Snapped – How Flickr lost its looks

There are some sobering lessons in this excellent Gizmodo article, How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet.

Extracts that stood out for me:

  • It is a case study of what can go wrong when a nimble, innovative startup gets gobbled up by a behemoth that doesn’t share its values.
  • Even early on, there were signs that the transplant—which had seemed so successful at first—was going to fail. That the DNA didn’t match
  • All Yahoo cared about was the database its users had built and tagged. It didn’t care about the community that had created it or (more importantly) continuing to grow that community by introducing new features
  • Because Flickr wasn’t as profitable as some of the other bigger properties, like Yahoo Mail or Yahoo Sports, it wasn’t given the resources that were dedicated to other products.
  • As a result of being resource-starved, Flickr quit planting the anchors it needed to climb ever higher. It missed the boat on local, on real time, on mobile, and even ultimately on social—the field it pioneered
  • Yahoo needed to leverage this thing that it had just bought. The first step in that is to create a unified login. That’s great for Yahoo, but it didn’t do anything for Flickr, and it certainly didn’t do anything for Flickr’s (extremely vocal) users.
  • If you want to see where it completely fucked up, turn on your phone and launch the Flickr app. Oh, what’s that, you don’t have one? Exactly

Brilliant talk on creativity by John Cleese

A quite wonderful lecture from John Cleese on creativity that really ought to be seen and shared.

It validates and articulates pretty much everything that I have stumbled on after 20 years of working and I wish I’d seen it earlier.

The greatest benefit to me is that it endorses being playful and shoots down pressure and solemnity as a means to being more productive. It’s not just OK, it’s a good thing to laugh, ponder and be silly.

My notes whilst watching it:

  • Creatives are people who can get into a playful, child-like mode more easily
  • Creativity is not possible in the closed mode (anxious, got to get stuff done, purposeful)
  • Open, creative mode is more relaxed, but less purposeful, more inclined to humour. This is playful. Curiosity for its own sake can happen. That allows our lateral creativity to happen.
  • Hitchcock would say when faced with a block, he would tell an unrelated story. “We’re pressing, we’re pressing. We’re working too hard. Relax and it will come.”
  • Once you’ve had the idea, you need to switch to closed mode to implement.
  • Space is important for getting into play. Where you won’t be disturbed. For Steve Jobs this was a walk.
  • A •fixed• period of time is useful too. Maybe in 90 min chunks.
  • Creatives play with the problem for longer before trying to solve it. They’re happier to tolerate the uncomfortableness of uncertainty. More pondering is better.
  • Decisiveness and confidence strangles creativity at birth.
  • Maximise your pondering and leave the decision late. It is too easy and suboptimal to chicken out and decide early.
  •  Next importance thing is to not be fearful about what is possible. Embrace the silly and the what if. “You can’t be spontaneous within reason”
  • Humour gets us from closed mode to open mode more quickly
  • Po-facedness around humour being inappropriate comes from a misunderstanding of the difference between serious and solemn.
  • Solemnity is self-important and serves nothing.
  • Rewards come out of the blue later. It might be in the shower.
  • It’s easier to be creative with other people unless there is anyone involved that stops you feeling playful or defensive.
  • The funniest part of a joke is connecting two things that are seemingly unrelated to generate •new meaning•
  • “Intermediate impossibles” can be stepping stones to  breakthrough ideas
  • Very funny section at the end about how to stamp out creativity. Stamp out all humour otherwise people might start having new ideas and scaring the people at the top. Praise makes people uppity! Don’t let anyone ponder!! Demand urgency and create anxiety to keep everyone closed.

Jeff Bezos’ admirable refusal to let Amazon grow old gracefully

Good read from the Economist re Jeff Bezos’ approach to risk-taking. For me, this is the key moment and is the very essence of why traditionally successful companies are  so vulnerable to disruption and change. It’s just not in their DNA.

This may explain why Mr Bezos is so keen to ensure that Amazon preserves its own appetite for risk-taking. As companies grow, there is a danger that novel ideas get snuffed out by managers’ desire to conform and play it safe. “You get social cohesion at the expense of truth,” he says

It’s tough at the top

Great quote from the Kennedys TV drama. JFK hasn’t been in the job long when he laments the reality of his role to Jackie:

I’m starting to realize that this job is about choosing between two lousy options. And the right choice is the one that’s just a little less lousy.

That’s senior management isn’t it? By the time an issue gets to you, it has to be a tough call. If it was easy, people could make it themselves.