible India. I can’t say it was at the top of my bucket list, but after spending six days immersed in a country known for overwhelming the senses, I have to say the experience exceeded all expectations. I loved every minute of it. I visited northern India and travelled to Udaipur, Jaipur and Agra, and was fortunate enough to see the sunrise over the iconic Taj Mahal. The array of colours reflected onto the Taj was unforgettable. The locals are so hospitable and truly make the experience memorable; genuinely encouraging you to experience their country and culture. Plus, what’s better than eating the most flavoursome curry and freshly buttered naan in its place of origin? Toss in a grand Bollywood cinema experience, passionate bartering with the locals, and an overnight train trip through colourful villages, and my senses were in heaven!
Founder & head coach, Growing Pains Business Consulting
I’M NO FITNES S FIEND, BU T THE NE W FITBIT CH A RGE H AS M A DE ME THINK T WICE A BOU T TA KING A LIF T WHEN THE STAIRS A RE FA R MORE RE WA RDING TO M Y HE A LTH—A ND STORES THE RESULTS ON M Y FITBIT A PP FOR IPHONE. THE SLIM, ST Y LISH A ND COMFORTA BLE CH A RGE H AS A SM A LL LED DISPL AY TH AT TR ACKS STEP S, KILOME TRES, STAIRS, CA LORIES BURNT, SLEEP QUA LIT Y A ND E X ERCISE. BU T THE PIÈCE DE RÉSISTA NCE IS THE NOTIFICATION OF INCOMING CA LLS WITH A SH A RP VIBR ATION A ND CA LLER IDENTIT Y—MUCH NEEDED WHEN IN MEE TINGS OR ON M Y BIK E! DOUBLE -TA P THE PHONE A ND THE DISPL AY GIV ES YOU THE TIME A ND DATE. THE MOBILE A PPLICATION SHOWS ME M Y RESULTS OV ER THE PAST WEEK , WHICH I CA N SH A RE ON M Y SOCIA L PL ATFORMS A ND CH A LLENGE FELLOW FITBIT USERS. IT ’S A MOTIVATION A L TOOL TO GE T ME FIT TER, HE A LTHIER A ND M AY BE A LIT TLE LIGHTER—BU T A LSO LOOKS SLEEK A ND FEELS UNOBTRUSIV E.
Founder & CEO, African School for Excellence
THE BEAUTIFUL TREE BY J A M E S T O O L E Y
PROFESSOR TOOLE Y TA K ES US AROUND THE WORLD, FROM GH A N A TO CHIN A , VISITING PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN DISA DVA NTAGED ARE AS A ND DEBUNKING M Y THS A BOU T FLY-BY-NIGHTS A ND INFERIOR RESULTS. REGARDLESS OF THEIR OWN EDUCATION, PARENTS AREN’ T WAITING PASSIV ELY FOR HELP, BU T ACTIV ELY IN V ESTING IN QUA LIT Y EDUCATION FOR THE BE T TER FU T URE OF THEIR CHILDREN. THESE E X A MPLES INSPIRE ME AS MUCH AS THE PARENTS WITH WHOM I INTER ACT ON A DAILY BASIS.
FEBRUARY 2015 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 15
APP ALLEY Carel Nolte
Founder, Carel Nolte (Pty) Ltd
CEO, Purple Capital
W O R L D M AT E
I love travelling! One of the big reasons I love it so much is because I have a firm belief that exposing yourself to different places and cultures challenges your prejudices; enables you to learn and have fun; and generates good stories for the dinner table. However, with travel, it can sometimes be stressful. I love WorldMate, which is basically a personal assistant for trips. You forward your various confirmation emails for flights/ hotels/hire cars/restaurant bookings/shows to trips@ worldmate.com and the app instantly generates an itemised itinerary covering your entire trip. The paid-for version has built-in alerts, helping you stay on track. Available on iTunes App Store, Google Play and Windows Phone Store.
I use a range of incredibly useful apps every day, but this holiday season my daughter introduced me to a killer app. Usually, all the apps I use are about productivity, navigation, music, photos or social media, and you probably know all about them already. But the Heads Up! app is a mix between charades and 30 Seconds, and the best part is that almost everyone can play. Start the app, choose a category, click play, and place your phone on your forehead. The game players have one minute to act out the words or phrases displayed on your phone while you guess what they’re acting out. The challenge comes down to how many correct guesses you make in one minute. The fun, though, starts after the minute is up. Heads Up! video-records the game players acting out the words and plays it back after each round. It’s crazy, funny, side-splitting entertainment for the whole family—and it combines especially well with wine. Available on iTunes App Store and Google Play.
Lynette Ntuli Lisa Henry
Owner, Left Hand Films Co-founder, Jozi Film Festival
SHAZAM The app I use the most isn’t new, and there are plenty of imitations out there—but my life wouldn’t be complete without Shazam. Hear a song you like but have no clue what it is? Open the app, tap the button, and Shazam recognises and identifies music and media playing on your TV, radio station, in a restaurant or at a party. My knowledge of ‘80s and ‘90s music is stored safely in my head, but I have to admit: The older I get, the less artist and track names I can recall, so Shazam comes in handy in this regard. I also love discovering new music so... Shazam! You get all the info you need and you can listen to the music at your leisure. I also love SoundHound, which is an app that streams live lyrics onto your iPad or phone as you play a track—turning any place into an instant karaoke bar. Shazam and SoundHound are available on iTunes App Store, Google Play and Windows Phone Store, with the latter also on BlackBerry World.
16 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
Founding director & CEO, Innate Investment Solutions
PRESSREADER, TUNEIN AND FLIPBOARD These three apps have made my ability to consume and curate media and content related to my work and my interests seamless on my tablet, with purchases on the go via my iTunes account. You can access anything from anywhere at reasonable rates, and very quickly. No more bulky magazines and newspapers, and dancing between eight apps to connect my digital, social and current-affairs media requirements. All three apps archive your preferences and prior reading material, so you can always go back and read it at leisure. PressReader and TuneIn available on iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone Store and BlackBerry World. Find Flipboard on iTunes App Store and Google Play.
SME MOBILE READINESS SURVEY Are South African SMEs ready for Mobile? Small and medium businesses across the country can use mobile to win customers, increase sales and add value to their customersâ€™ lives. But how ready are SMEs to unlock the benefits that mobile can bring to their business, and which mobile services should they focus on first? The inaugural SME Mobile Readiness Survey will equip business owners with invaluable insight into the world of mobile. Take our 5 minute survey and be one of the first to receive a full copy of the report in February 2015. You also stand the chance to win a brand new iPhone 6.
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CRE ATI V E CON V ERSATION
Sam Berger: Boy Genius A South African computer coder already has one successful app to his name and has been offered the position of chief technology officer— at the age of 13
BY EVANS MANYONGA
Photographs by Shan Routledge
Bright ideas, bright future:
Sam says he will be coding and trying to make the world a better place for a long time.
SAM BERGER IS a jovial youngster—relaxed, passionate, grounded and with a palpable air of innocence around him. But at just 13 years old, he has achieved more than many individuals thrice his age. Widely known as a ‘computer whiz-kid’, he has been coding programmes since the age of seven. “I think I played around with my first computer when I was six or seven, and every second Saturday we would go out to the [local] science centre and programme robots to make them do little tasks—I really enjoyed that. Just seeing how we could make the robots do small tasks made me realise we could do a whole lot more,” he says.
Larry Berger, Sam’s father, reflects: “From the age of two or three, his mother and I noticed that he liked electronics. And at about five, he would ask me a lot of questions about electronics and science. I eventually decided to take him for classes at our local science centre. He got in a class of about 30 other kids and he was the youngest there.” After some time, the programme director decided to stop the classes. However, he specifically requested to give Sam one-on-one tutoring in computer coding. And the youngster’s interest grew from there. He has since created his own patented geyser app designed for home-insurance companies in South Africa. By using QR codes, this application calculates whether geysers are in or out of guarantee. It has the potential to save insurers up to R300 million a year. It also shortens the turnaround time of repairs and maintenance. Out of all the apps Sam could’ve devised, why a geyser app? “While we were on holiday, a lady phoned my father to say she was having problems with her geyser. He told her to go up on the roof just to check the warranty. It was very risky. So I decided to do something about that problem. After thinking about it for a while, I came up
FEBRUARY 2015 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A 19
“I helped teach high school kids at the [Python] conference [in the US]. The experience was really amazing.”
with the app as a solution,” he explains. In essence, the goal of the geyser app is to prevent people from having to climb onto the roof to check whether or not the geyser warranty has expired, which can be quite dangerous for the average individual. Larry owns a geyser business, so the potential of the app is very exciting. “Sometimes I have to do house calls—and without knowing when the warranty will expire and what the geyser’s model is, I pretty much walk into a blind situation. After assessing the warranty and the model, I can then go back to my headquarters and get the relevant parts. This can be really time-wasting and taxing as well. With this app, that will become a thing of the past, as I will walk into situations more prepared and conscious of what is needed,” he explains. Sam is currently also devising a medical app for the Western Cape Provincial Health Department, which will help store patients’ personal information such as their ID photograph, their blood type and medicine prescriptions, as well as a standard hospital card. It is hoped that the app will be piloted for six months at Khayelitsha District Hospital to test its feasibility. The young Berger has been receiving financial assistance from Cape Town-based investor and philanthropist Bennie Rabinowitz, who has formed the company, Appsolutely, for the purpose of getting 20 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
Sam’s app will greatly assist his father Larry in his geyser business. “I will walk into situations more prepared and conscious of what is needed.”
the apps to market and developing new ones. Other apps that are on the cards for further development include a competition app and one for the beverage industry. Local software companies and tertiary institutions have tapped into Sam’s potential by asking him to impart his knowledge and experience to those studying computer programming at various universities. His genius has not gone unnoticed by the international community, either. Three years ago, at age 10, he attended a three-day Python Programming Course for high school students, convened by the University of Cape Town’s Computer Science department. The course co-ordinator requested he be invited to the Python Software Foundation conference in Silicon Valley. The foundation found Sam’s abilities of great value, and he was offered an all-expenses-paid trip to the United States—which he took up without thinking twice. He was one of 3 000 delegates at the conference, and mentioned in both the opening and closing ceremonies. “I also helped teach high school kids at the conference. The experience was really amazing. I was able to see the headquarters of some major tech companies. I actually remember driving past the Apple offices, and it was just unreal.” Sam has had a great deal of support from Discovery, which has been assisting him with the medical app. Larry hopes his son can continue to grow from strength to strength and use his skills for the betterment of South Africans and the world at large. Builders Warehouse has approached Sam to devise a warranty-tracking app, which will help the company maintain its products more efficiently and help clients make claims—ultimately making business more seamless. He has also been offered the position of chief technology officer by Bennie Rabinowitz. With so many offers on the table, the future is certainly bright for the young tech genius. Apart from coding and computers, Sam has ‘normal’ hobbies. “I enjoy playing games and listening to electronic music. I also play musical instruments, and my favourite is the keyboard.” He is fascinated by the innovation community in Cape Town, and wants to remain here to explore and learn as things develop. The main focus for now is perfecting his apps. One thing is certain, though: The world will undoubtedly greatly benefit from his endeavours and expertise. “I will be coding and trying to make the world a better place for a long time,” he concludes. This youngster serves as a reminder that South Africans deserve a place among the global leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship. I can’t wait to see what Master Berger has in the pipeline. Bill Gates may have to keep a close eye on him.
CRE ATI V E CON V ERSATION
“I have people who are on the verge of a nervous breakdown all the time, managing my day.” Benedict Cumberbatch has portrayed innovators on both ends of digital history: modern disrupter Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate, and World War 2 code breaker and computer pioneer Alan Turing in the new film The Imitation Game. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to join Twitter
Interview by Jason Feifer
Fast Company: Harvey Weinstein, whose company is distributing The Imitation Game, has said that you captured the “vulnerability, genius and arrogance” of Alan Turing, a war hero and tech pioneer. Those three qualities also defined WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange— • Cumberbatch: And, therefore, are they present in me as well? I wasn’t going to ask that, but are you volunteering? • Well, I think in any actor you have to have a certain amount of arrogance—confidence, which often comes off as arrogance. Obviously, that’s taken to a little bit of an extreme with those two characters. But what was your question? Well, both of these men transformed how we under stand our world, and they share qualities with many titans of Silicon Valley. Do you think those are the three key elements to being a changemaker? • You’ve hit it on the head. If you are different and you have a different outlook and you have something to celebrate that is different, all of those things have to come into play. 22 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
You and Assange had a debate before you filmed The Fifth Estate: You said it’s important for people to un derstand him, but he didn’t want to distract from the story of WikiLeaks’ work. As a public figure, do you think it’s worth trying to control your own narrative? • Oh, I have huge sympathy for that—you want your work to be sufficient. I can’t judge him on it. And I can empathise with wanting to remain anonymous, even though your job may be about making some things public. But people make themselves vulnerable to attack the minute they say, “No, you need to know this.” Then the argument can be turned: “Well, then we need to know about you.” By being in a public profession, you are toying with being owned by the public. The difference is too subtle for a culture to deal with, especially in an age when everyone is a walking publisher. No one sees a barrier of privacy because, if I’m on the cover of a magazine, why can’t they pick up a phone and take a photograph? I get it. It’s important for me to remember that people are taking photos of me because they like something I did on the telly. It still means something in a positive way. You’re not on Twitter, and interviewers often ask you why. Are you surprised at the assumption—that it’s always desirable to live a more public life? • Yeah. Look, I get accused of being overhyped, overexposed, over here and there and everywhere. The truth is, [doing press] is part of my job and I work a lot, so I’m going to be talking about my work a lot. Beyond that,
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Photograph by Andreas Laszlo Konrath
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The great pretender:
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“I do love my job. Don’t tell any producer this, but I’d almost do it for free, I love it so much.”
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I want to live my life and not be in people’s faces. There’s quite enough of me out there. When you do participate in social media, you go big— like with a long Ask Me Anything on Reddit and an ice-bucket challenge video in which you get dumped on six times. How do you pick your moments? • Slightly out of necessity. The ice-bucket challenge was to raise awareness for charity, and I had been nominated about five times. Reddit is obviously an extraordinary thing. It was so nice to have direct contact in one moment with a group of fans. I just regret so many things that I don’t have enough time for: picking up a musical instrument, painting, drawing, reading outside of fields of work, being on holiday, being in nature. Brilliant though the immediate outreach of social media is, I’m very, very happy to walk away. I imagine your time constraints have become more severe in the past few years, as your profile has risen. Did you learn time management on the fly? • I have people who are on the verge of a nervous breakdown all the time, managing my day. I started to delegate about a year and a half ago. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. I thought I was capable of running the whole circus, and I’m really not. Was there a point when you realised you needed help? • Oh my God. I was about to go on this ridiculous weekend with this guy with a private jet and other friends, kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and then I got a call literally on the tarmac going, “Umm, so where are you? We’re about to do the photo shoot.” I was like, “Oh, fuck!” What have you learnt since then?
• Delegate! And also [gestures to his iPhone and iPad], if
I need to concentrate on learning lines or doing research, I have to push all of this away. I give them to my assistant and say, “I’m sorry, deal with what you can, and I’m just going to walk away for two hours.” I’d realised that I had spent more and more time answering all the demands and thinking that if my inbox is empty, then I can start work. It’s like any diversion tactic—like cleaning, which I used to do a lot when I was supposed to be working. Although I do get a panic attack when I look at other people’s phones and they have 1 200 emails. It really makes me go, “How do you swallow your food? I don’t understand how your body actually functions.”
Do you achieve inbox zero? • Pretty much. I’ve done this thing recently of flagging a lot of emails, and so I’ve built up this count that is, to me,
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“I was about to go on this ridiculous weekend, a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and then I got a call literally on the tarmac going, ‘Umm, so where are you? We’re about to do the photo shoot.’ ”
30-SECOND BIO Name
Benedict Cumberbatch Hometown London
Education Studied drama at the University of Manchester, received an MA in classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Notable recent roles Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s Sherlock; Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness; the voice of the dragon Smaug in the final two Hobbit films; William Prince Ford in 12 Years a Slave
Commercial work D u n l o p t y r e s , J a g u a r, Google+
Startup and investing experience None. “I’m no Ashton Kutcher. I wish. That’d be brilliant. According to the Internet—have you heard about this?—I have a chain of restaurants called the Cumberburger or some thing, and I’m worth some thing like $280 million [R3.2 billion]. My best friend showed it to me. I was perturbed. I thought, Well, the last thing you want is [to attract] resentm ent from being successful through inflated estima tions of wealth, because there’s a lot of that that goes on anyway. But this was so comedic.”
like, Uh-oh, it’s in that territory of panic, like 120. But what I realised is that those things can carry on without me sometimes. It’s a weird balance because I do enjoy parts of this, what we’re doing now. But increasingly, I view it as the thing that I’m actually paid for. Because I do love my job. Don’t tell any producer this, but I’d almost do it for free, I love it so much. I have a lot on my plate. I have to go on a plane tonight and go straight home, hopefully with some sleep, straight into a car, straight into a read-through of three Shakespeare plays in which I’m playing Richard III. Normally I’d be reading through the plays, just making sure I was on my game. Do you worry about giving up that preparation time? You’re famously very engrossed in the subject matter you work on. • If you looked at my desk upstairs in my hotel room, there are not one, not two, but four books on the plays I’m about to do. There are two Turing biographies. There is just a shitload of other stuff on that on my Kindle. Because, of course, I have time to sit down and fucking read everything! It’s ridiculous. But when push comes to shove, I’m getting slightly better now, as I say, because of having help with time management, with prioritising. It’s really important because you can’t be a good student by trying to do it all. I imagine the hardest part is deciding which things you don’t need to know. • You just have to go for what’s really necessary first, and then, God willing, there’s time to get lost in stuff that’s just a diversion but as illuminating as the stuff you need to know. I’m not a maths PhD, I’m not a programmer or cryptographer of any sort. The science that I try to understand is often about sense memory. Even if it’s something as simple as copying what the art department has done. I’m an okay drawer and craftsman, and their work is always so ridiculously involved. With Turing, I just asked how they copied his schematics and they showed me, and then I copied their copy, so it was two removes from him. But even doing that, before takes, in between takes, and then obviously during takes, made me have some entitlement to pretending to be this intellect because I was at least creating something that he’d done. That’s really satisfying.
Previous spread: Grooming: Anna Bernabe at Exclusive Artists for Ursa Major Skincare. This page: Everett Collection
Don’t worry, be happy
Constant tests revealed that Millbug’s consumers were more inclined to purchase products online on devices with larger screens.
The Millbug Vuya Tablet enables everyone to have the Internet at their fingertips—even in rural areas
When Sabelo Sibanda (right) and Thulisile Volwana (left) founded the e-tailer, Millbug, in 2012, they sold fashionable women’s clothing to millennials. But through this venture, they were able to gain valuable insights into e-commerce, Internet proliferation and technology use habits across the African continent. “Our conversion rates told a very interesting story about how our fellow millennials use the Internet,” says CEO Sibanda. “Constant tests revealed many insights that were
hiding in plain sight.” Adds Volwana, COO, “People are more inclined to purchase tactile products online on devices with larger screen sizes—for example tablet PCs, laptops and desktops—and are more inclined to purchase digital content on mobile devices such as tablet PCs and mobile phones.” It was through this discovery that the pair embarked on the development of a rugged yet aesthetically pleasing tablet that effortlessly runs on the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system.
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The 7-inch Millbug Vuya Tablet is a solar-powered tablet PC that facilitates mobile computing in areas with intermittent access to electricity, such as in the rural Eastern Cape. Meaning ‘be happy’ in isiXhosa, it is the intention of the Vuya Tablet to bring happiness to those who need it most, according to the company’s mission statement. The tablet has a 1.2 GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage (the Vuya 2 has 16GB), a photovoltaic power source as well as the ability to be charged via USB and a traditional power outlet.
The tablet is available in a variety of colours such as black, red, blue and purple. Millbug is currently working on extending the range. The solar in the tablet is bundled. “We found that the photovoltaic cells in the solar panels we wanted to integrate into the device were not powerful enough to charge the 3 000mAh battery,” Volwana explains. Millbug believes the Vuya Tablet will allow for greater participation of Africans in the digital economy. Instead of celebrating the rise of the African consumer, this device seeks to catalyse the
rise of the African producer. The company received financial assistance from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) ICT incubator for the certification of the device, as well as consultation and mentoring from SEDA’s Ellen Fischat and Sipelo Lupondwana. Millbug is incubated at the Port Elizabeth chapter of Shanduka Black Umbrellas. The tablet will retail for no more than R1 499.99 to ensure it is within reach of its users. It will be available at various local retailers. See millbug.com for updates.
UNLOCKING ENTREPRENEURIAL CAPABILITIES The Business Place eKapa is a gateway to economic activity and independence
The Business Place eKapa marks its 10th anniversary in 2014. The centre oﬀers a friendly, accessible walk-in environment, requiring no appointment, where aspiring and existing entrepreneurs can access and be assisted with business consultation, company registration, information, referrals, training, workshops, networking and linkage to business opportunities.
The Business Place eKapa serves as an ideal delivery platform for other initiatives. It is open to engaging with all interested programme partners who have a common purpose and, in doing so, to pool scarce resources in order to improve long-term sustainability and avoid duplication of eﬀorts in a particular sector. The company actively pursues partnership arrangements with key product and service delivery organisations to provide access to much-needed services for small and micro business. Such key service delivery partners and clients are able to beneﬁt from the infrastructure, the access point from which to have engagement, and the delivery mechanisms provided by TBP eKapa and their staﬀ who refer clients to programmes at the relevant stages of clients’ business development.
Navigation Free one-on-one consultation with navigators who can assist clients with their entrepreneurial journey. Business resources Access to meeting space, free Internet facilities and legal guidance.
Workshops Interactive sessions provide information on a variety of appropriate subjects such as marketing, writing a business plan, ﬁrst steps to starting a business etc. Training programmes A need has been identiﬁed to address programmes targeting speciﬁc business needs such as branding and advertising, sales, project management, costing, cashﬂow management, stock control and marketing. Networking sessions These sessions focus on a particular business sector, for example tourism. Guest speakers from speciﬁc sectors are invited to address the sessions, and people running businesses in these sectors can then discuss common issues and learn—not only from the guest speakers but also from each other. Business breakfasts High-proﬁle and successful business entrepreneurs, stakeholders in the entrepreneurial environment and the media are invited to seek solutions for the challenges facing the modern entrepreneur; subjects include policy issues, innovation, governance and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial master classes The aim is to develop leadership and to provide emerging entrepreneurs with existing businesses access to some of the knowledge and experience gained by successful, established entrepreneurs—within an informal setting.
For further details, please visit The Business Place eKapa at 1st Floor 7 Anton Anreith Arcade Foreshore Cape Town or contact us on 021 425 7816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
W H AT C O N N E CT E D D E V I C E S M U ST D O TO S U C C E E D BEYOND THE ‘INTERNET OF THINGS’ HYPE
Y HOME HAS what you may call a device infestation. Philips’s Hue LED lights are tasked with waking me up every morning, and my Wi-Fi–enabled Withings scale isn’t polite as it shares my increasing girth with my phone. When I get home from work, Apple TV and the Sonos-connected sound system and speaker combination are ready to entertain me. Among the dozens of other gewgaws in my 60-square-metre apartment is a Dropcam wireless video recorder, though I don’t quite know why. Maybe it’s there to give me a heads-up if the other devices start plotting behind my back.
All of these products are usually considered part of the emerging ‘Internet of Things’, a phrase I hate as much as I want to like the products. Not a day goes by when I don’t get an email from makers of some cool new device, and the market is currently being flooded with ideas for Internet-connected products. The number of tech campaigns on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo has increased by more than 1 000% in the past year. And, as my home attests, I am not immune to their come-ons. But the Internet of Things makes me grimace, not just because it’s geeky. It’s inelegant. It defines just a small slice of ‘connected devices’, the moniker I much prefer because it covers the whole gamut from wearable tech such as the Nike Fuel28 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
Band and Google Glass to the new breed of home appliances such as Nest’s thermostat and smoke alarm. It also oversells the concept: These things aren’t yet intelligent enough to have their own Internet. This imprecision is ironic and telling. Ironic, because in the post-iPhone world, any connected device worth its shelf space will need to be, well, iCatching. (Ones that are exceptionally well designed are the ones that catch on quickly.) Telling, though, because as a friend once said, “Most of us get lost in how things ought to be, and there’s a gap between that desire and what actually is.” My extreme experimentation in connected living has helped me strip away the category’s buzziness and try to resolve the concept of what makes a great connected device. My theories are ones that both makers and buyers should consider if the category is going to evolve. First, these devices have to be dead simple. If the learning curve involves reading the manual, you may have already lost. No one, and that includes gadget-mad columnists, wants to play IT administrator at home. More important, the ability to interact with the device and the services that make it come alive is what matters. Amazon’s Kindles have it by allowing me to buy books directly in mere seconds via its Whispernet technology and pick up where I left off on another device via Whispersync. Apple TV, the company’s now billion-dollar “hobby”, as it says, got it once I could link my MLB.tv subscription to it and create my own must-see TV. Sonos, which I’ve owned for about five years, went from nice to necessary when it let me access and play music from Spotify and Pandora, which is how I listen to music, rather than just what lives on my local hard drive. As Nest CEO Tony Fadell once told me, Nest’s thermostat “is a summation of the hardware, the software on the product, the service’s back-end [operations], and all the different apps you need for iOS, Android, the web, tablets, and all the different screen sizes and everything else.” When a connected device achieves that perfect combination, it drives me to use it more. It goes from being a party trick to joyful. My Hue lighting adds a dash of colour to my life. I can say the same for Nest every time my thermostat pulsates as if it were a living thing. These often-expensive gadgets make me feel as though they’re not only worth the price but are a bargain. So long as I’m still the smartest being in the room. Om Malik is a partner at True Ventures, an early-stage investor. He is also founder of Gigaom, a Silicon Valley-based, tech-focused publishing company.
Illustration by Dale Edwin Murray
There’s nothing wrong with using a messenger pigeon. But we’d suggest MWEB’s Hosted Exchange from just R65pm. There’s also nothing wrong with using filing cabinets, fax machines, or smoke signals. But MWEB Hosted Exchange, the organisational mailing system is here, so you don’t have to. Think email exchange. Think shared calendars, company address books and pristinely managed and archived mail. There’s also a tech support team ready to answer your call 24/7, and because it’s cloud based, it’s completely and easily scalable, with minimal hardware or maintenance. All from just R65pm.
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G E N E R AT I O N FLUX
FIND YOUR MISSION IN A WORLD OF R APID CH A NGE A ND GREAT UNCERTA INTY, THE GREATEST COMPETITIV E A DVA NTAGE OF A LL M AY BE AT YOUR V ERY CORE By Robert Safian
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JARED LETO, 42
Actor, musician, tech investor Embodying the blurred lines of many modern careers, Leto has morphed from the soulful Jordan Catalano in My SoCalled Life into the raucous lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars, and also from entertainer to entrepreneur and tech investor. Leto says his decisions as an entrepreneur and an artist arise from the same creative place.
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“I don’t compartmentalise. Whatever you’re doing, you should be passionate about. If you’re not, then say no.”
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Yet, mission is exactly what makes Chipotle—a chain of restaurants in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and France that specialise in burritos and tacos—so much more than just the taste of its barbacoa. “Food With Integrity” animates every decision the company makes, from the abattoir to the food line at local outlets to the strategic planning at its Denver, Colorado–headquarters. When Ells, who’s a chef himself, launched Chipotle 22 years ago, he focused on fresh ingredients. That evolved over time into an awareness of all the different forms 32 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
ROBERT WONG, 48
Executive creative director, Google Creative Lab
Wong says he is guided by what he calls “the four Ps”: purpose, people, products and process, in that order. Without purpose, the others would be ungrounded.
“As the world gets more complicated, with change in more and more places, it’s easy to lose the big picture. There’s a huge gap between the potential of people on the planet and what’s really happening.”
Previous spread: Prop styling: Edward Scott; hair: Ryan Mitchell; makeup: Min Min using LaMer. This spread: Grooming: Alex LaMarsh
Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Steve Ells doesn’t mince words. “Our investors are here for only one reason: great returns. They want to make money.” Chipotle’s customers, Ells says, are equally focused: “They care about taste, value and convenience.” What about the company’s ballyhooed mission of “Food With Integrity”? Ells laughs acerbically: “Is that ever going to be the reason people come into the store? ‘Oh, I want to eat food with integrity right now!’ I don’t think so.”
of exploitation inherent in traditional fast food—of animals, of the environment, and even of customers. Chipotle has distinguished itself from the Burger Kings and McDonald’s of this world by relying on “naturally raised” meat that is antibiotic- and hormone-free, by dropping trans fats from its cooking before doing so was in vogue, and by offering organically certified beans and avocados. “It’s the responsible thing to do,” says Ells. Other chains reheat frozen items in a mechanised system. At Chipotle, Ells points out, “we’re actually cooking. If you walk into the refrigerator, you’ll see fresh onions and peppers, and raw meat that isn’t tenderised or treated in any way.” That mission drives Chipotle’s sales and marketing tactics. Chipotle eschews dollar menus and other standard fast-food gimmicks, offering a narrow range of meal options at relatively high prices. When Chipotle’s ad agencies couldn’t find a way to make “food with integrity” a compelling sales proposition, Ells dumped them and brought marketing in-house. Now the company is winning industry awards, and building valuable customer loyalty, through campaigns such as The Scarecrow. The online video and game about farmers and fresh food has become a bestseller on the App Store, downloaded nearly 700 000 times. This distinctive approach has fuelled Chipotle’s growth. The company now has some 1 700 stores, up from 1 350 three years ago; revenue is around R41.7 billion, up more than R11.5 billion over the same time; and Chipotle’s market cap doubled to a whopping R243.5 billion. When I ask Ells about another large company’s mission statement—one that revolves around being the “best” in its industry—he cuts me off: “What kind of a mission is that?” he asks. “I don’t want to shit all over his mission. It’s his mission. He can have whatever he wants, but that kind of thing wouldn’t work for us.” At another point, I ask about his competition. If traditional fast-food chains change their practices in reaction to Chipotle’s success, would he see that as a good thing overall, because it broadens the food-with-integrity culture? Or would he view it as a threat? “It’s a joke,” he replies. “You know those guys, right? They can’t change. The culture is just too ingrained. Which bodes very well for Chipotle.”
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The more companies like Apple and Chipotle focus on something beyond money, the more money they make. 34 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
are the people who are defining where business and culture are moving. And purpose is at the heart of their actions. Don’t confuse this with social service. For these folks, a mission is the essential strategic tool that allows them to filter the modern barrage of stimuli, to motivate and engage those around them, and to find new and innovative ways to solve the world’s problems. Their experiences show the critical advantages of building mission into your career and your business. Businesses that find and then live by their mission often discover that it becomes their greatest competitive advantage.
Embrace the Creative Edge Backstage in Romania, Jared Leto has a few spare minutes—not to talk about acting, which earned him an Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyers Club, or singing, which has brought him an international fan base as lead singer of his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, despite the early bashings of critics. Leto wants to talk about Leto Inc. The enterprise starts with the band, a demanding venture: It performed first in Hungary in June last year, with several other European countries thereafter, then on to the US, Canada, most of South America, as well as South Africa in November. The tour will move on to Russia in March and Poland in April. “It could last a year,” Leto says, and that wouldn’t be its longest road trip ever. The group is recognised in the Guinness World Records for a marathon 309-show tour that started in 2009 and ended in 2011. This isn’t enough to satiate Leto. What he really wants to do is re-engineer the business of being a performer. He uses social media to connect with some 2 million Twitter followers who buy 30 Seconds to Mars products and attend special-access events. He has directed an award-winning documentary about his battles with a former music label. More impressively, he has a team of coders working for him in Los Angeles on Vyrt, a real-time streaming video platform that combines merchandise sales, fan management and social engagement, and he’s an active investor in tech startups including Nest, Spotify, Airbnb and Zenefits. So is he a musician, an actor, a director, or an entrepreneur? “I’m a multi-hyphenate whatever,” Leto says. “I’m a creative and an artist. I make and share things with the world that hopefully add to the quality of people’s lives.” His entrepreneurship “comes from the same place. I don’t compartmentalise,” he says. “My work is never a job. My work is my life. If you work your fucking ass off, you can get a lot done.” Not many of us will ever find ourselves shirtless before thousands of Romanians screaming our name, as Leto does later that evening. But his attitude is one that we can embrace. Leto channels his creative passion into business, and more and
SALLIE KRAWCHECK, 49
Chair, Ellevate Network Krawcheck, who held top banking positions at Citigroup and Bank of America, bought the women’s networking group, 85 Broads, and renamed it Ellevate.
“The financial industry, despite its bad reputation, can do a lot of good in the world. But it has defined itself about money and not about meaning at all. I believe it is good for American business and for the global banking system to have more diversity in leadership.”
Prop styling: Chad Pierce; grooming: Alex LaMarsh
Steve Ells and Chipotle are hardly alone in embracing what Ells calls a “loftier” vision for the enterprise. “If you want me to make decisions that have a clear ROI [return on investment],” another renegade CEO declared at a public shareholder meeting earlier this year, “then you should get out of the stock, just to be plain and simple.” A few months earlier, that same renegade had announced that his company was committed to “advancing humanity”. He claimed that his frame for decision making was moral: “We do things because they’re just and right.” This emphasis on social goals over financial performance seems almost revolutionary—and yet the renegade is none other than Tim Cook of Apple, CEO of the most valuable company in the world. Ells and Cook represent a rising breed of business leaders who are animated not just by money but by the pursuit of a larger societal purpose. Their motivation may be personal, emotional and, yes, moral; and yet their idealism is rewarded in the marketplace. In a world that is evolving faster than ever, companies such as Apple and Chipotle—and Google and PepsiCo, and even fashion brands like Eileen Fisher—rely on mission to unlock product differentiation, talent acquisition and retention, and even investor loyalty. The more they focus on something beyond money, the more money they make. Their success calls into question many entrenched assumptions about corporate success, and the frameworks and priorities that shareholders and strategists have come to rely on. So much of the business world remains primarily obsessed with quarterly financial performance. But these short-term metrics can distract from an enterprise’s long-term impact on the world, and that distraction can result in products and other offerings that undercut value creation. At a time when the pace of change is unrelenting, this may be the biggest weakness in today’s economic system. I’ve written several articles about something I call Generation Flux. This refers to the group of people best positioned to thrive in today’s era of high-velocity change. Fluxers are defined not by their chronological age but by their willingness and ability to adapt. These
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who are desperately struggling just to make enough money to find shelter and put food on the table. That is often the only ‘mission’ that matters. But for those who have been fortunate enough to look beyond their basic needs, the motivation to do more, create more and, yes, give more to the world—whether that is burritos or iPhones—arises directly from the personal meaning we derive from those activities. That is the way humans operate. We are not drones whose only goal is to make more money. Keeping passion out of the workplace makes no sense at all.
Follow an Inside-Out Strategy “Purpose is at the essence of why firms exist,” says Hirotaka Takeuchi, a management professor at Harvard Business School. “There is nothing mushy about it—it is pure strategy. Purpose is very idealistic, but at the same time very practical.” Takeuchi is not the boldest faced name at Harvard—yet. But his research offers a compelling model for mission-based business culture. Takeuchi espouses what he calls an “inside-out approach” to business strategy. With a more traditional “outside-in approach”, he says, you begin by
SHAUNA MEI, 32
CEO, Ahalife Mei, who emigrated to the US from China when she was 8 years old, didn’t fit in easily at school or in the workplace. Now, as CEO of an e-tailer for the fashion industry, she finally has a job that feels like a mission.
“You can only be as committed as you are today, and you have to be honest with yourself. When I wake up now, I’m very passionate about Ahalife. Some companies are built to exit; that’s not what I’m after.”
Prop styling: Chad Pierce; grooming: Alex LaMarsh
more evidence suggests this is the key to creating a meaningful career. In this age of flux, people’s sense of connection with their workplace has been declining. Last year, Gallup came out with a detailed study of workers across US businesses. In all industries and all age groups, engagement was pitifully low. “The vast majority of US workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential,” the report concluded. Yet in those pockets where passion for the job flourished, productivity, levels of customer service and profitability were all higher than average. “Companies with engaged workforces have higher earnings per share,” the report stated. Perhaps most important (and surprising) of all: “Engagement has a greater impact on performance than corporate policies and perks.” “There has always been a psychological contract between workers and corporations, often unconscious,” says motivation expert Marcelo Cardoso of Brazilian healthcare company, Grupo Fleury, who has studied employee engagement across cultures. He notes that the demise of loyalty-based contracts (job security in exchange for commitment to the organisation) has resulted in a more transactional relationship between worker and company: Bonuses, stock options and other compensation bind the two together. “But as the level of complexity [in business] is increasing, these types of contracts are no longer satisfying and effective for individuals,” Cardoso says. A more effective contract, he says, meshes an individual’s sense of purpose with that of the company. The Gallup report notes that millennials, gen-Xers and baby boomers consider “mission and purpose” a valuable motivator. Other studies reinforce this idea that unlocking “psychic energy”, as Cardoso describes it, is less tightly tied to financial compensation as economists had assumed. As Daniel Pink eloquently explained in the book Drive, higher pay leads to better performance only for routine, repeatable tasks; for higher cognitive efforts and creative tasks, maximising rewards actually hurts performance. Jennifer Aaker at Stanford University has taken this idea even further. She challenges the very notion that a pursuit of happiness is what drives us most. Her work suggests people’s satisfaction with life is higher, and of greater duration, when meaning—rather than happiness—is their primary motivation. For other professors, such as Wharton’s Adam Grant, this is the difference between a life focused on “giving” rather than “taking”, a difference they believe increases productivity as well as satisfaction. We should, of course, stop for a moment to acknowledge that choosing a career built around meaning is not a choice available to billions of people
What if an inside-out strategy creates more creative, resilient companies than those following the old outside-in approach?
The Power of Purpose
NAITHAN JONES, 39 CEO, AgLocal
Prop styling: Chad Pierce; grooming: Alex LaMarsh
Jones’s startup connects small farmers to buyers. He could have made it a broader software platform, but he chose to stay on mission. One reason? He married into a farming family, giving him a personal sense of the challenges.
“I was brought up to not complain, be tough, and work hard. If you get rewarded, great. If you don’t, keep working and keep focused. It was the core ethic.”
assessing the outside environment, the state of the industry and the competitive field, in order to determine the most advantageous positioning for your company. Business schools have been stressing this approach for years, but Takeuchi believes it is too narrow. At a company built on an inside-out strategy, he explains, “the beliefs and ideals of management become the core. Why does the firm exist?” The research Takeuchi has done with Ikujiro Nonaka at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo shows that the key differentiator between enterprises is how they envision their futures. “A very bland mission doesn’t resonate,” he explains. A dynamic, long-term plan requires a mission that’s clear, focused and invaluable: “Look at what Walt Disney wanted: ‘to create timeless, universal family entertainment,’” Takeuchi continues. “If you have those five words, there’s no doubt in the mind of employees or anyone else what you’re about.” This may sound touchy-feely to business leaders trained to prefer quantifiable metrics such as sales growth and operating margin. Takeuchi doesn’t care. “Consultants argue that strategy comes from big data,” he says, “but it really comes from the heart.” You can hear the cynics groan. But what if Takeuchi is right?
While speaking to dozens of Generation Flux leaders over several months, it became clear to me that there is no single formula for how to run an inside-out enterprise, no standard org chart, no ‘Ten Rules’ that everyone follows. In fact, it makes little sense to try to prescribe one, given the range of passions that inform these businesses and the range of stakeholders they serve. But the best leaders of these enterprises do have one thing in common: They have all carefully thought through the creation of a corporate environment that helps them, and their employees, try to live by the company’s mission. Robert Wong is executive creative director of Google Creative Lab, an internal skunkworks team that helps the search giant market its products and inspire its engineers. “In high school,” he says, “they gave us a test every year that was supposed to give guidance about what we should do when we grew up. Every year, ‘preacher’ was in the top three results for me. I’m not religious, so I always discounted it. But now it makes sense. Working with my team and others is, in some ways, preaching. It’s all about providing inspiration.” Wong’s approach is anything but squishy. Wong, who reports to Google Creative Lab leader Andy Berndt, says he is guided by what he calls “the four Ps”, which stand for purpose, people, products and process. Wong’s four Ps are listed in descending order of importance and are starkly more humanistic than the classic four Ps that marketing students have memorised for decades—price, product, promotion and place. “If you choose the right purpose, certain people will be attracted,” says Wong. “They will be motivated and unified. They require less management oversight. Those people will then conceive and execute products, products that fit the purpose. The process fills in the open spaces. But strong purpose ties it together. You have to excavate the purpose first.” These four Ps seem to offer the perfect framework for Creative Lab. It’s the work of someone who’s deeply aware of the talent Google wants to attract and the mobility those very same people now take for granted. “The manager era is gone,” says Wong. “Your staff can leave. They have the option to go. That’s why purpose is so important. It’s the best way to keep talent.” Wong’s approach is broad enough to survive changing trends. For instance, it would serve Google just fine if the job market for creatives were to become less mobile. To fashion icon Eileen Fisher, who has long talked about “business as a movement”, that kind of adaptability is simply part and parcel of running a mission-based company. Fisher finds herself constantly
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Don’t Forget the Filter Shauna Mei is founder and CEO of Ahalife, a high-end luxury e-tailer and one of Fast Company US’s Most Innovative Companies in 2013. Born in northern China, Mei came to America as an 8-year-old, travelling alone and joining her parents in the town of Moscow, Idaho. She slept on a lawn chair set up beside her parents’ bed and spoke no English; she was an object of curiosity at school in a community with limited 38 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
EILEEN FISHER, 64
diversity. In Moscow, even her excellence—she was a maths whiz—made her stand out uncomfortably. Eventually, however, she found her way to MIT, where she got dual degrees in Finance and Computer Science. She then headed to Goldman Sachs, where she was confronted with another new, and equally foreign, culture. “At that time, lots of large companies were getting refinanced: rental car companies, mattress companies, older industries. I wanted these large deals, but my supervisor put me on women-connected companies. I did Tampax and then Playtex, and after that I implored him, ‘Can I do an oil-and-gas deal, an auto-supply company?’ The next deal I got was Neiman Marcus, a luxury retailer for women.” Mei took a hard look at her career. “Am I going to fight the battle to work on industries the boys work on?” she asked herself. “Or is there a competitive advantage to work on luxury fashion business that I actually understand and enjoy?” The questioning helped Mei recognise that her background had prepared her for a unique mission: helping luxury artisans and designers develop sustainable businesses.
CCO, Eileen Fisher Inc. Fisher has always tried to align her company’s mission with its practices. It’s an ongoing process, one that can never be perfected.
“A core value of ours is simplicity. Yet our process has got more complicated and our clothiers have got more complicated. These are not good things. Can we still be profitable and feel good about what we do? Our sales department asks me, ‘What does that mean?’”
Prop styling: Edward Scott
reviewing one simple-sounding but complex question: “How does my purpose connect to our company’s purpose?” Fisher is an unconventional leader. Meetings begin with the ringing of a bell and a moment of quiet, and seating is always in a circle, giving everyone equal authority. The company has a no-email policy on weekends. Meetings before 10 a.m. on Monday and after 3 p.m. on Friday aren’t allowed. The company pursues a host of sustainability efforts, and advocates for in-need women and girls around the globe through the Eileen Fisher Community Foundation. A few years ago, Fisher decided to focus more of her time on her foundation. But she eventually concluded that she could have a greater positive impact on the world by running the company. Last year, after hearing Cardoso speak at a conference, Fisher asked the motivation adviser to conduct a series of workshops for her and her executives. During one exercise, Cardoso asked Fisher to sit on a stool and imagine that she was the embodiment of her own purpose. “I don’t even recall what I said,” Fisher says, “but I remember feeling like I could be more fully myself, that I could bring those values to all these decisions that I make. Am I doing what’s really important?” Fisher now returns to that specific stool when she has a difficult question to grapple with. She calls it her “purpose chair”. Sitting there for a few minutes a day, she says, “helps me be clearer about myself and what matters most.” Eileen Fisher Inc. has posted record earnings the past few years. “We’re successful financially,” Fisher says, “but we’re pretty stressed out.” So she’s begun asking questions about the cost and meaning of financial growth. “Should we be measuring something beyond financial results? It’s disruptive a little, but we’re going deeper,” she says. “We want to be a great company more than we want to be a big company. If selling more means creating more stress for ourselves, should we do it?” Fisher is committed to continually fine-tuning the culture of her business. “We have purpose programmes for our leaders. We’re looking at getting participation from all of our employees. We’re setting up a learning lab. I really believe that business is going to have to think this way.”
She left Goldman and ultimately launched Ahalife. Finding her mission wasn’t an end point. Now she had to live it. Ahalife debuted at a moment when Gilt was getting raves for using flash sales to introduce luxury items at a low price to a mass audience. It didn’t take long for Mei’s backers, and even her employees, to raise the question: Shouldn’t Ahalife follow the Gilt model? But Mei held firm. It was certainly conceivable that Ahalife might get a short-term lift, during its vulnerable infancy, by going the discount route. But Mei knew that most of the companies on Ahalife couldn’t afford to stay in business in the long run if they didn’t sell their products at full price. Mei believed she needed to persuade high-end customers that her luxury products were worth paying for. In the few years since then, she has gradually added more vendors and more customers. “Now we have over 2 000 brands,” Mei says, “and we’re nearing break-even.” A clear mission has helped Naithan Jones, CEO of AgLocal, apply a similar filter to his business. Jones doesn’t have the background you’d expect from the founder of a startup helping family farmers tap into local markets. He was born in England to a British mother and an American father who left when he was young. But he eventually married a woman from a farming family, had two kids and, despite never attending college, landed a job at the prestigious Kauffman Foundation, which encourages entrepreneurship around the country. Listening to his in-laws talk about the challenges farmers faced competing in a digitised world, he came up with the idea for AgLocal. He quit Kauffman; he and his wife sold off everything they owned and soon moved to San Francisco. Once in the Bay Area, he persuaded venture capitalist Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz to back AgLocal. The company worked hard to develop a compelling software platform that helps farmers sell directly to restaurants and to meat wholesalers. Early on in 2014, right around the time AgLocal was included in Fast Company US’s Most Innovative Companies list, Jones was confronted with his toughest decision. AgLocal had not been able to sign as many customers as Jones had anticipated. “We reached an inflection point,” he says. “Do we create better software for meat wholesalers and restaurants and become a software company? Or do we try to do something better for the farmers, get them better margins by going direct to consumers?” Like Mei, Jones found some investors and employees leaning toward resetting the mission. Like Mei, he resisted. “I said no,” he declares. “This is why we started this business. One day maybe we’ll build a software company, but not today.” Last September, Jones’s vision was rewarded when AgLocal won a contract to supply meats to Amazon Fresh, the Seattle behemoth’s growing local grocery business. These kinds of decisions are what Leto calls “employing the power of no”. He knows that he can’t take advantage of everything that comes his way. “I never wanted to make the most movies or to make the most albums,” he explains. “We all want to say yes, because with yes comes so much opportunity—but the
power of no brings focus and engagement. I’ve got a standing rule for a couple of years: no new projects. The list of creative projects I’ve got, I’m going to stick with them. What you’re doing, you should be passionate about. If not, say no.”
Prepare for Paradox Having a mission is a powerful tool. Even so, living your mission can be enormously complex. Case in point: the efforts of Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, the R766-billion-a-year global snack and beverages giant. Nooyi acknowledges that she straddles two eras. “Every aspect of business as we know it is being disrupted because of technology, geopolitics, the democratisation of media and so on. Some people see this as an opportunity. Others are scared to death.” She talks about the pressure to “make money at all costs” and the difficulty of balancing the long-term needs of PepsiCo with the short-term expectations of its shareholders. “To run a business responsibly, you have to run it for the duration of the company,” she says, “rather than the duration of the CEO.” Nooyi operates PepsiCo under a mission statement she calls “Performance with Purpose”. This is not a sexy or emotional phrase; in fact, it is so banal as to seem almost without meaning. But the strategy that underlies it is not entirely dissimilar from what CEO Ells is executing at Chipotle. Nooyi’s brand was built selling sugar water and salty snacks, yet she has a customer base that is increasingly health-conscious. So how does she integrate those realities and still satisfy return-hungry investors? “When we articulated this notion of performance with purpose, people said, ‘Oh, this is corporate social responsibility,’” Nooyi says. “Wrong. This is not about how we spend the money we make. The focus needs to be on how we make the money.” Her mission-oriented strategy has three pillars. First, she explains, “we had to transform the portfolio to include healthier products.” Second, she aimed to reduce the use of plastic, fuel and water. This was not just an environmental initiative, she says: “Our sustainability agenda helps communities, but it is also linked to financial performance.” The third pillar is about people—in her case, a whopping 270 000 employees: “How do we create an environment in PepsiCo where everybody can bring their whole selves to work? That helps recruiting and retention.” Do these policies come from the heart, as Takeuchi would say, or are they calculated? The answer is: both. Many people have questioned the authenticity of Nooyi’s mission; would a company with a truly significant social agenda introduce a Mountain Dew fruit-juice combo as a breakfast drink, as PepsiCo did last year in an effort to get more young people to consume its caffeinated elixirs? It’s hard not to wonder how much the ‘performance’ dictates Nooyi’s ‘purpose’. PepsiCo’s stock lagged behind that of rival Coca-Cola for several years, but it has delivered nearly double the return over the past 24 months or so. Depending on the analyst you speak to, that’s either because Nooyi’s
If any part of the business world seems hostile to the idea of a purposeful mission, it is Wall Street.
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“performance with purpose” is starting to pay off—or because the company has been backing away from it. The jury is still out. Even Chipotle’s food-with-integrity ideal can come into conflict with its near-term financial goals. Here’s one example: Sometimes Chipotle cannot source enough sustainably raised meat to satisfy the heavy demand for its burritos. Militant food-with-integrity advocates may argue that Chipotle should pull unavailable items from its menu. But that’s not the choice Ells has made. In what Chipotle calls “blackout” situations, affected stores put up signs announcing that traditionally sourced meat has been substituted for the sustainable fare customers are accustomed to. By and large, Ells reports, customers continue to order the items they want. Does this decision make Ells a hypocrite, a leader who sacrifices his mission to maximise financial rewards? (Ells himself has profited so handsomely from Chipotle’s success—he received about R290 million in compensation last year—that shareholders actually rebuffed the company’s executive-pay plan at last year’s annual meeting.) Ells, of course, says no. The more successful Chipotle becomes, he argues, the more resources it has to encourage farmers to adhere to its standards and increase the integrity of the food supply. Turning away customers could impede that larger goal. Situations like Chipotle’s are complicated—as is so much of business. For investors and for employees, it comes down to a question of trust: Has the enterprise demonstrated in its actions and decisions a long-term and genuine commitment to its stated mission? Is there real progress that inspires engagement? Is the connection between what makes it a great business and what makes it a compelling mission authentic? Chipotle has such a strong record that Ells has earned the benefit of the doubt. At PepsiCo, the burden is higher. Nooyi’s predecessors never intended for PepsiCo to have “performance with purpose” at its core; that’s why her stated task to imbue PepsiCo with mission is monstrously challenging and far from complete. 40 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
Banking on a New Wall Street
If there is a segment of the business world that seems hostile to the idea of a purposeful mission, it is Wall Street. Big Finance has epitomised the outside-in approach and celebrated the pursuit of maximum dollars. Wall Streeters are not, of course, a breed without conscience; the Robin Hood Foundation, to cite one example, raises millions for genuinely laudatory programmes. (And, of course, the alleged purpose of banking is to help fund projects and companies that create value and jobs.) But in light of the economic meltdown, the US government’s bailout, and Occupy Wall Street’s critique of the 1%, even positive measures can feel like whitewashing. Wall Street as a brand has become defined by helping the rich get richer. All of this makes the tale of Sallie Krawcheck immensely compelling. Krawcheck has had “the dubious distinction”, as she puts it, of having worked for seven different CEOs in the financial services industry. She first attracted notoriety at Sanford Bernstein, where she was hailed as “The Last Honest Analyst” on the cover of Fortune. Her reputation for independence was a key reason that she was tapped by banking icon Sandy Weill to take over brokerage, Smith Barney, in the wake of conflict-of-interest investigations by then–New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Krawcheck’s star continued to rise, as she became CFO of Citi and then head of wealth management at the firm. It’s an impressive sequence, the tale of a woman in what is still largely a man’s world, a gadfly in clubby Wall Street, who became an influential insider. Now, however, Krawcheck is not sure she was ever fully part of the club. During the financial crisis, in 2008, she was fired by Citi. She had lobbied Citi’s board of directors to reimburse clients who had put their money into a particular set of investments that had flopped. After much discussion, the board agreed with her plan, but other powerful executives at Citi were unhappy. A few months later, she lost her job. “If you had asked me, when it happened, if I got fired from Citi because I’m a woman, I would have told you absolutely not,” says Krawcheck, who has always resisted efforts to connect her professional achievements (and setbacks) to her gender. “But now, I’d say, not exactly.” Krawcheck isn’t alleging a misogynist conspiracy. She has come to believe there is a more subtle problem confronting Wall Street. “I was invited to leave,” she says, “because I had a fundamentally different business perspective than the powers that be.” So she’s made it her mission to safeguard that different perspective. In June last year, Krawcheck took over an
CASEY GERALD, 27
CEO, MBAs Across America Gerald’s stirring graduation speech to his class at Harvard Business School called on the new MBAs to embrace the fact that businesspeople may have more of a chance to change the world than anyone else.
“Harvard Business School didn’t change us. It reminded us of who we could be. It reminded us that we didn’t have to wait until we were rich or powerful to make a difference. We could act right here, right now.”
Prop styling: Chad Pierce; grooming: Alex LaMarsh
Saying yes brings opportunity, Leto believes, “but the power of no brings focus and engagement.”
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organisation of more than 30 000 professional women called 85 Broads, and renamed it Ellevate Network. “We survey our women every week, and we ask about their priorities in taking a job,” she says. “Gentlemen put money at No. 1; women make it No. 4. Meaning and purpose are No. 1 for women.” “At Citi,” she continues, “we sold alternative investments that people thought were low risk, and they weren’t. We were dumb. I advocated for returning some of the clients’ money. I felt like it was the right thing to do and the positive business decision, to demonstrate to clients that we would do right by them.” But returning that money hurt Citi’s earnings, which didn’t help its alreadytroubled stock price. “I knew I would get fired.” Krawcheck says her focus has shifted to helping professional women “not because of hippy-dippy reasons, but because of the impact it can have on businesses.” She now believes that “what could have averted the financial crisis [was] more diversity of perspective, of opinion.” She doesn’t sidestep her own blame. “I was sitting in those conference rooms, at those tables. I was one of them.” But she thinks that more voices like hers could have made a significant difference. “All the research tells me that women are more client-focused than men, more risk-averse,” she says. “The financial industry, despite its bad reputation, can do a lot of good in the world. But it has defined itself about money and not about meaning at all,” she says. “I believe it is good for American business and for the global banking system to have more diversity in leadership.” With Ellevate, Krawcheck is both following these ideals and capitalising on a business opportunity. “Women want mission and purpose in their investments. Companies run by women—and capital devoted to women— have performed well,” she notes. So she’s launched an investment fund that will focus on women-friendly, women-led companies and target female investors. “If you are looking only at middle-aged white guys,” says Krawcheck, recalling the financial meltdown, “how’d that work out for you?”
Write a New Field Manual Many women in business may value mission over money, but gender alone will not be the key factor in determining the long-lasting 42 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
impact of this trend. The young workers of today already embrace mission and meaning. “Millennials are thinking that there’s a double personal-professional bottom line,” as Krawcheck puts it. “You’ve got to make a living, and you want to have an impact. Your work and values have got to be aligned.” Millennials don’t share the antiestablishment fervour of the ’60s-era baby boomers. While 90% of respondents to a Change.org study said they would give up some financial reward in exchange for making a difference in the world, the notion that
”Consultants argue that strategy comes from big data,” says Harvard’s Takeuchi, “but it really comes from the heart.” business can be a vehicle of change and progress seems only to have grown. Last year, the graduating class of the Harvard Business School (HBS) chose Casey Gerald to be a student speaker at graduation. It was an inspired choice. Gerald’s 18-minute speech has been viewed online more than 100 000 times. Sure, he invoked the usual calls to action of the standard graduation speaker, all the language about changing the world and making a difference. But what set his speech apart, aside from its vibrant rhetoric and sincere emotion, was Gerald’s embrace of what he called “the new bottom line in business . . . the impact you have on your community and the world around you. No amount of profit could make up for purpose.” As a child, Gerald was abandoned first by his father, and then by his mother. Back then, his mission was simple: survival. Growing up in inner-city Dallas wasn’t easy. He and his older sister lived with relatives and friends. “We were like the Boxcar Children—on our own,” he says. A few years ago, gun-toting
thieves broke into his apartment and threatened to kill him, fleeing only when police sirens sounded nearby. Gerald stayed positive and eventually made his way to Yale as an undergrad. As was true for so many twenty-somethings in recent years, things didn’t suddenly get easy after graduation. He had a job lined up at Lehman Brothers, but the firm imploded before he arrived. He tried his hand at a non-profit in Washington, DC; worked on an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in Texas; and explored the New York City startup scene, “living on tuna fish and peanut butter”, as he puts it. Understandably, Gerald entered HBS hell-bent on his own financial security. He promised himself that once he’d procured his MBA, he’d avoid startups and non-profits. Yet now, after graduating in May last year, Gerald and a couple of classmates are running a startup non-profit called MBAs Across America. It matches MBAs with local entrepreneurs, in a quest to revitalise American enterprise. So much for Gerald’s financial security, at least in the short term. “We are trying to write a new field manual for business across America,” he says. “It can’t be about hierarchy, leaders sitting in the corner office and going to the Hamptons while everyone else is pressing sheet metal. It can’t be just pursuing quarterly-earnings considerations. Leaders can’t just say, ‘Let’s do this because it optimises efficiency.’ There’s got to be a larger vision of our future and ourselves.” Maybe MBAs Across America will follow the path of so many other student startups and peter out. Maybe Gerald will be recruited away by a higher prestige, higher paying opportunity. Harvard’s MBA graduates are still predominantly focused on the outside-in world. More than a quarter take jobs in finance, and another quarter go into consulting. But those numbers are down from years past, in a trend that has been accelerating, especially in finance, for a decade. Change is afoot. Go online and take a look at Gerald’s commencement speech. Then ask yourself if it seems likely that a young man such as Casey Gerald will ever commit himself to an enterprise simply because of the compensation package, as previous generations of star MBAs might have. It seems more likely that he would employ the power of no. And isn’t that a good thing? email@example.com
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CRE ATI V E CON V ERSATION
To the beat of his own drum How Jason Grishkoff turned a blog into a business that has become an important influencer of the new-music market
By Miriam Mannak
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When browsing the Indie Shuffle website, it’s difficult to believe that one of the world’s top online meeting places for up-and-coming artists, music fans and record labels began as a simple email campaign. Fast Company SA met with founder Jason Grishkoff for a chat about his love of music, entrepreneurial vision, his time at Google, and plans to expand in South Africa. Art credit teekay
Based on Grishkoff’s upbringing, one could say that becoming a digi-music entrepreneur was nothing but a natural and even logical career choice. Born and bred in Cape Town, the now 29-year-old grew up in a household where music prevailed, with both parents being members of the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra (CTSO). “My mom, who is South African, played the viola—while my dad, who was born in America, played the French horn. Even my brother is a musician, which makes me somewhat of the black sheep of the family,” Grishkoff says with a smile. However, the tides turned for the Grishkoffs when in 1997 the CTSO lost its government funding. This forced it to merge with the CAPAB Orchestra, which eventually gave way to the Cape Town Philharmonic. “These were interesting times in South Africa. As a result of the CTSO losing its funding and other events, my parents decided to leave South Africa and move to Orange County in California,” Jason recalls. “I was 12 back then. The first thing Mom and Dad did was take me and my brother to Disneyland, to ease us into the American way of life.” A few years after the big move across the Atlantic, while in high school Grishkoff discovered computers and the Internet, which swiftly turned into a fully fledged passion. “I became deeply involved in the world of online gaming. I was 16 when I started to sell webspace to gamers. These so-called gaming servers allowed gamers from around the world to meet and play against one
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another,” he recalls. “Later, I began to build hardware and assemble computers with the objective to make them go as fast as possible. I was also helping bands with their websites.” Despite his passion for information technology, computers and gaming—and his predispositioned interest in music—Grishkoff went on to study history and political science at the University of California, San Diego. Upon receiving his degrees some three years later, he found a job in Washington, DC as a strategic consultant. His prime task was to help his employer determine what they should pay executives and other staff members. Little did Grishkoff know that this new chapter in his life, one that had very little to do with his academic background or passion for computers and music, would be the start of Indie Shuffle. “After moving to Washington, I found myself on my own, with hardly any friends. It was a difficult time for me. In order to deal with the transition, I turned to music and started emailing friends and family about my music finds and the new bands I had come across,” Grishkoff says. “At some point, I 46 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
Flying the flag for local music: Grishkoff is now focused on growing Indie Shuffle’s reach and presence in South Africa.
decided that a blog would make it easier for me to share my digests. It would also give my write-ups an audience. What I really wanted, I guess, was for my reviews to have a home.” Grishkoff’s focus was primarily on Indie rock, a genre of alternative rock music that originated in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and has evolved into all sorts of sub-genres as time has gone by. “While our focus is very much still on Indie rock, hence the website’s name, we tend to cover most genres. Well, everything except for pop. We don’t do a lot of Katy Perry–type of stuff,” he says. A few years after relocating to Washington, the world’s economy started to crumble as a result of the financial crisis. The turmoil went
hand in hand with mass retrenchments, globally but also in the US. While Grishkoff feared for his own job and future, he was approached by Google for the position of remuneration consultant. “While Google was interested in hiring me because of my experience in this niche industry, it was my music blog that got me the job. The trick to getting hired at Google is the ability to fit in. You need to be cool enough. There is even a term for it: Googliness.” While at Google, Grishkoff continued to build, expand and improve Indie Shuffle. As a result, the platform started to gain serious momentum among music fans around the world and up-and-coming artists. Then, record labels began to pay attention to whatever was happening on Indie Shuffle. That is why, in March 2013, three years after his first day at Google, Grishkoff exchanged his secure job for a full-time life of entrepreneurship. Since his decision, the website has grown from strength to strength. Between 2009 and 2013, the year Grishkoff took on Indie Shuffle full-time, 300 million minutes of music
When Indie Shuffle went live five years ago, it was mainly aimed at music fans and promising artists. Today, it’s a key link between not only talent and audiences, but also between talent and record labels.
have been streamed by users worldwide—an average of 6.25 million minutes per month. In November 2014, however, over nine million minutes of music were streamed. “In that same month, we had four million page views,” Grishkoff says, adding that the number of reviewers has increased, too. “Indie Shuffle is currently curated by 40 to 50 music writers around the world, mainly in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States,” he says. This human factor has been the key to Indie Shuffle’s success, he says. “We don’t just provide you with automatically compiled top-10 lists. Our stuff is written by real people. We do this because we believe that humans are better than robots when it comes to discovering and writing about music.” One of his major plans for the future is expanding the website’s presence in South Africa. “We want to make the international community aware of what this country has to offer music-wise,” Grishkoff says. “There is a lot of talent here. The problem with many South African bands and artists is that they don’t know how to market themselves. That is why I came to Cape Town in October 2014. I have come to the realisation that it is quite difficult to pay attention to what is happening here locally, when you are elsewhere.” Since he set foot on home soil, Grishkoff has embedded himself deeply in the local music scene. “I have attended various festivals including Sónar, and done various radio guest appearances. We have also organised some tours for bands,” he says, adding that these efforts have had positive results already. “At least two South African bands have been
approached by record labels—24 hours after their songs went online. Our South African traffic has doubled over the past recent months.” The interest of music companies has probably been the biggest change for the better since 2009, Grishkoff says. When Indie Shuffle went live five years ago, it was mainly aimed at music fans and promising artists. Today, it’s a key link between not only talent and audiences, but also between talent and record labels. “Music blogs have become an increasingly important space for musicians and record companies to find each other,” the entrepreneur says. “Music labels like Sony and Universal are now approaching us, a recognised source, to scout for talent and to punt their artists. These and other firms know that if they get their content on Indie Shuffle, there is a fair chance that it is going to generate some positive outcomes. Indie Shuffle is currently considered an important influencer of the new-music market.” In a way, the platform has become the external artists & repertoires (A&R) department of major record companies, Grishkoff says, explaining that the job of an A&R department is to find the next big thing and to promote new artists. “That is essentially what we are doing. Record companies rely on us when it comes to finding fresh talent.” While Indie Shuffle, which thrives on advertising, is undoubtedly a success story, good fortune doesn’t grow on trees. “Running your own business is hard work,” Grishkoff says. “Indie Shuffle’s success didn’t happen overnight. There have been a lot of challenges. What pulled me through was the passion I had for my business and music. Therefore, my first best bit of advice I have for aspiring entrepreneurs is to start small and build from there. Take it one step at a time. Dream, but don’t go too big in the beginning. Secondly, I recommend you to do something you really, really love. If you want to make it, that something you really love will make you want to overcome the challenges.”
30 SECONDS WITH JASON GRISHKOFF Background Jason was born in Cape Town, and emigrated with his family to California when he was 12. He attended university in San Diego, and worked at Google for three years before leaving to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours full-time. Business Interests Both Grishkoff’s parents were members of the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, so his founding of a website dedicated to the discovery of new music came as little surprise. Since beginning Indie Shuffle in 2009, his platform has seen more than 9 million unique visitors stream roughly 500 million minutes of music across web, iOS and Android. In doing so, it has become one of the most reputable digital music portals on the Internet, viewed by major labels and musicians alike as a necessary exposure platform for launching an artist’s career. After leaving Google in early 2013, Jason embarked on a twoyear journey working as a ‘digital nomad’ to build his network in London, Barcelona, Stockholm, Berlin, Copenhagen, San Francisco, Istanbul, Johannesburg and, ultimately, Cape Town. Today he is focused on growing Indie Shuffle’s reach and presence in South Africa, with plans for a nationwide tour with some of the country’s biggest bands later this year. Likes Coding and building new features for Indie Shuffle, cricket, running and hiking, scootering around Cape Town, learning new languages Dislikes Slow Internet, taxes, the cost of health insurance, mushrooms
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Infrastructure, lost and found In Moscow, Seattle and Shenzhen, crumbling architecture provides a blueprint for new development People change much more quickly than cities, and eventually their needs may outpace a city’s ancient capacity. That’s why the example of New York’s High Line—repurposing outdated infrastructure for current requirements—has spawned a global mandate for urban change.
Google Maps (2011); courtesy of Wowhaus (2013)
Moscow’s new park Near the city centre, architects from Wowhaus turned a four-lane highway into a tree-filled park with bike and pedestrian paths, art studios, and hills that can be used for sledding in the winter. The park will connect with a longer bike and pedestrian trail that will eventually run throughout the city. Explains Wowhaus co-founder Dmitry Likin, “It’s part of a project to integrate underdeveloped Moscow embankments into city life.”
Seattle’s new neighbourhood A sprawling mall parking lot has been transformed into a pedestrian-oriented community, Thornton Place, featuring hundreds of LEED (green rating system) certified apartments, new retail stores and a park. “This is one element of what will ultimately
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be a very high-density urban centre,” says Bert Gregory, CEO of Mithun, the architecture firm involved with the project. “It’s also part of a story about the nature of urban America and the evolution of an automobile culture.”
Shenzhen, China’s new farm A once-abandoned glass factory became the footprint of an almost 2 000-square-metre urban farm, producing cabbage, chard and bok choy for the port city’s residents. Designed as part of the Shenzhen–Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale, the space was created to serve as a model for food production in vacant spots throughout China.
Urban sprawl turns sprawling green: A Moscow area once distinguished solely by an almost 100-metre-tall monument to Peter the Great is now a handsome multi-use park. The statue, at one time voted the 10th ugliest building in the world, remains.
DYNAMIC. FLUID. ADAPTABLE. Independent Mediaâ€™s audience is diverse and expressive. Why should our application be different? The new My.Independent app for tablet and mobile. Now available for iOS and Android Find out more at www.myindependent.co.za
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Do we really need managers? If you have strong, achievement-driven team members, you don’t require a manager for that team to excel
By Colette Symanowitz
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My first experience of a managerless team was during my MBA. We worked in MBA syndicate groups. Typically, each had five or six MBA classmates from different companies, industries, population groups, religions, cultural backgrounds and genders. So you could have an Indian Hindu female doctor, a white Jewish male accountant, a black Sotho female HR manager, a white Christian male banker, an Indian Moslem male engineer and a black Zulu male brand manager. Art credit teekay
The MBA syndicate was a potent microcosm of South Africa’s Rainbow Nation. The power of this group stemmed from our diverse thinking and divergent preMBA training. The high level of talent in the group meant we were all very capable and could get the job done well. We didn’t need a manager to make sure we delivered— we simply got on with the job. And if there was conflict, the group would make a plan to deal with it. We took on different roles for different assignments, depending on our strengths and the type of work we enjoyed. It was an incredible experience that shaped the controversial view I still hold today about managers: If you have strong, achievement-driven team members, you don’t need a manager for that team to excel. Twentieth-century thinking revolved around productivity and efficiency. At the heart of that was the manager as the controller: checking that everything was being done, making sure all the human cogs in the company machine ran smoothly. But productivity through managerial control is an outdated concept built on lack of trust. According to Marcus Buckingham in his bestselling book, First, Break All The Rules, great managers define the right end-goals and then let each person find their own route there. Great managers don’t prescribe ‘one best way’ to do things. They trust their people. They are comfortable letting go of control. After all, if your people deliver the results, does it matter how they get there? (The caveat, of course, is that they shouldn’t be unethical, underhanded or fraudulent in how they work. But no procedural how-to document can prevent this, whereas hiring for the right values will.) Sadly, great managers are very rare. And this is a big part of the engagement problem we sit with today. The ultimate form of letting go is letting your people
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Great managers don’t prescribe ‘one best way’ to do things. They trust their people. They are comfortable letting go of control. work remotely, where you cannot watch over them to make sure they are doing your work. According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, working remotely boosts worker engagement levels. But this works only if organisations trust their people. So my suggestion is this: Do away with managers and mistrust, allow your workforce to work remotely, and watch engagement levels climb. Just look at the phenomenal growth worldwide of managerless, virtual workplace platforms such as oDesk, Freelancer, Guru, Fiverr and Elance to see this in practice. The typical virtual project on Elance has a client needing specific work done and a freelancer with specific skillsets doing the work— but no manager. According to 2013 data, roughly 500 000 businesses and 2 million freelancers use Elance. For another compelling argument in favour of the managerless workplace, simply look at the cost of bad managers. According to Patty Azzarello, business adviser and CEO of Azzarello Group, when bad managers are at the helm, employees, executives and business all suffer. And research indicates resoundingly that people don’t leave companies—they leave managers. If a company has a people-retention issue, look to the managers before anything else. “Gallup research … shows that these managers from hell are creating active disengagement, costing the US an estimated $450 billion [R5.19 trillion] to $550 billion [R6.34 trillion] annually,” asserts Gallup chairperson and CEO Jim Clifton in a recent Harvard Business Review article. “If your company reflects the average in the US, just imagine what poor management and disengagement are costing your bottom line.” Only 13% of global workers are engaged. This is according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2013 report, based on an ongoing study in 2011 and 2012 of workplaces in over 140 countries. Figures for the US are slightly higher, with 30% of workers being engaged; these are the ones who manage themselves. A hefty 52% of staff are not engaged—but they will take charge and contribute if the culture promotes sharing. The remaining 18% are actively disengaged; these are the toxic workers who will not contribute, no matter how hard you drive them. (See definitions in sidebar.) In South Africa, the picture is a lot worse: A pitiful 9% of our workforce are engaged, while 46% are not engaged, and 45% are actively disengaged. So for us, disengagement is the norm, with South Africa having one of the highest proportions of actively disengaged workers worldwide. What does this have to do with managers? Research reveals that managers are the greatest obstacle to people being engaged. So if a company builds the right culture 52 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
GAUGING LEVELS OF ENGAGEMENT Definitions from the Gallup State of the Global Workplace 2013 report: Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organisation forward. Not engaged (or ‘unengaged’) employees are essentially checked out. They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time—but not energy or passion—into their work. Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work—they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every
day, these workers undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.
and a managerless workplace, 81% of adults would work better there. What exactly is a no-manager business? Chuck Blakeman, founder of the global Crankset Group, explains: “These are companies in which no one works for anyone else—there are no bosses or managers. Leaders become leaders because people are following them, and they stop being leaders when people stop following. Teams manage themselves by dividing up the management functions among team members. In doing so, they find that the overwhelming majority of what managers do just isn’t necessary, and that the position of manager is irrelevant.” It also means they prevent the damage that bad managers cause. For example, managerless agile teams are becoming increasingly popular in the software-development space worldwide. What is an agile team? This is a relatively stable, cross-functional group of workers with the capabilities and the power to define, build and test in a short space of time. Collaboration between self-organising, cross-functional teams may lead the requirements and solutions of the projects to morph over time. In small agile teams, there are several roles. As with the MBA syndicate, these roles are not permanent, fixed positions; any person can take on one or more roles, and can change roles over time; furthermore, any specific role may have none or one or many people in it during a project. The common agile roles are the team lead, team members, product owner and stakeholders. The team lead—also called ‘scrum master’ in Scrum methodology, or team coach or project lead in other methods—helps the team, getting resources for it and shielding it from problems. This role covers the soft skills of project management, but not the technical ones such as planning and scheduling—activities that are better left to the team as a unit. So an agile team leader has some, but not all, of the elements of a manager. Looking at the MBA syndicate and the agile team as prime examples, there is no reason competent team members cannot do the job of managers. So if bad managers do so much damage and great managers are so rare, do we really need managers? Blakeman says definitely not. “A healthy Participation Age–company needs the management function, but never needs managers.” There are many successful companies with flat structures. Locally, Investec is a good example. Although not completely managerless, it prides itself on “a flat, integrated management structure that encourages entrepreneurship, and a culture that encourages individuality and creativity, needed to explore growth opportunities,” according to its website. Overseas, managerless companies include Whole Foods, Treehouse, W.L. Gore & Associates and BarryWehmiller. More and more organisations are joining the list. Are you willing to take the leap? I certainly am.
Colette Symanowitz is founder and MD of www.MBAconnect.net, a social network exclusively for MBAs from all business schools in South Africa and worldwide.
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THE TALE OF Apple Inc. co-founder Wozniak gives us the inside story of what really happened in the early days of the company, how his design led to the first PC kit, and how Jobs robbed him of $2 000 By JT Foxx
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Jobs speaking in front of a file photograph of himself and Wozniak during the launch of the Apple iPad tablet at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco on January 27, 2010.
Every successful entrepreneur has one thing in common: a fire inside that burns and unleashes a hellish fury of great ideas and enthusiasm. Two such men have altered our lives; one will be forever renowned and the other lives relatively unknown behind the scenes, simply happy that he made a cool computer. Their names, respectively, are Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. 56 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
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THERE ARE VERY FEW ORGANISATIONS THAT HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD AND SHAPED ITS FUTURE MORE THAN APPLE INC. AS I TYPE THIS ARTICLE ON MY MAC, CHECKING MY IPHONE FOR INCOMING IMESSAGES AND REVIEWING MY NOTES ON MY IPAD, THERE’S NO DENYING APPLE HAS BUILT AN ENDURING COMPANY AND BRAND.
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GUTTER CREDIT PREVIOUS SPREAD TK GALLO IMAGES/AFP, THIS PAGE BLOOMBERG/GETT Y IMAGES/ GALLO IMAGES
Wozniak with JT Foxx, showing off the latter’s tie range. The Apple Green shade was named after Woz.
At first glance, these two men have nothing in common except their first names. One was known to be disruptive, brash, arrogant and a master salesman while the other is a geeky genius with a quiet confidence. I built my worldwide business empire idolising Jobs but, in seeking the truth about the early days of Apple Computer, Inc., after my exclusive one-on-one interview with Wozniak I’ve come to realise the latter is perhaps the one I should be admiring. If you ask who Steve Wozniak is, most people say: “Who? Never heard of him.” Until, of course, you say he’s the Apple co-founder, and they reply: “Oh, that guy.” However, ask any engineer who Steve Wozniak is and he or she quickly lights up and says, “Woz!” It seems he’s more known for his appearance on Dancing with the Stars, but the impact he has made at Apple is undeniable. Aspiring kid entrepreneurs are often put to bed with the Apple fairy tale: Once upon a time, there were two ordinary guys who started a business out of their garage... It’s a very romantic, idealistic story which, 30 years later, is still fuelling the legend. It’s a tale that has been inflamed by the media and people who’ve accepted it as an inspirational reality inside their minds. The truth is that Apple didn’t start in a garage. Jobs conducted business out of his bedroom while Wozniak worked on the computer design by day from his place of employment, Hewlett-Packard, and by night in his apartment. Neither was the manufacturing done there; the garage was simply used as a
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storage facility for the computers that were shipped there. In fact, at the time Apple Computer, Inc. used a post-office box in Palo Alto as its office address. So why has the legend of the garage grown so much? Well, Wozniak thinks it’s because starting a business in a garage gives every cash-strapped entrepreneur hope that his or her business, too, could become the next Apple. It allows entrepreneurs to believe that anything is possible. The lesson here is that you don’t need to fake it ‘til you make it, but act like you belong. The movie Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher in the titular role, also implies it was Jobs who had come up with the idea of the Apple computer when, in fact, it was Wozniak. Back in the day, Woz was seen as a rock star in the geek community because of his early computer design. He actually brought Jobs to a computer club where his work was displayed. It was at that moment when the light bulb turned on in Jobs’s brain and he knew he wanted to start a company based on what he had seen there. In order for a successful partnership to work, everyone’s roles must be clearly defined; Wozniak was the engineer and Jobs the businessman. Early on, everyone thought they would fail and that there was no money in their business. Personal computers were simply not relevant and too big even to put in the home. Jobs and Wozniak were the ultimate underdogs; they were the only two who believed their product would revolutionise the world. Starting a company from nothing and building it into a worldwide brand is rare, even in this day and age. Wozniak comments that many people thought their accomplishments would never be repeated, yet since then there have been Google and Facebook. These two companies and Apple are constant reminders to all entrepreneurs that history does repeat itself—as long as you take action. The difference between successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs is that the former are visionaries, while the latter are mere dreamers. Visionaries take action while dreamers talk about what they want to do. According to Wozniak, there’s an Apple inside everyone—all you need is a vision big enough for you to believe in, and others to want.
S OLV E P R OBL EM S A N D F IN D S OL U T ION S If you want to be successful, solve problems and find solutions. The bigger problems you’re able to solve and the more creative you can make the solutions, the more successful you’ll become. The problem that Apple Computer, Inc. faced early on is that no one wanted to pay $2 000 for a personal home computer that was essentially an overpriced typewriter. What made Apple successful was that it positioned itself as an invaluable tool for the businessperson to type in data and graphs, get numbers instantly and create financials. When you’re a very small company and aren’t sure where the market’s going, you need to adapt quickly and pay very close attention to trends. Jobs and Wozniak never once considered the challenges; they both believed they had a good product that was far superior and more advanced than that of their competitors. It was this fearless attitude that contributed to their early success. They didn’t allow the media or other naysayers to get into their heads. They also adopted a crucial business According to strategy, one that Jobs would later implement and use with all Apple Wozniak, there’s products. They decided they would an Apple inside price their product very high so that they everyone—all you would have very high profits, which in need is a vision big turn would allow them to continuously enough for you to fund their growth rather than give away believe in, and a piece of the company in order to raise others to want. money constantly. Apple could’ve sold its computers at much cheaper prices and on par with its (inferior) competitors, but creating the Apple brand and recognition was paramount for long-term viability and sustainability. With IBM breathing down their necks, Jobs and Wozniak couldn’t afford to make mistakes. That’s why they sought out great coaches and mentors to guide them. Wozniak states that if it hadn’t been for the early coaching they received from Mark Markkula (angel investor and second CEO of Apple Computer, Inc.) and others, there was no way he and Steve would’ve been able to succeed as they did. Many assume the young Steve Jobs was a loose cannon with an explosive temper. The truth is that he was extremely coachable, making sure he sought the advice of people who knew more than he did. As they say, a wise man learns from his mistakes, while a genius learns from other people’s mistakes.
W H AT W E DON ’ T K N OW A B OU T S T E V E JOB S I ask Wozniak if at any point in the early days he had considered leaving Jobs and walking away from Apple. He quickly responds that he never once thought about it. Jobs had been a childhood friend, and Woz would never have left a friend and been disloyal. Loyalty is a very important part of business success, he says. He was either going to start a business with Jobs or give away the computer design for free. One of the reasons this partnership was so successful was that they were very different. Jobs was charismatic and wanted to be the face of Apple and be acknowledged for it; Wozniak wanted to avoid the media, the conflict and the politics that came with success. The lesson here is that you should never partner with anyone who is similar to you because, in business, opposites really do attract. There were actually two Steve Jobs: the pre- and post-1997 Jobs. Before 1997, he was not
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a good CEO because, according to Wozniak, “he couldn’t do the E in CEO”—he couldn’t execute because he didn’t know how to build a company. He returned to Apple (after having resigned in 1985) as a new man in 1997 and, perhaps, as one of the greatest CEOs of our time, by making sure he didn’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Before 1997, Jobs rushed too much, on everything from products to marketing; when he returned he was able to turn his ideas into products that could change the world. He was able to take his time and be more strategic, using secrecy as a weapon. Wozniak jokes that one of the biggest lessons Jobs learnt when he returned as CEO was, “Don’t show or tell Bill Gates anything.”
L OV E , DIS AGRE E ME N T S A ND A DV ICE When I ask Wozniak what the best advice was that Jobs had given him, he explodes with laughter and says, “I don’t think Steve Jobs ever gave me any advice,” as Jobs didn’t understand much about engineering. Neither did Wozniak give Jobs any advice, for that matter.
he helped to reduce the number of chips. Jobs ended up paying him only $350—pocketing the substantial difference. Finding out 10 years later of this betrayal hurt Wozniak very much, but he believes in the power of forgiveness and was able to continue their business relationship, and perhaps made it even stronger. He was quoted as saying that if Steve had needed the money so badly, he would’ve given it all to him. “I just wanted him to be honest.” Another insider story not portrayed in the Jobs movie is that in the early days, when Apple went public, Jobs refused to offer stocks to some of the employees. With his great sense of loyalty and generosity, Wozniak took $20 million of his own stocks and gave it to five people.
S H A RING T HE A P P L E Jobs was charismatic and wanted to be the face of Apple and be acknowledged for it; Wozniak wanted to avoid the media, the conflict and the politics that came with success.
During their entire partnership, they disagreed on only one thing: whether or not the Apple II should have two slots, as Jobs wanted, or eight slots in order to plug in much more than just a modem and a printer. Jobs caved when Wozniak insisted it’s his way or the highway. That shows how much the two men respected each other and how valuable Wozniak was to Apple in its early stages. What Woz loved most about Jobs was his laughter, his ability to say no and his obsessing over the simplicity of process or design. Many entrepreneurs in today’s market don’t seem to have these characteristics, but Wozniak believes they’re essential to success and longevity in business. He also disliked certain things about Jobs, in particular his closed product mentality and his desire to have total control over it, and not wanting anyone to grow the product outside his vision. That flaw resurfaced when Jobs wasn’t willing to create a bigger screen for the iPhone—Samsung swooped in and created a 5.5-inch screen, in the process taking a large piece of global market share away from Apple. Another example was Jobs’s refusal to make iTunes available on Android phones, which would’ve cemented its worldwide dominance of music distribution. Although Wozniak misses his friend dearly since his passing in 2011, he can’t help remembering the time Jobs took advantage of him. Jobs was paid $5 000 to design a circuit board for an Atari game and told Wozniak they would split the money 50/50 if 60 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
When Jobs left Apple in 1985, he sold all his shares except for one, and it has been widely assumed that Wozniak sold his shares as well. While Woz did sell a few shares earlier on to buy his first home, since then he has held on to the bulk of his Apple shares, which are now of considerable value. Wozniak’s approach to stocks is very much like Warren Buffett’s: Buy it and then forget it. He did the same at another company, Fusion-io, which was recently sold to SanDisk. He never sold any stocks and, as a result, was in line for another big payday. But money doesn’t drive him; in fact, Wozniak is the type who wants to make sure everyone around him is taken care of. His biggest attribute may also be his biggest weakness: his inability to say no. He is so generous with his time that sometimes his schedule becomes overwhelming. Thankfully, his wife Janet—who also works at Apple—pulls double duty as the gatekeeper of his many appointments all around the world.
L A S T CON V ER S AT ION W I T H S T E V E JOB S Two weeks before Jobs passed away, he had a deep conversation with Wozniak. In the last year of his life, he would call more frequently and want to talk about the old days at Apple as
Wozniak (centre) during a World of Business Ideas conference on October 28, 2014 in Milan.
well as the significant impact they had made on the world. In his last conversation, he told Woz he wasn’t going to live that long. At the time, Wozniak thought Jobs was using one of his famous metaphors: that no one lives as long as they want and that if you have good ideas, you should work on them. But because he was ill and tired all the time, he couldn’t be at Apple implementing his ideas, and Wozniak thought it had to be eating at him. The last words he said to Jobs were: “You aren’t judged by what you didn’t do while you weren’t there at Apple—you are judged by what you did do while you were there. You are the greatest technology leader and the best friend I ever had.”
N E W BEGINNING S One of Wozniak’s biggest regrets is growing apart from Jobs. He resigned from Apple after a plane accident had left him with a few memory problems and, perhaps, he simply wasn’t having fun there anymore. He went into teaching for eight years, dedicating his life to inspiring the leaders of tomorrow. When Jobs returned to Apple, Wozniak felt disconnected—despite being employee No. 1 (still to this day). In fact, he’s the only employee to have received a pay cheque from the very first day the company was founded. If you’re curious about how much he makes at Apple as employee No. 1, it’s about $50 (R575) a week— but it’s merely symbolic. Perhaps that’s why Wozniak travels around the world, speaking about the real story of Apple and the impact he and Jobs have had on the world. He’s inspiring, funny—and when he speaks, you listen. Some of my best oratory moments have come when sharing the stage with him in South Africa, America and Singapore. Whether you’re shaking his hand, taking his picture or watching him on stage, you can’t help thinking this is the guy who started it all with Steve Jobs and, in some weird way, you can feel the latter’s presence there.
After sitting with Wozniak for hours upon hours, it’s clear to me that there will never be another Woz–Jobs combo and, perhaps, this was the greatest and most underrated business partnership of all time. So what if Apple didn’t start in a garage? It’s about the fundamentals of marketing, branding, strategy and coaching for all entrepreneurs to emulate. Fearlessness was their weapon and advantage early on, but Jobs and Wozniak’s relentless pursuit of being No. 1 as well as their continuous innovation is why Apple Inc. is so great. At its essence, success is quite simple—but it’s often overshadowed by routines, naysayers and the fear of failure. But when you surround yourself with those who know more, trust your partner to fulfil his or her role, learn from the best, respect the wisdom of those who’ve been there before, and embrace the promise that your product or service will change people’s lives, you will succeed against all odds. Making it is often not the hard part, but staying on top is. Failure is always one hair’s breadth away, but living on the edge of opportunity and greatness is what all entrepreneurs live for. Something else you may not know? Whenever Apple launches a new iPhone, Wozniak insists on being the first to purchase one and has been known to sleep outside a store all night to be at the head of the queue. He’s one cellphone call away from Apple CEO Tim Cook, yet he insists on being part of the experience he first created at Apple. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from all of this is: Start unknown and finish unforgettable. So, Mr Wozniak, on behalf of all the underdog entrepreneurs, I tip my hat to you and declare you my new hero. JT Foxx is one of the world’s top wealth coaches, as well as a notable speaker and consultant, with business interests and companies in the UK, US, Canada, Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
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This little light Schoolhouse Electric’s thoughtfully designed, 1920s-inspired Ion C-Series is a small tabletop lamp that can easily be moved to wherever it’s needed
By Sarah Lawson Photograph by Greg Broom
New use for old parts
Dim for a reason
Going with the grain
It’s all in the details
The Ion’s spun-steel body is an upturned insulator cap from a 1920s hanging factory light. It’s a nod to Schoolhouse Electric’s origins: Brian Faherty, a former real estate agent, founded the company using Depression-era cast-iron moulds from an upstate New York factory.
The Ion’s striking Edison bulb doesn’t shine too brightly. It’s intended to lend a soft glow for specific tasks, not serve as a primary light source. “[It’s like] a portable electric candle,” says Faherty. “It’s not meant to be so stationary, so it can take on a lot of looks and purposes.”
Faherty is a big fan of natural wood: He has an office filled with wooden midcentury furniture, and he’s been known to relax by chopping logs. That’s partly why the Ion’s base is made of unpainted plywood. “You can actually see the grain of the ply,” he says.
The lights bear metal labels designed to evoke tags from old industrial machinery. “It was like an art form,” Faherty says. His team also opted to brand the Ion with their town: Portland, Oregon. “That ‘place’ part is important to us.” From $119 (about R1 350), schoolhouseelectric.com
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Social Butterfly Social Conscience? Show that you care for those giving or receiving palliative care, or in memory of a loved one. Support your local Hospice. NATIONAL HOSPICE WEEK 4 - 11 MAY 2015
Lucas Radebe Show your support like our Pall10 page
care & support
Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa
Shoes made for the man The art of collaborative design makes Nike’s partnership with LeBron James a slam dunk By Jason Feifer
Photographs by Nike
“How can we make you better?” Each year, as Nike begins designing LeBron James’s next signature shoe, this is what the team says it always asks the King. But when I repeat this to James, he laughs in a that’swhat-they-told-you? way—and then rolls with it. “It’s really conversation after conversation, and them taking the words out of my mouth to be able to get the inspiration to create great products,” he says. “They make me better by just pushing the envelope.” It’s a fair summary of Nike’s annual challenge: to unveil a new shoe that promises more agility, more durability and, somehow, more LeBron. The company does its job well: This year, James’s shoe will bring in around R3.4 billion in US revenue, according to SportsOneSource. So as Nike releases the newest model, the LeBron 12, its team dishes on how it designs in collaboration—and keeps fresh a very important, very visible, 12-year relationship.
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Kicking it off: One of seven different styles of Nike’s new LeBron 12 shoe.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MARKETING LEBRON N I K E A N D I T S S TA R P L AY E R D O M I N AT E T H E G L O B A L S H O E B U S I N E S S . M AT T P O W E L L , A N A N A LY S T W I T H T H E R E S E A R C H F I R M , SPORTSONESOURCE, LOOKS BEHIND THE IMAGE
It doesn’t matter if he wears them
P L A N PA S T T H E P R O D U C T Nike works on a roughly two-year lead time; it started James’s newest shoes in 2012. But rather than think project to project, its teams experiment continuously. “We wouldn’t do big and revolutionary things if we only had six months to make something happen,” says Taryn Hensley, director of Nike’s cushioning innovation team. “We spend an immense amount of time on blue-sky exploration. We don’t know when it will commercialise. We don’t know if it can commercialise.”
S Y N E R G Y O N LY G O E S S O F A R Since James has specific preferences for cushioning, the team reworked the shoe’s air-bag system entirely for the LeBron 12. Innovation like that may find its way into products endorsed by other athletes, which would be financially convenient. But that’s a bonus at Nike, not a mandate. “If we’re doing an innovation specific for LeBron, the performance of that product is of utmost importance,” says Hensley. “We won’t sacrifice that performance for a smaller business cost.”
K N O W W H AT C H A N G E S A N D W H AT D O E S N ’ T James’s shoe has evolved. Once built for jumping and dunking, it’s now created to give him stability and explosiveness. But Nike can’t have everything about the shoe to be fluid. The first logo it designed contained James’s jersey number—but then he left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010 and switched numbers. Nike’s team scrambled to create a new logo (a crown with the letters LJ). “The lesson
was to create something iconic, which would never have to be changed,” says Darrin Crescenzi, then a senior designer on the project. New player logos no longer have numbers or references to cities.
The shoe is now designed to give James stability and explosiveness.
ACCEPT YOUR LIMITS Nike designs shoes to hold up to almost every cut and leap a player can make—or, as Matt Nurse, senior director of the company’s sports research lab, describes it, “99% of all use-case scenarios”. During a game last season, James hit that missing 1%: He slipped and crashed hard. “We watched it from 16 different angles and in slo-mo,” says Nurse. Nike called James’s training staff to learn more. Then it decided to… do nothing. James fell because he hit the floor at an extreme angle. “We could fix it,” Nurse says, “but it would result in a functionally unattractive shoe.” Then no one would buy it.
He’s not a sure bet everywhere
LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant used to be Nike’s face, but now he’s older and selling poorly: His shoes brought in just R450 million in 2013—13% of James’s sales. But in China, Bryant is more popular than James. “You need to have elite athletes wearing your products, and you never know who’s going to be the most popular,” Powell says.
He isn’t Nike’s most valuable player
James’s Nike contract is rumoured to be around R218 million a year, but in August last year the younger NBA star Kevin Durant signed on for a rumoured R345 million a year. “Does it create some ill will? It could,” says Powell. “I think Nike will go out of its way to make LeBron happy in other ways.” Still, no one escapes Father Time, not even a player called the King. Nike needs to secure its future.
A S K T H E R I G H T WAY Nike has athletes test products in controlled lab settings, to track performance. But the team can’t rely on numbers alone. “There can be a big difference between what the data tells you and what that athlete is perceiving and feeling,” says Hensley. The trick, then, is to find ways to talk about performance without expecting analytic results. “It’s rare that an athlete will come and provide you with a solution,” says Nurse. “They come and present you with a problem. LeBron doesn’t ask for individual air bags in the shoe; he asks for a certain feeling and stability. It’s our job then to interpret and provide options back to him.”
The 2013 season was a PR nightmare for Nike: James rarely wore his then-new LeBron 11s in games because of what he described as a “fit issue”. But sales still grew 25%. Powell’s take: “Most people who buy LeBron shoes are not playing basketball in them. They’re fashion shoes; they’re collectibles.”
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MAKING (SOUND) WAV E S Latoya Buthelezi, better known as Toya Delazy in the music world, is acting locally but thinking globally Interview by Evans Manyonga
One of a kind: Toya says she has her own style, her own soundâ€”and sheâ€™s an individual.
This talented singer, pianist, dancer and performer from KwaZulu-Natal is currently signed to Sony Music Africa. Her highly creative and innovative style earned her a nomination for Best International Act (Africa) at the 2013 BET Awards—shining the spotlight on her debut studio album, Due Drop, with singles “Pump It On” and “Love Is In The Air”, among others. Delazy also took home the awards for Newcomer of the Year and Best Pop Album at the 2013 South African Music Awards. She recently released her new album, Ascension, with the hit single “Forbidden Fruit” currently getting airplay around the country.
I’m now very conscious of the business side, which is very important in this industry. Without business knowledge, you don’t really have a career. You’re just a musician—if you’re lucky! But knowing the business side opens your eyes to various opportunities. It also allows me to have fun with my craft; it doesn’t restrain me to one part of the world. Using music, I can travel the world and share it and get to know my contemporaries. Knowing how to apply oneself, I believe, leads to all these opportunities worldwide. I’m not entirely involved, but I’m aware; I know my percentages. For me, that’s quite important.
Fast Company: Do you think your education in music helped you get a foot in the door in this industry? Delazy: I studied jazz music because I believe education is fundamental. If you’re educated, you can actually get through to a lot more people than if you aren’t. So it applies to my band and it helps me when instructing people on how to play my music, especially in the quickest, fastest way.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians, particularly females? There’s a shortage of females, especially females who are liberal and who don’t feel they need to be skimpy to make it. I just encourage them to be consistent and start off with their own character. They shouldn’t flip halfway in and think they have to be different. They should be consistent with their brand so that people can trust them and can identify with what they’re doing. They should know what to expect; know what they’re letting themselves in for.
Why music? How has it unlocked your creativity? I sang to make myself feel better; generally that’s how I started. Then I began getting paid for it, so I saw the opportunity to actually make a living out of doing something that makes me happy—and it just blew up from there. I was a classical pianist before, playing keys since the age of nine. The transition into jazz seemed different and so difficult, but it unlocked my creativity because jazz teaches you to play without the rules of classical music. So having that education made me create a new, more personalised genre. I got into music because I saw the future in it. You have to be consistent, and my reinvention is part of that creativity. I enjoy entertaining. I enjoy singing. So this is for me—this is where I belong. Do you enjoy performing on stage? Yes, that’s where I get the opportunity to share my music with fans, and it’s out of the studio. There are different parts to making music: the writing, the studio and then, finally, the delivery. So I really enjoy it. I get to see the people for whom I’m working, if you could put it that way—the fans. I get to interact with them and I love that. Would you describe yourself as simply a musician, or would you want to explore the business side of music as well?
Which lessons have you learnt in the industry? Respect your colleagues. Don’t burn all the bridges you’ve walked over. Have a lot of fun, mainly, and be confident. Create a loving environment. What are your thoughts on collaboration? It’s definitely great when you can collaborate with someone who complements what you do. It’s good for your fan base. I’ve actually been working on a collaboration, and the song dropped recently. It’s called “My City”, with Cassper Nyovest. Both fan bases are excited and it gives us the opportunity to do something that’ll create a whole lot of awareness. I could’ve done it with my own base, but sometimes that limits the impact. For me, collaboration shows off the different skills of the different artists, and when you put them together it’s an amazing merger of talent. What does the future hold for the Toya Delazy brand? You mentioned your recent reinvention—can you tell us more about that? I was originally an artist who played in bars, I played keys, so I was more of the Amy Winehouse sort of artist. Then I wrote songs that liberated me from my struggles at the time, and those songs resonated across Africa.
Now it’s just a matter of balance because I don’t want to lose the basis of my artistry. I’m a pianist at heart, so it’s mainly about formalising this genre I call JEHP: a mix of jazz, electro and hip hop. As for the future, I don’t know if it’s in my hands, really. All I can do is make the music I love. I can enjoy myself and I guess it’ll attract the people who enjoy what I do. I want to travel and I also look forward to taking on an international audience because my music is not geographically specific. I could be in Africa, at the bottom end, but the sound I make is more global. It can appeal to anyone, so I don’t want to limit myself simply because I’m here. Hopefully I can travel a lot and do international collaborations. How do you rate South Africa—and Africa at large—in terms of the business of music and music in general? We’re in a good space right now because we’re coming up and we’ve finally reached a point where we identify with ourselves. We finally have our own specific sound—not necessarily trying to be American. For example, we’ve found our sound in hip hop and we now know how to speak to our people in an internationally relevant way. Our audiences understand us, so that is unity. Once you connect with the people, you can grow without trying to be someone else. But it’s a good time for us right now. We’re new and we’re about to discover a lot of things. It’s going to take a while because, in Africa, we do have our African time and African issues—but if we continue pushing and bending the rules, I feel we’re in a good position. Many people are shooting videos or movies here in South Africa because it’s beautiful. It’s cheaper, of course, and that on its own brings a whole lot of opportunities to Africa. I feel happy about it. I’m excited about where Africa is going. We may not be first-world, but we’re moving. How have you done things your way, and how has it contributed to shaping who you are? I have my own style, my own sound and I’m an individual. The point of the music I do is to encourage individuals, and I feel Africans have been suppressed for a long time. We weren’t really allowed to voice our opinions, and basically that’s what I do—I voice opinions. It may be strange for some people, it’s something that’s foreign to us, but it takes just one person to do it and it works. That’s what people need to know: Once they know it works, they will also realise the potential.
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New frame of mind:
“The people in South Africa, the spirit of generosity, and the opportunity to make a difference were what I yearned,” says Ann.
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From Canada to Cape Town, from Corporate to Consulting: The lessons I’ve learnt
By Ann Nurock
Photographs by Shan Routledge
It’s been almost three years since making two of the biggest decisions of my life: leaving my corporate position as CEO of Grey Advertising, and returning to Cape Town from Canada. The former came after 20 years; the latter took 36 hours. In hindsight, both decisions were life-changing. Returning to South Africa was the easier decision. It was more about what I missed about my country that lured me back, rather than what I was gaining by living in Canada. The people in South Africa, the spirit of generosity, and the opportunity to make a difference were what I yearned—and these have not disappointed. The decision to leave my corporate-advertising career and become a consultant was the harder one.
And no matter how daunting, scary and exciting the process has been, it’s proved my theory about the unique generosity of this country. Despite all the problems we have—and there is no shortage of those— South Africans as a whole are still a people with an incredible spirit of abundance. The manner in which the business community has embraced me, despite being absent for almost five years, continues to amaze me. How was I going to make a difference, earn money and be happy now that I was back in the country I’d missed so much? I’ve always wanted to bring about positive change in the world of business and relationships, particularly since being exposed to North America, Inc. And two years down the line, what are the lessons I’ve learnt? Consulting after Corporate is not for the fainthearted. Tenacity, determination, hard work and a touch of insanity all help. Despite the stresses of being a CEO of a large multinational advertising agency in both South Africa and Canada, nothing could have prepared or changed me like the initial, terrifying world of consulting.
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Consulting after Corporate is not for the faint-hearted. Tenacity, determination, hard work and a touch of insanity all help.
Lesson 1: It takes tenacity, determination
and hard work Shifting from a big corporate salary, an expense account and all that goes with that position, to zero income for many months, led to a lot of sleepless nights and grey hair. The transition from having an executive PA to personally scouring Flightsite in order to save R100 on airfare and renting a group A car on my fortnightly commutes to Joburg was not only a reality check, but also a great leveller that I now appreciate.
Lesson 2: Social media is an essential
business tool Social media works very effectively as a business tool. As a consultant, it’s not a luxury but an essential. Ignoring it simply isn’t an option. I truly appreciated this in Canada; I embraced it back in South Africa. Through LinkedIn, a United Kingdom-based international consultancy called Relationship Audits & Management approached me to open its South African office and launch its unique Relationship Radar product. Being a consultant living in Cape Town, one has to use every avenue available to connect. Social media provides that at little or no cost.
Lesson 3: Provide a compelling and desirable
product or service One has to have a product or service that is compelling and desirable. Mine was Relationship Radar, a measurement tool for business-to-business relationships. What makes it truly unique is that it was developed for the time-scarce Twitter world, and can assess the health of any business relationship in literally five minutes by means of an online survey. Twelve years’ experience has resulted in the survey being distilled down to 11 key defining questions and a user-friendly dashboard that analyses the data according to custom requirements. It provides senior management with an accurate assessment of the health of any stakeholder relationship. It even issues ‘low-score alerts’ to companies in real time, so that instant remedial action can be taken.
Lesson 4: Have a spirit of abundance
So off I went down the consulting rabbit hole. With much trepidatory confidence, I was back in the South African business environment. And what a ride it’s been. From constantly flying between Cape Town and Joburg, to pounding the pavements, to driving the streets, I never gave up. Many months passed with 70 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
Home, sweet home:
It was more about what Nurock missed about South Africa that lured her back, rather than what she was gaining by living in Canada.
no income; startups take time, as I soon learnt—and patience is not one of my virtues. It’s been a tough but rewarding journey. But in the process, my mantra of ‘spirit of abundance’ was reinforced. In South Africa, there’s a generosity of advice and networking which is unique: The more you give out, the more you get back. Radar is licensed by the Association for Communication and Advertising, and is currently being used by over 20 advertising agencies in the country. I’m the official vendor of the SABC for its marketing relationships, and have also been commissioned by numerous law firms, financial service companies and now a mining company to evaluate and improve its business relationships. Am I rich yet? Hell, no! But am I happy? Hell, yes! I get to work with wonderful, smart people, doing something I truly love while making a difference by helping people improve their business relationships—and themselves. Yes, we in South Africa have our problems, and yes, these need to be sorted out sooner rather than later, but I have never regretted my decision to come home and am still the eternal optimist that our country will survive the current issues. We survived apartheid, which was undeniably much worse. Hopefully this article will inspire others who want to make the leap, either back to South Africa or into the world of consulting. They’re both big decisions and both involve all of the above lessons and many more that I’m not even cognisant of. The most important lesson? Believe in yourself, trust your instincts and follow your heart. Ann Nurock is the senior partner for Africa at Relationship Audits & Management, a global consultancy that measures and optimises business relationships in order to mitigate risk and facilitate growth. She also runs Thought Leadership workshops to assist companies in adding value to their clients’ business and finding a higher brand purpose. Follow her on Twitter: @annnurock, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Video games for grown-ups With gamer demographics changing fast, ‘deep games’ offer cerebral, creative—and often offbeat—content By Adam Bluestein
Photograph by Damien Maloney
Serious play: Robin Hunicke, co-founder of Funomena, is helping rethink the video-game business.
THE OFFICE OF Funomena, a small video-game company based in San Francisco’s SOMA district, has all the creativity-enhancing knick-knacks you expect in a Bay Area startup: clumps of clay, hydrophilic sand, a Lego mermaid, and what co-founder Robin Hunicke describes as other “stupid things we fiddle with”. The idea is to set an atmosphere that’s “more like a Montessori school than a game development studio,” she says. That makes sense: Funomena isn’t like most other game companies. Its first commercial project, Luna (which is not yet scheduled for release), will offer no high-calibre weapons, no alien-zombie invaders and, most surprisingly, no scorekeeping of any sort. Instead, it will be an allegorical, grown-up fairy tale that explores how we may understand and integrate past traumatic experiences in order to grow and accept who we are now. Heady stuff for a video game. Funomena is part of the emerging ‘deep games’ movement, where players ‘win’ by becoming more 72 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
interest to master the finger-twisting complexities of traditional action titles. “What drives a lot of people away from games is that they are so skill-based,” he says. “Our starting point was, What if we take out everything except exploring and the story? Could that be the whole game?” Gone Home has sold roughly 750 000 copies—modest by the standards of multibillion-dollar blockbuster series such as Call of Duty, but impressive for a cerebral indie game. Psychedelic nature simulation Proteus and Mountain, from artist David OReilly, go even further than Gone Home, stripping away nearly all game conventions to create an experience of relaxation and epiphany. Other new games leverage new technology to create immersive experiences. SoundSelf, for example, uses a player’s chanting to generate trance-inducing sounds and images projected via Oculus Rift. “Video games as a medium are maturing,” says Michael Highland, a designer for thatgamecompany, “and at this point designers want to ask more complex questions.” With Luna, Hunicke and her co-founder Martin Middleton (who also worked on Journey) will be exploring the viability of this relatively new market. When they started Funomena together, in January 2013, it was with clear ideas about what they didn’t want to do. “If we were going to put all this energy into making a startup happen, we were going to have some real boundaries and values,” Hunicke says. They had no interest in developing Candy Crush–style casual titles, despite having been approached by “all these people offering us VC [venture capital] money to make free-to-play games.” Instead, they decided to put their reputations and savings “We want to build things that encourage at risk to launch a collective of creativity and exploration,” says adventurous developers. “We want Hunicke. “[Funomena is] aimed at to build things that encourage making a positive difference in our creativity and exploration,” says lives as well as the lives of our players.” Hunicke. “We’re working to build a company focused on sustainable, creative and fulfilling game development. It’s aimed at making a positive difference in the United States. in our lives, as well as the lives of our players.” If anyone understands how to make grown-up Part of Funomena’s strategy is to leverage corporate games that are both smart and lucrative, it’s Hunicke. partnerships to enable technically ambitious work. One of a handful of powerhouse female executives in With Luna, they are teaming with Intel to include an a testosterone-dominated industry that can be option for playing the game with a cutting-edge depthshockingly hostile to women (see the ‘Gamergate’ sensing technology called RealSense. Intel is also controversy that began in August 2014), she developed providing funding to complete the project. “We get the innovative games for the Wii while at Electronic Arts. support of a partner that really believes in us, without She was also a key part of the team at forward-looking the constraints of VC investment or a straight-up developer, thatgamecompany, that created the publishing deal,” says Hunicke. “In my dream, that’s pioneering deep game Journey, which became the what the future of indie development looks like.” fastest selling title on Sony’s PlayStation Network Still, Hunicke knows that the biggest challenge isn’t when it was released in 2012. just funding and building games, but making people The success of Journey helped open the market fall in love with them. To really make a difference, deep to subsequent titles such as Fullbright’s Gone Home, games can’t just be arty and experimental; they have to which lets players explore an abandoned house to be fun to play. Thanks to technology, Hunicke says, “if figure out what happened to the family who once you have an artistic or spiritual vision, you can put it lived there. Steve Gaynor, a former designer on the into the computer with amazing ease. It’s still always blockbuster Bioshock franchise who is a co-founder hard to resonate with a broad audience. But that’s the of Fullbright, says Gone Home was designed to lure struggle of all creatives.” inexperienced gamers who may not have the time or enlightened, empathetic people—a radical idea in an industry that has traditionally catered to trigger-happy teenagers. In the past few years, a new crop of mostly small studios has released wildly inventive games that focus on narrative, aesthetics and the exploration of intimate emotions rather than fast-paced action, competition and tricky gameplay. As the industry scrambles to keep up with evolving tastes and technology, this new sensibility could herald a big shift in the way the developers approach their product. “A perfect storm of distribution channels, game literacy and appetite for content has led to an explosion of aesthetic games that deal with quieter emotions,” says Katherine Isbister, a professor in New York University’s gaming programme. “There’s now a robust, diverse market for games that may not be blockbusters, but can be profitable because they have much lower production costs.” Deep gaming is also a response to a fast-changing marketplace that no longer represents just one narrow slice of the population. “There’s been an odd reinforcing loop in the industry that the audience is all young boys and all they want is mayhem and explosions,” says Isbister. In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is now 31 years old. Nearly half of gamers are women, and the number of female gamers ages 50 and older increased by 32% from 2012 to 2013. Last year, for the first time, adult female gamers outnumbered boys under age 18 as the largest video-game-playing group
WHOA, THESE ARE DEEP FOUR OF THE MOST FA S C I N AT I N G “ D E E P G A M E S ” The Unfinished Swan (2012)
In a visually stunning experie nce, players follow a runaway swan through a surreal world where they must splatter paint on an allwhite surface to reveal their true surroundings.
Actual Sunlight (2013)
This ‘depression simulator’ is a minimalist roleplaying game that puts the player in the shoes of a young profess ional with a soul-crushing job who tries unsuccessfully to distract himself from thoughts of suicide. Proteus (2013)
Inspired by Taoism, Arthur Schopenhauer and Brian Eno, among other things, Proteus allows players to roam a colo urful, pixelated landscape and interact with plants and animals to generate music. Think Minecraft without the zombies— or the mining. Mountain (2014)
After prompting players to create doodles in response to words such as happiness and wealth, the game generates a simulation of a mountain spinning in midair. Artist David OReilly, who made the ‘alien child’ game in Spike Jonze’s movie Her, created Mountain to explore our relationship with nature, time and God.
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S U S TA I N A B L E S T O RY T E L L I N G Greenpeace USA’s new executive director Annie Leonard is expanding the group’s reach by presenting complex environmental issues in a fun manner By Ariel Schwartz
Photograph by Noel Spirandelli
Bringing a sea change: Leonard hopes to create relatable methods to get across complicated ideas.
1. The problem
2. The epiphany
3. The execution
4. The result
Environmental organisations often come off as wonky, piling on facts and figures to convince the public that they should care about pressing issues such as climate change. Maybe that’s why the message isn’t getting out: According to the latest CSIR study on recycling, for example, more than 70% of South Africans living in urban areas do not recycle at all.
Nearly a decade ago, Leonard was giving a presentation at the Rockwood Leadership Institute. “I used my most data-filled, technical, sophisticated jargon,” she says. “At the end, one guy—who was really smart—said, ‘I have no idea what you just said.’ I realised you have to talk to people where they’re at, not where you’re at.”
Leonard started the Story of Stuff Project, which uses quirky illustrations and animations to explain heavy topics such as supply-chain efficiency. “We’re always talking about the dangers, risks and threats. That might motivate certain people, but it’s also important to talk about solutions and how things can be better,” she says.
Lego recently ended its relationship with Shell after a Greenpeaceproduced video of toy polar bears drowning in oil went viral—a victory Leonard is working to repeat. “There are people who have been issue experts at Greenpeace for 10 or 20 years,” she says. “They just need encouragement to look up and communicate.”
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The New Photo Economy Your Face is their Fortune
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Innovation by Design
76 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
INNOVATION BY DESIGN
Illustration by FOREAL
The crowd can be harnessed— up to a point GR E AT THIN G S H AV E CO ME FRO M Q UIR K Y A ND ITS CO MM U NIT Y O F IN V ENTO R S . BUT THEIR BIGGE ST PROJ EC T, A RO S , STR A INED E V ERYO NE
By JJ McCorvey
Innovation by design
One cool guy “As a person trying to go it alone, you’d be a million dollars in the hole by the time you got a product that worked,” says Aros inventor, Garthen Leslie.
Garthen Leslie is an IT consultant and looks the part. He’s geeky, quiet and middle-aged, sporting a long, untucked white polo, khakis and wire-framed glasses. But today, very suddenly, he is also the face of a new ideal—a symbol of how invention itself is being reinvented. “It was August and really hot,” Leslie says, recalling how it all began, as he reaches for an hors d’oeuvre at a media-saturated party being thrown in his honour in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood (Martha Stewart will amble through the door in about 15 minutes). The 63-year-old had been commuting from Washington, DC to suburban Maryland, dreading the hellishly stuffy home that awaited him— but he didn’t want to leave his AC on all day, for fear of an equally hellish energy bill. “I thought, There are all kinds of applications for smartphones,” he says. “Why couldn’t we marry one to these window air conditioners?” He dreamt up a device that did just that and submitted it to a New York startup called Quirky, which turns great ideas into best-selling products. 78 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
“The hardest part about the business we run is getting people to trust us with their ideas,” Kaufman says. “It’s their identity.”
Nine months later, Leslie says, came Aros—a min i malist window unit that can be turned on or off via an app, and which adjusts itself to the weather. City dwellers across the US were made aware of it last year through a masstransit ad campaign. TV spots soon followed. Thousands of Aros units have been sold through Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart and other retailers since March 2014. Leslie, who has no idea how to build a home appliance, has already netted more than R1.8 million just for having the idea, and that number was expected to hit R5.5 million by the end of 2014. Quirky is throwing this party (at the rotating-retail store, Story, which is itself a reinvention) to celebrate its modern partnership. Leslie is a big deal for Quirky. Since its 2009 founding, Quirky has sourced, produced and sold 139 different products, typically household doodads like a R350 flexible power strip or a R60 egg separator. Ideas come from its community of nearly 1 million hopeful inventors, which it constantly cultivates and compliments: “You are the future of retail,” it often tells them, if not with those exact words. Anyone can submit. Users vote and weigh in on each other’s proposals, contribute to regular meetings with Quirky staff, and share slivers of royalties that have totalled around R57 million. Quirky’s products land on shelves in 35 000 retail locations in more than 30 countries around the globe. This model—tapping into the collective imagination (and entrepreneurial inertia) of the masses—has earned a lot of hype. “It’s the democratisation of innovation,” says Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Singularity University and director of research at the Center of Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke. “Before, designing a new product was extremely expensive, and only big companies could afford to do it.” Leslie—and Aros—represent Quirky’s next big step: moving from a small startup with limitless R&D to a sort of on-demand maker of products (no matter the complexity) for interested partners. In 2013, it announced that the R1.6trillion king of invention, GE, would invest about R346 million in the company and open up thousands of its patents to Quirky members. GE, meanwhile, would acquire the nimbleness and cool factor it struggles to achieve on its own. “I’m a big believer in retail as media,” says Beth Comstock, GE’s chief marketing officer, who now serves on Quirky’s board. “[The partnership] gets us in new places in unexpected ways.” After a few false starts with gizmos such as a R900 egg tray that connects to your phone to tell you how old your eggs are, the duo found a winner. Aros carries Quirky and GE logos, and caught Photograph by Lee Towndrow
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Innovation by design
“[Quirky] is a big piece of machinery,” Kaufman says. “Some parts need to be oiled up, some parts need to be swapped out, completely rebuilt.”
exactly the buzz both companies want. Here is a smart product with a made-for-advertising story: An IT exec who once worked for the Department of Energy connects with the right people, solves a problem and makes a fortune. Leslie is quick to praise his benefactor and now collects a 6.5% royalty on Aros sales in perpetuity. “Without Quirky, that idea would still be in my shoebox,” he says, over the thumping bass at his party. “And someone else would be sitting here talking to you right now.” The problem is, someone else in fact would like to be sitting here at this party instead of Leslie—which illustrates the difficulty of crowdsourcing ideas on a large commercial scale. There is a member who says he proposed a similar invention on Quirky earlier, unbeknownst to Leslie. This detail is one of many about Aros that enraged the usually constructive Quirky community, a group that Quirky itself seemed to take for granted as it embarked on its big adventure with GE. “That kills me,” says Ben Kaufman, Quirky’s babyfaced, 27-year-old founder and CEO, of the internal strife over Aros. He often refers to himself as “the world’s least-important CEO”, reinforcing how important his inventor community is. (In one Aros commercial, he is shown rubbing Leslie’s feet.) That quaintness helped Quirky when it was small. But the company was expected to double its revenue to R1.1 billion in 2014, and the Aros experience exposes an uncertain future for its model of invention: Is there a point at which a helpful crowd gets in the way of success? At around 7 p.m. on a Thursday, Kaufman, dressed in his signature black tee, is standing at the front of a room addressing a crowd of Quirky employees—and 200 or so viewers online, many of them members of the Quirky community. This happens weekly; it’s called a Live Evaluation (“Eval” for short), and is one of Quirky’s core methods of collaboration. Together, staff, the community and special 80 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
guests review promising ideas and vote the best along to the next step of production. Tonight’s panel includes Quirky president Doreen Lorenzo (formerly president of the design consultancy, Frog) and— because, why not?—former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer. Paula, a Quirky employee, stands up to present the first product. It’s an awkward-looking backpack with a built-in canopy and poncho, made to protect hikers in unpredictable climates. The inventor, who goes by the name Fabian and who is not in attendance, had held on to the idea for 10 years before submitting it to Quirky. “Is there a parachute?” Kaufman asks, half-jokingly. Spitzer sees a market in it for schoolkids who don’t want to add an umbrella to their load of books but, he says, “I’m worried that one of the big companies would just grab it.” (This is a constant threat: All proposals are open for the world to see on quirky.com.) The people in Quirky’s physical office vote first, but are split. Kaufman asks the folks online to click a thumbs-up or -down button. The tie is broken: bye-bye, backpack. The Eval is part business practice and part theatre, a regular and public way for Quirky to drive home its everyone-has-a-voice philosophy. Kaufman is heavily invested in this. He presents Quirky as a personal quest, one influenced by his mom, the COO of a Queens, New York plastics factory. “I’d be home every day and hearing my mom bitching and moaning about how hard it was to make XYZ, and the difficulty with the labour force,” he says. After graduating from high school, he founded Mophie, a creator of smartphone accessories, and sold it two years later to start Quirky. Crowdsourcing quickly produced an unexpected benefit: He married one of his employees, Nikki, who has since launched a startup that 3D-prints custom earbuds. Quirky, essentially, serves the role of Kaufman’s mom’s factory in Queens: It handles logistics; the community handles the rest. A product begins with a submission, which once cost about R115 but is now free, and which can be a sketch and a few sentences or a patented, working prototype. (One presentation at Thursday’s Eval contains a video of a fully functional barbecue grill that shoots smoke up into the air instead of leaving it to billow up into the chef’s face. Kaufman sends it through, to great applause.) For about a week, the community votes on the idea, makes comments, suggests features, and researches competitive products. Meanwhile, several Quirky employees, called general managers, scout their respective product categories for five to 10 ideas to present at the weekly Eval. Once an idea passes through, any existing patents are transferred to Quirky, and it’s posted on
the site for others to help mould. Quirky sets aside a 10% royalty for the community at large. (The other 90% is Quirky’s.) The inventor gets 4% to 7% of that, while other members vie for the remainder by participating in contests to set price, names, colours and tag lines. When a project is ready for “virtual launch”, a prototype is manufactured, photographed and posted on Quirky’s website. But this isn’t what happened with Aros, a discrepancy that Quirky hasn’t been excited to talk about. In November 2013, the Quirky execs met with General Electric, which was looking for ways to reinvigorate its airconditioner business. Leslie, and his idea, were hand-plucked from Quirky’s ever-growing archive of submissions, rather than going through the usual approval-andreview process. The Aros’s icy, translucent exterior and clever airflow, which blows from the sides of the machine rather than from the front, was designed almost completely by a small group of Quirky staffers with help from GE. The AC’s smartphone app was developed by Wink, the Manhattan-based startup recently spun out from Quirky to develop smart-home software. The community was left with very little to do, aside from fill out a few surveys. A user named Jose Barrios proposed the name “Aros”, earning him 0.3% of the royalty pie. A contest was posted to determine Aros’s price, but it was swiftly yanked. Quirky explained to members that the contest was a “glitch”. By that time, Aros was already available for presale on Amazon. Quirky’s members, who have been trained to think of themselves as an integral part of the creation process, felt betrayed. “What are we able to count on at Quirky when just about everything happening has a different approach?” wondered the user Thrifty, in a forum on Quirky’s message board. Conspiracy theories festered, the most notable starting with a Tampa, Florida–based security guard whose username is Tony Columbo, and who claimed that he submitted an idea for a smart air conditioner before Leslie. Was Leslie’s idea picked because the man was more marketable? Before long, Quirky message boards— usually a lovefest of constructive discussion between members and staff—had turned into a battleground. Quirky’s community director Nathaniel Padgett dismissed Columbo’s claim, writing that executives had decided that Columbo’s idea was less detailed than Leslie’s
and would not have been as “compelling to GE”. In another debate about Aros, a Quirky staffer snapped to a community member: “As much as you want to argue,” he wrote, “you know nothing, so it’s pointless.” What Quirky clearly knows is that retail and development partners like GE are resultsoriented. GE wanted Aros, a seasonal product, to be on shelves by March 2014, and that left little room for thousands of people to go back and forth over features in the normal Quirky process. “The question of how you maintain the psychological contract and culture of the [Quirky] community, while at the same time allowing the organisation to continue to innovate, is a big issue,” says Bob Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford and co-founder of the university’s d.school. eBay and Facebook have both endured blowback from their communities after making changes. But at Quirky, it’s not just people’s online presence that’s at issue; it’s their personal work product. And they feel attached. Kaufman is lugging a large paper bag, smiling like a kid with a new toy. Then he plops it down onto a conference room table. It’s July 2014 and retailers have bought almost all of Aros’s entire 50 000-unit run. (A second version is in the works, which will no doubt address the unit’s noise. Online reviews have been harsh on this point.) Now, reaching down into the bag, Kaufman reveals what he claims will be Quirky’s next big product: Relay, an almost R3 000 device with a touchscreen that can be installed in place of a light switch and act as the hub for any Wi-Fi– or Bluetooth-enabled devices in a home. It can connect to products from 15 different companies, including Honeywell and Philips. As with Aros, corporate partner involvement is integral to Relay. What’s different, Kaufman stresses, is the way it leverages Quirky’s members who, he insists, remain at the centre of everything. Relay is his evidence that a binary mode of operation— collaboration with major businesses such as GE and with individual inventors—can yield breakthrough opportunities for everyone. Although this new device, like Aros, was developed internally, the next device to connect to Relay could come from the community. There is a shift here. Once upon a time, members believed they were the sole engine
that makes Quirky run. In this new world, they are a resource—providing an idea here, a product name there—but not always playing “a role in every single decision we make,” as Quirky’s home page promises. “They have to be consistent,” says member Bradley Sippl, a Los Angeles–based car salesman, of Quirky’s leadership. Yet Sippl himself had benefited from other shifts in Quirky’s model. After early incidents in which one product was made while someone else’s similar, previously submitted idea went overlooked, Quirky created the Influence Council. It’s a group of staff and members tasked with sorting out repetitive proposals. This ultimately saved Sippl’s invention: A dirt bin with a unique lid passed through Eval, but the Influence Council discovered that Sippl had proposed the same kind of item first. His SwingCan, as it’s called, was recently voted into Quirky’s online portfolio of products. “I got lucky,” Sippl says. “Columbo? Not so lucky.” Kaufman is responding to the Aros controversy on several fronts. “This is a big piece of machinery,” he says of Quirky. “Some parts need to be oiled up, some parts need to be swapped out, completely rebuilt—and that’s my job.” In September last year, he drastically revamped the idea-submission platform. Inventors will now be able to submit as a group. Staff will no longer handpick the ideas that go to Eval; instead, they’ll be based solely on community votes. And invention ideas will now also require a detailed sketch (rather than a mere “doodle”, as the website currently advertises), along with research to prove it’s differentiated enough from existing products. Taken together, Kaufman’s strategy seems designed for maximum cohesion: Even as he builds complex partnerships with the likes of GE, Kaufman is doubling down on community involvement. And he has reason to believe it’ll work. Members’ anger over Aros, at the very least, shows their investment. They want to be a part of something like Quirky. “The hardest part about the business we run is getting people to trust us with their ideas. It’s their identity, it’s who they are,” he says. And it’s Quirky’s identity as well. It’s why a company like GE was interested in the first place—even if, this time, it didn’t need all those other voices. firstname.lastname@example.org
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THE GRE AT INNOVATION FRONTIER
A NE W WAY OF DOING THINGS C R E AT I V I T Y I S A N E C E S S A RY B U T N OT S U F F I C I E N T C O N D I T I O N F O R S U C C E S S F U L I N N OVAT I O N . I T ’ S W H AT YO U D O W I T H I T T H AT C O U N TS
F YOU ARE reading this column, chances are you buy into the belief that innovation is the lifeblood of our future (this is Fast Company magazine, after all). And you would not be wrong. In a recession-threatened world, we grab at innovation and creativity as one would a lifebelt.
According to a 2013 survey of 1 500 chief executives conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, CEOs identify creativity as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future. It is our greatest chance of figuring out a way to achieve sustainable growth in a world of constrained resources and economic instability. But, in fact, this is only part of the truth. Successful, long-lasting businesses also have to be able to hold a line—to organise and structure, in short, to establish the systems and processes to ensure the good ideas take root and add the value they are meant to. Carrol Boyes, one of South Africa’s most successful creative entrepreneurs, for example, is first and foremost a sculptor and an artist, but she was also able to turn her innovative designs into a commercial success and grow this into a business that now exports South African design to over 30 countries around the world. In fact, in creating the innovation powerhouses of the future, it is the tension between these two poles that matters. Pure innovation can go nowhere—there are plenty of great ideas that never get off the drawing board—but on the other hand, pure structure leads to bureaucratic hell. Dr Hilary Austen, author of Artistry Unleashed, says organisations have been struggling with this tension since the beginning of time. “You see it as they reorganise to get more efficiency, and then again to get 82 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
WE DON’T ALL HAVE TO BE CREATIVE GENIUSES TO BE SUCCESSFUL INNOVATION LEADERS.
more innovation, and then again to regain efficiency, and so on. It is not something organisations are going to solve once and for all. Rather, it’s an ongoing tension they’ll need to recognise and manage,” she says. So, if you want to be the next Steve Jobs, the most important thing you have to learn is to manage this tension well; the second is to let that ethos permeate your organisation. The code for innovation is embedded in an organisation’s people, processes and philosophies, say innovation thinkers Jeff Dyer (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles) and Hal Gregersen (PhD, University of California, Irvine). So while innovation, they say, has to start at the top (Tesla Motors would not be the first successful car company startup in America in 90 years without Elon Musk’s personal vision and passion), it is those leaders who manage to create organisational processes “that mirror their individual discovery behaviours” who will succeed in turning their companies into something truly and enduringly great. Of course, not all CEOs are lucky enough to have Boyes’s creativity or the engineering genius of Musk, but we don’t all have to be creative geniuses to be successful innovation leaders. What’s important is that innovation leaders have the ability to think differently and act differently to generate creative ideas for new products, services, processes and businesses—and that they create the conditions in their organisations for everyone (not just the R&D department) to do the same. Without question, sustainable growth is not going to come out of old ways of working, leading and managing. Existing standards will keep us in the past. Business clearly needs the creative thinkers and the crazy mavericks to come up with new ways of doing things. Innovation leaders need to allow these thinkers free rein and, somewhat paradoxically, give them structure. They need to fight the institutional urge for stability, and allow the disruptive forces of surprise, uncertainty, ambiguity and change—things we typically avoid or fear—to simmer throughout their organisations, and to harness this effectively. To do this takes a combination of deeply held values, vision and conviction, combined with the application of good old-fashioned business savvy. Creativity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful innovation. It’s what you do with it that counts. Walter Baets is the director of the UCT Graduate School of Business and holds the Allan Gray Chair in Values-Based Leadership at the school. Formerly a professor of Complexity, Knowledge and Innovation and associate dean for Innovation and Social Responsibility at Euromed Management—School of Management and Business, he is passionate about building a business school for ‘business that matters’.
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Spoil the man in your life with premium, limited-edition, handmade accessories from Nic Harry: scarves, pocket squares, shoelaces, lapel pins, ties and tie clips as well as bamboo-and-cotton socks from its famous brand, NicSocks. Tel: 072 674 4428 / www.nicharry.com Rudzani Arts and Crafts manufactures handmade furniture from raw materials such as ilala, wood and steel. Ilala is a palm grass that grows in the veld in KwaZulu-Natal, which is harvested by rural women and sold to Rudzani. Products are available for both home and office. Tel: 074 847 6321 083 983 4880
Play an African love song on some clay flutes (paint them yourself!), shakers and traditional West African udu drums from Proudly Macassar Pottery. Tel: 082 747 7104 / Think-udu.co.za
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For the outdoor enthusiast, the MyGo extended pocket can be attached to various objects you use in day-to-day activities, such as bottles, bicycles—even your arm! It is small enough to remain sleek and appealing to the eye, but big enough to be able to fit your iPod, credit cards, keys and small change. Email: email@example.com
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Mammoth BI puts the spotlight on big data The 2014 Mammoth BI big data and analytics conference was attended by believers and the curious alike. In November, the Cape Town International Convention Centre hosted some brilliant minds from all around the world as well as local master-thinkers, delivering a powerful message on the future of information. The pilot conference for Mammoth BI provided attendees with a broad spectrum of speakers who specialised in a variety of big data platforms. The scale of interest was beneficial to all experience levels. Laypersons were able to get a glimpse of how big data will impact the general public, and those already working in big data were able to get powerful insights from some of the best minds in the industry. Mammoth BI founder and TEDxCapeTown organiser, Jason Haddock, applied the TED format to the event: relaxed, to the point and fun. With that in mind, Mammoth BI was established as a not-for-profit venture providing impactdriven information including free tickets to students and the launch of the Mammoth Bursary. International speakers at the 2014 event included Eric Siegel and Theo Priestley, and local gurus such as Georgina Armstrong and Jasper Horrell. Topics ranged from social-media data, the Square Kilometre Array, improved marketing, and Data Lakes to Artificial Intelligence. Mammoth BI is set to become an annual event that aims to offer a full experience for anyone interested in the future of information. For more information, visit www.mammothbi.co.za. To donate to the Mammoth Bursary, see mammothbi.co.za/the-mammoth-bursary.
Fast Company SA takes a look at the innovative new ideas and products currently making waves in South Africa and abroad
BYTES Zwipit wants old phones for cash Spain’s Zwipit has been launched in South Africa, promising consumers cash for their old phones and tablets. South Africa is the 10th country in which Zwipit, which was founded in 2011 and which is headquartered in Madrid, has been launched. Other markets where it operates include Spain, Italy, Chile and Turkey. “We have seen a 20% growth in smartphone penetration [in South Africa] and the country is definitely mature enough for a service such as Zwipit,” says local MD Felix Martin-Aguilar. Before joining Zwipit, he was head of business services at Cell C. The “fully automated” service allows anyone with an old smartphone or tablet to sell it online, directly to Zwipit, knowing up front what they can expect for it. The company will then have it couriered for free. It will buy phones and tablets of any age that are still in demand, even feature phones. The full list of devices Zwipit will buy is available on its website. There’s a business service, too, which allows companies to sell old devices in bulk. Payment takes up to 10 days, says Martin-Aguilar. Zwipit pays a standard price for devices based on their condition. Categories are “working”, “not working” and “good as new”. A cracked screen is considered to be “not working”. Water-damaged phones are not accepted at all. “Pricing is based on demand and is set by Zwipit globally, which we convert into local currency,” says marketing and operations executive, Nothando Moleketi. Sellers must fill in a questionnaire explaining their device’s condition. Its IMEI number needs to be entered. They are then assisted to delete all the information on their device and restore it to factory defaults.
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WhatsApp SIM to offer free global chat A new SIM card for mobile phones is promising its users unlimited access to WhatsApp in 150 countries and across 400 network operators. News of the WhatsApp SIM, called the WhatSim, comes as the instant-messaging giant—owned by Facebook—announced its first foray away from smartphones into web-based messaging on desktop PCs and other devices. To get the SIM card, users pay an upfront fee of €10 (R130), or €5 (R65) in some markets. Other than that, the service is completely free for a year after purchase. There are no caps on data usage. With WhatsApp expected to launch voice dialling in its app soon, the move could be seen as another assault by so-called over-the-top companies on mobile network operators. The SIM is likely to find particular favour among international travellers not wanting to be burnt by high roaming charges. The WhatSim was developed by Manuel Zanella, founder of Zeromobile: an Italian mobile virtual network operator that offers low-cost roaming around the world. “Anywhere in the world, it connects to the provider with the best coverage and signal right where you are,” according to a media statement. “If you change your position, it automatically searches for a new provider. If a better one is available, it connects by itself without your even noticing it.” The statement says Zanella had the idea for a “special version” of WhatSim “inspired by Pope Francis”, which is designed for countries defined by the United Nations as the “Global South”. This includes countries in Africa.
WhatsApp comes to the desktop Users can now chat on WhatsApp from their desktop computers through a new web service for Google’s Chrome browser. It’s what millions of WhatsApp users have wanted for ages and it’s finally happening. The instant-messaging service recently revealed it would allow people to send and receive WhatsApp messages on their desktops via a web client. The web service is still tied to users’ mobiles: They’ll need to scan a QR code to sign up once they’ve downloaded the latest version of the app on their phones—and for now it works only on Chrome. WhatsApp promises that integration with other browsers is coming. For now, there’s no integration with the iPhone app, but users on Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry will be able to get the web client immediately. The company blamed the lack of iOS support on “Apple platform limitations”, but didn’t specify what these are. WhatsApp explained in a blog post: “Our web client is simply an extension of your phone: The web browser mirrors conversations and messages from your mobile device—this means all of your messages still live on your phone.” To connect Chrome to the WhatsApp mobile client, users must open a WhatsApp webpage where they can scan a QR code from the latest version of the mobile app. By doing so, they pair WhatsApp on their phone with the WhatsApp web client. “Your phone needs to stay connected to the Internet for our web client to work, and please make sure you install the latest version of WhatsApp on your phone.”
Record revenue for Apple Apple recently recorded the biggest quarterly profit in corporate history and blew away analysts’ forecasts in the process. The company presented its results for the quarter to end 27 December 2014, its first quarter of the current financial year. It was the most successful three months of any company in corporate history. The highlights include higher gross margins—39.9%—and 65% sales outside the US. Most impressive was the fact that Apple managed to sell 74.5 million iPhones in a single quarter—a record. The results were littered with other records. Revenue for the quarter was 30% higher than the prior quarter at more than R860 billion, with earnings of R209.75 billion. Basic earnings per share clocked $3.08 (around R35)—above $3 per share for the first time and a whole $1 stronger than the same reporting period last year. Other highlights were that the company shipped its billionth iOS device, which happened to be a space-grey 64GB iPhone 6 Plus. It’s kept the iPhone for posterity. The results would have been even better if there had not been, as Apple put it, fierce foreign-exchange volatility. Cash on hand? R2.074 trillion and a sequential (from the prior quarter) of R264 billion.
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Netflix said to confirm SA launch plans
FNB takes Silicon Cape to new heights First National Bank (FNB) and Silicon Cape announced a three-year strategic partnership worth R1 million per annum in funding and resource support to boost business activity in South Africa. The Silicon Cape initiative is a non-profit organisation that was started in 2009 by Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Vinny Lingham and venture capitalist Justin Stanford. It aims to improve the ecosystem for tech businesses, by providing a platform for the community to collaborate, share resources and amplify tech innovation. The initiative to date has been completely volunteer-driven and includes tech-entrepreneurs, developers, angel investors and venture capitalists who are passionate about entrepreneurship in their community. Silicon Cape has more than 8 500 registered members and is one of the largest entrepreneurial networks in Africa. The collaboration with FNB is Silicon Cape’s first long-term partnership since inception. Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city was aiming to become a sophisticated digital city that had the infrastructure and environment for tech startups to thrive. “We want to become the digital city of Africa,” she said. “We can become a growing and thriving centre for our region, with multiplied effects for our economy.” The city has rolled out over 350 kilometres of broadband fibre-optic cable and aimed to increase that to 700km—a fundamental development in reaching that vision. Cape Town wanted to encourage and support startups with digital ideas. “That requires real partnerships with organisations like Silicon Cape and the private sector to make our dreams a reality,” she said. “This means directly supporting those who need time and support to make their good ideas great and to add real value to our economy. These are just the building blocks for a long-term project. Our vision is to use the unique infrastructural assets of our city to create a new digital centre and, in so doing, we will make Cape Town one of the most important investment centres in Africa,” De Lille added. Lingham welcomed the transformation of the organisation. “Cape Town has amazing talent, and these guys who are taking a risk and jumping into startups deserve the upside,” he said. “There’re a lot of advantages in building tech companies.” Heather Lowe, head of Vumela Enterprise Fund at FNB, said the bank aimed to create a sustainable holistic tech ecosystem in a country where it is not easy to get started. “The funding will be used to scale themselves up, but they will have a lot more than just that,” she said. “We will employ a full-time staff member for them, who will effectively act as their operations and marketing officer. Silicon Cape members will also have full access to the new FNB Portside building [the tallest green building in Africa], where they can use our slow lounges and work café for meetings, as well as our events facilities.” In addition, members will have access to the Vumela Enterprise Fund, and the bank will be able to give early-stage equity funding for specific startups.
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Netflix has reportedly confirmed plans to enter the South African market within the next 24 months. This follows recent news that the online video pioneer intends aggressively stepping up its international expansion strategy, growing the number of countries in which it operates from 50 to 200 in the next 24 months. “Our international expansion strategy over the last few years has been to expand as fast as we can while staying profitable on a global basis,” CEO Reed Hastings said in a letter to shareholders. “Progress has been so strong that we now believe we can complete our global expansion over the next two years, while staying profitable— which is earlier than we expected. We then intend to generate material global profits from 2017 onwards.” Hastings said Netflix had learnt a great deal about the content people prefer in different markets. “Acceleration to 200 countries is largely made possible by the tremendous growth of the Internet in general, including on phones, tablets and smart TVs. We intend to stick to our core ad-free subscription model. As with our initial round of international expansion, we’ll get some things wrong and do our best to fix them quickly.” In January this year, MyBroadband, an online forum site, said it had received confirmation from Netflix that South African was among the countries to which it intended expanding. “We have not provided details of when we plan to go where, but you can be confident South Africa is among the countries we intend to serve some time in the next two years,” the company reportedly said.
Call for applications Since 2006, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards programme has supported more than 100 female entrepreneurs worldwide. Each year, 18 finalists are selected, six of whom will become laureates. Finalists get access to coaching, entrepreneurial workshops and media visibility. The laureates receive a unique and comprehensive support package of around R225 000 of funding, one year of coaching, networking opportunities and media exposure. To join the Awards Community, prospective applicants should go to www.cartierwomensinitiative.com and apply to become one of the 2015 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards finalists.
SA Menswear Week
5 TO 7 FEBRUARY
19 TO 20 FEBRUARY
V&A Waterfront, Cape Town www.menswearweek.co.za
The Innovation Hub, Pretoria www.innocentrix.co.za/innovation-live-2015
This initiative is the first men’s focused fashion platform in Africa, showcasing three days of menswear on the runway and celebrating the creative and commercial importance of South Africa and Africa’s menswear industry. The event features more than 25 of the leading and most sought-after menswear designers in Africa.
This is the definitive innovation conference for private- and public sector organisations in South Africa, offering the latest innovation capability essentials and solutions. This is one of the most robust conferences for South African corporates who regard innovation as a strategic priority, with more than 10 international speakers and five local industry leaders presenting 12 case studies evidencing innovation achievements and methodologies that have delivered value. Add to the mix local knowledge-sharing on the innovation landscape and a celebration of South Africa’s most innovative companies and corporate entrepreneurs, and it becomes clear that this event cannot be missed.
Upcoming events Fast Company will be attending
EVENTS Giants On Success
Design Indaba Conference 2015
Trend 2020: The Future of Business
25 TO 27 FEBRUARY
Father’s House, Port Elizabeth geoyayga.wix.com/geo-yayga-events Geo Yayga is a personal development company that focuses on motivational coaching, lifestyle and business improvement strategies. Giants on Success will create a platform for each attendee to create his or her own life plan by his or her own choice. With the knowledge, wisdom and strategies that will be shared, this will enable the attendees to discover they are their greatest asset through accountability and application. Speakers include Mike Handcock (international innovator); Landi Jac (international perceptive entrepreneur); Myan Subrayan (international life coach); and Brian Bouwer (South African entrepreneur), among many others.
Cape Town International Convention Centre www.designindaba.com The annual Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town features the best of global creativity on one stage. It is also simulcast live to cities around South Africa. Every year, the programme features a sterling lineup of international speakers from all corners of the world, coming together on the Design Indaba stage to present an up-to-the-minute survey on design and innovation from across the creative sectors. Surprise elements of dialogue, performance and music intersperse the speaker programme for an inimitable experience that makes Design Indaba, as many have concurred, the best creative conference in the world.
Riverside Hotel & Spa, Durban
Quatermain Hotel, Johannesburg
The Forum Conferencing & Banqueting Centre, Cape Town www.rockyourlife.net Rock Your Life is a composite group of companies that operate across the globe, producing transformational information for entrepreneurs on business, health, wealth and wisdom. Trend 2020 will feature three key presenters—Dave Rogers, Mike Handcock and Landi Jac—as well as other guests speaking about cutting-edge new material and technologies that will put you ahead of the game: what’s hot and what’s not; which industries are dying and which are emerging; the changing face of money, finance and capital; the new way Google and Facebook are dealing with your business; the link between business and quantum physics; and how to position yourself into the future, among others.
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THIS IS NOT A JOKE FAC E B O O K T E ST E D F L AG G I N G FA K E A RT I C L E S A S “ S AT I R E ” ? YO U H AV E TO B E K I D D I N G M E . T H I S I S W H Y A LG O R I T H M S CA N ’ T S O LV E E V E RY T H I N G
HILE YOU WERE busy liking family photos and taking BuzzFeed quizzes, you might not have realised that Facebook, the social network designed by antisocial people, faced one of the most significant threats to a just and verdant world we’ve ever seen: people who think satirical news stories are real.
Thankfully, the disruptive geniuses behind the platform that redefined the word ‘friend’ decided to test a solution to this grave problem. Could Facebook’s infinite algorithmic wisdom simply hide satirical items from people with proven deficiencies of critical thinking? Nah. It simply added the term “[Satire]” in front of satirical headlines. That way, people would know it’s satire! I worked at The Onion for nearly five years, so I 88 FASTCOMPANY.CO.Z A FEBRUARY 2015
ALGORITHMS IMPROVE MY LIFE EVERY DAY, BUT IT’S DISTRESSING THAT WE’RE NOW WILLING TO ABDICATE OUR COMMON SENSE TO THEM.
became quite familiar with the phenomenon of confused readers first-hand—over and over again. A favourite case involved a member of the United States House of Representatives who thought the article “Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex” was real information worth getting riled up about. He was so incensed that he posted the article to his Facebook wall, complaining of “abortion by the wholesale”. Was it Facebook’s fault that he did not know the story was satirical? Was it the fault of a polarised political environment in which we seek only the information that validates our pre-existing ideological commitments? Or was it the fault of a human being who shared before reading and acted without thinking? In other words, was he just stupid? Heaven forbid we expect people to notice the source of the content they’re publishing to their networks. Shouldn’t theonion.com be a better idiot filter than #satire? The satire flag is a small example of a larger, more dangerous trend: reducing every perceived problem to an engineering challenge. There’s seemingly no societal ill we can’t ameliorate by throwing a high-powered algorithm at it. Poor delivery of public services? There’s a ‘deep learning’ startup on the case. A lack of perfect information in the marketplace of ideas? Sprinkle some big data on there. Soviet-style lines for taxis, groceries, iPhones? There’s an app for that. Let’s amble down this slippery slope together, shall we? How should we deal with public figures who utter inconvenient truths on TV while not realising their microphones are live? Let’s just add a small electrical current to their mic packs so they are constantly reminded, through mild electrification, that the mic is ‘hot’. What should we do about R. Kelly songs that are ostensibly about vehicles, but whose subtext refers to sexual acts? Let’s insert a voice-over that whispers “sex song” in the first 10 seconds of the track. One thing that’s always bothered me is the inability to know with 100% certainty what another person is thinking. I mean, I could ask the person, but what if he or she is lying? The solution is obviously to employ a team of neural scientists and have them build ‘True Thought’ interfaces that allow us to see what’s really going on inside someone else’s head. Algorithms improve my life every day, but it’s dis tressing that we’re now willing to abdicate our common sense to them. The interpretation of art doesn’t need to be optimised or made more efficient. Jokes don’t need to be flagged. People and relationships don’t need to be so discretely categorised all the time. For the sake of our collective imaginations, we need to think for ourselves. Some things in life exist in a grey area. And that’s a feature, not a bug. Baratunde Thurston is the author of The New York Times bestseller How to Be Black and CEO and co-founder of Cultivated Wit, a creative agency that combines the powers of humour, design and technology.
Illustration by Stanley Chow
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