Five things that are worth your time: January 10

Five things that are worth your time: January 10

Thanks for joining me for another five things! A few long reads this week, featuring Apple, Star Wars, and the the future of work, so if you want to save them for the weekend, I can’t blame you.

Has Apple Lost Its Design Mojo?

By Rick Tetzeli, Fortune

Couple thoughts on this “state of the union” article about Apple design. One, yes, Apple has always been at the forefront of technology design. But, Apple rarely gets it right right out of the gate. The article mentions the original iPod, with its barely functional click wheel, and the original iPhone, without 3G or apps. Apple iterates over time; it always has. Which brings me to my second point: Apple used to be a lot smaller. They could take all the time they wanted, and their customers would be patient. But now, Apple is everywhere, and every other company wants to be like Apple, and people just don’t have the patience for that anymore. So I would argue: Apple is still doing great design work on its products, just as it always has, but the world around it has changed. And I don’t think Apple should change, because then the design actually will suffer. (Besides, the real question here shouldn’t be about poor Apple design; it should be about their shitty software development efforts in recent years.)

A quote: “This creative process is Apple’s secret sauce. Its goal—innovating and improving simultaneously, delivering both annual updates and the occasional brand-new product—is commonplace. But few companies have done it as well as Apple, at mass scale over a long period of dramatic technological change. Chochinov cites Nike and the New York Times as two that have, but many of the sources I interviewed for this story couldn’t think of any comparable peers.”

This is Not Going to go the Way You think: The Last Jedi is subversive AF, and I am here for it

By Melissa Hillman, Bittergertrude.com

Melissa Hillman breaks down some of the ways that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is subversive and feminist, and I love this kind of take on the film—and, I suspect, deep down many of these themes are why some of the more traditional Star Wars fans are so angry about The Last Jedi. This isn’t a film that’s made with them—the white male (or heroic white male, as they see themselves)—front and centre. This is a film for everyone. I’m not entirely sure the filmmakers intentionally focused on some of the things Hillman brings up, but, good filmmaking allows different people to interpret things in different ways, and I would guess that The Last Jedi does that more than any other Star Wars film to date.

A quote: “The Resistance is impressive in its casual diversity. Women and people of color are valued for their expertise as a matter of course; nowhere does the film congratulate itself on its diversity by making a huge point of highlighting it, demonstrating white male benevolence by the generous inclusion of women and people of color, positing a white male audience nodding along, agreeing that we are so wonderful for allowing our White Male World to donate a very small corner for the Less Fortunate. The Resistance is naturally diverse, and no one even seems to notice. ‘”

The Imminent Death—and Amazing Life—of the Funny Highlight Guy

By Brian Curtis, The Ringer

Reading Brian Curtis on sports media is always a good bet. I enjoyed this look back at the era of “Funny Highlight Guy” sports anchors, in part because this whole phenomenon of sports highlight shows that masqueraded as comedy bits mostly passed Canada by. We got Gino Reda and Michael Landsberg while the U.S. had Dan, Kieth and Kilborn; by the time we got Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole the era was pretty much over. But in a way, that’s probably a good thing—check out the quote below to see why. (Also: Go and watch Sports Night; you won’t be disappointed.)

A quote: “One night in the ESPN newsroom, Beil recalled, “Gus had seen that the movie Jumanji was coming out. So he’s walking around the newsroom and trying to sell ‘Jumanji!’ as a catchphrase.
“He’s literally walking down three rows of computers. I was there. Karl Ravech was there. Brett Haber was there. Gus is just running into ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘That’s stupid,’ ‘Get outta here,’ ‘Get away from me.’
“He gets to Kilborn. He says, ‘Jumanji!’ And Kilborn goes, ‘Yes.’ We’re all looking at him like, Are you serious? Sure enough, we do the show that night, and he did it in his tone of voice: ‘Ju … manji.’ The next day, nobody would stop saying ‘Jumanji.’””

Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo

By David Frum, The Atlantic

Trump is an easy target to aim for and hit, especially when he sets himself up for it so well (and so regularly). After his unhinged tweets about his own genius, I and many others noted how much he sounded like Fredo in The Godfather Part II (“I’m smart! Not like everyone says, like dumb!”). David Frum managed to put it into a great column. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg8jODlrka0 To Frum’s point… where is America’s Michael? After Fredo allowed the Don to be shot on his watch, Michael stepped up. Who is going to step up and put everything right in America?

A quote: “From the start, Donald Trump was a man of many secrets, but no mysteries. Inscribed indelibly on the public record were the reasons for responsible people to do everything in their power to bar him from the presidency. Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected. The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates.”

The Real Future of Work

By Danny Vinik, Politico

This look at trends in labour is U.S.-focused but you can certainly see the same trends in Canada. More and more businesses are hiring contractors instead of employees; there is more and more competition among contractors, which is driving rates down, which means contractors are making less than they did as employees, and corporations are getting richer. And there are no protections in place to prevent it. It’s more than a little scary, especially for someone like me who is mulling a potential future os a contractor. Things are great right now, but if everyone is a contractor in 5 years, what are my professional options?

A quote: “Businesses prefer these arrangements, too, because they can shed expensive benefit packages and are not responsible for following federal labor laws. But that also gives them an incentive to “misclassify” their workers, overseeing them as if they were employees but officially classifying them as independent contractors to cut costs.”
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That’s all for this week! Come back next Wednesday for another five things.

The long, slow death of workplace loyalty

The Globe and Mail asks, “Is workplace loyalty dead in the age of the millennial?” I tend to think workplace loyalty was dead long before millennials entered the workforce but, writer Merge Gupta-Sunderji does offer some good points about what employers can do to keep employees engaged longer. The third one, I think, is critical:

Two-way dialogue is essential. Most new entrants to the work force have grown up in a highly connected environment, accustomed to receiving instantaneous feedback from parents, teachers and coaches. Besides, it is not a bad thing when employees want to know how they’re doing; it means they want to improve and make a positive impact. So tell them. Frequently. In fact, a June, 2016, Gallup poll showed that employee engagement was highest for those who met with their manager at least once a week, or more often.

Constant feedback is so important for employees (not only millennials), and it’s such an easy thing for  managers to do, yet so few do it. There are probably a couple reasons why:

  1. No one likes giving bad news, but if the only feedback you have to give is negative, well then, you’re either hiring the wrong people or you’re a terrible boss. And the thing is, if you’re having regular conversations with your people and building a good working relationship, it should be easier to have that a tough conversation when a difficult issue comes up, rather than trying to have it out of the blue.
  2. I think a lot of managers think these feedback sessions have to be a big formal thing, like a performance review. They don’t. They can be a coffee break, a walk-and-talk, a 15-minute catch-up. Save the formal reviews for end of quarter; just have a discussion.
  3. Who has the time. More and more, managers are asked to be “player-coaches,” and people management becomes a smaller part of their role—they need to be hands-on, whether they want to be or not, and the “softer,” less measurable activities—tending to the day-to-day needs of their team—fall to the back burner. That is something that’s going to have to change as more millennials enter the workforce. I would recommend carving out time in your calendar and getting in the habit of building those relationships today.

One last thought on loyalty. “Workplace loyalty” may be dead, as workers seek out the latest and greatest opportunity and companies hire, fire and layoff workers on a whim. To me, loyalty isn’t the relationship between a company and its people, it’s the relationships between the people. If your manager treats you right, be loyal to them; if your staff gives you their best, be loyal to them. When you leave, stay in touch. Build your network. Share opportunities when you see them.

And, to tie it all back together—those regular feedback meetings? That’s where that loyalty begins.