Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. Dollar Shave Club and the Disruption Economy

Eleven years ago, P&G bought Gillette for $57 billion. This week, Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club, which holds 16% of the market, for $1 billion. What gives? Ben Thompson, tech analyst and blogger, thinks the “shockingly low” price illustrates what consumer businesses might be worth in the new world of e-commerce. With Amazon Web Services, YouTube, and Facebook, it’s cheaper to disrupt a market, but also less valuable once you do:

Dollar Shave Club, for basically no money, reached 20 million people. Some became customers, and through responsive customer service and an ongoing focus on social media marketing, Dollar Shave Club created an army of brand ambassadors who did for free what P&G had to pay billions for on TV: tell people that their razors were worth buying for a whole lot less money than Gillette was charging…Dollar Shave Club’s motto may be “Shave Money Shave Time,” but just how many shareholders and policy makers are prepared for the shaving of value that this acquisition suggests is coming sooner rather than later?

The article includes a link to what is unquestionably the greatest product launch video ever

2. Advice for Nerds on Dating and Marriage

Dude, if you’re getting relationship advice from Harvard Business Review, we have a pretty good hunch why your marriage is on the rocks. Yet, without any apparent irony, Ed Batista offers such counsel in “How Not to Fight with Your Spouse When You Get Home from Work." This HBR piece is guaranteed to drain the romance from any relationship. Batista:    

It’s unrealistic and unhelpful for couples to expect that they’ll automatically be in sync when they arrive home. Different needs, different recovery times, and different cultures all combine to make it more likely rather than not that couples will be out of sync when they first encounter each other at the end of the workday. Identify your needs as individuals and make time to talk about this issue as a couple (but not when you first walk in the door – set some time aside)…A little planning – and some candor about what you need – go a long way.

Better idea: turn to Jessica Guzick over at Medium. She gives new meaning to the come hither look, as she coolly analyzes her situation in life: “Between the ages of 27 and 30, I had but two missions: (1) Create awesome PowerPoints; and (2) Find a boyfriend.” Her solution is to merge her missions and make an awesome PowerPoint to find a boyfriend. Her final deck is irresistible and includes slides like this:


3. What Population Bomb?

What happens when a nation’s population stops growing? A startling report from Japan:

If the United States experienced a similar population contraction, it would be like losing every single inhabitant of California, New York, Texas and Florida — more than 100 million people. Though demographers have long anticipated the transformation Japan is now facing, the country only now seems to be sobering up to the epic metamorphosis at hand. Police and firefighters are grappling with the safety hazards of a growing number of vacant buildings. Transportation authorities are discussing which roads and bus lines are worth maintaining and cutting those they can no longer justify. Each year, the nation is shuttering 500 schools.

4. Why Products Become Obsolete

The New Yorker explores the “vexing problem” at the heart of the LED movement, and it finds that no light bulb can really last forever:    

No one seems to have a sound business model for a long-lasting bulb. And, paradoxically, this is the very problem that the short life-span of modern incandescents was meant to solve…All of this would amount to little more than a business-school case study of history quirkily repeating itself, if it weren’t for the fact that finding an economic model for products that last is increasingly seen as critical to environmental sustainability.

5. When Presidential Candidates Own Sports Teams

Peter King, veteran reporter for Sports Illustrated, looks back on Donald Trump’s stint as the owner of the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, the short-lived league that tried to challenge the NFL in the 1980s:     

The cheerleaders claimed that Trump lied to them, too. During their first season, eleven of the 30 cheerleaders staged a walkout, saying Trump had not delivered on promises to arrange acting jobs, modeling gigs and television appearances for them to supplement their modest pay. Instead, they said they were forced to wear skimpy outfits and entertain drunks at local bars.     

More substantive and less predictable: David Brooks’s 1999 investigation of George W Bush as owner of MLB’s Texas Rangers. According to Brooks, “Bush was not just liked by the other owners, he was extremely well liked. He was liked not only by the people he promoted, he was liked by the people he fired, such as former Rangers and current Mets manager, Bobby Valentine.”

6. Where Do the Hits Come From?

BuzzFeed offers a detailed, fascinating look at how songs get popular and how playlists are made. Long live music geeks: 

Building a better playlist is harder than it might seem. The algorithm that can judge the merits of new Gucci Mane, or intuit that you want to sing “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton in the shower, has yet to be written. Until that day comes, the job has fallen to an elite class of veteran music nerds — fewer than 100 working full-time at either Apple, Google, or Spotify — who are responsible for assembling, naming, and updating nearly every commute, dinner party, or TGIF playlist on your phone.


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