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My Favorites of June: French Workplace, PayPal’s ‘Lost Decade’ & Dumb Smart Contracts

30 June 2016

PayPal video FORTUNE screenshot

Screenshot of Fortune’s video (click to watch)

Another busy month, with news like the European soccer event (#Euro2016) and a European shocker decision (#Brexit2016) that made – and still make – he headlines.

I’ve also attended a number of ‘blockchain-for-crowdfunding’ meetings, which I may blog later about, and read some cool stuff.

Here’s some of the cool stuff, summarized for you in the traditional monthly digest. I hope that you share the interest.

An interesting read about our French way of looking at work. Given that it’s relatively difficult to fire someone in France, Pamela Druckerman argues that we are shooting ourselves in the foot by NOT reforming the system. Not because it’s inherently positive to fire employees – that is negative for everyone involved in creating businesses, value and social progress – but because businesses tend to hire less in the first place. I think it’s sad that the French protestants who oppose the currently discussed work reform have such a confrontational view of managers. We the French have a very difficult tough time seeing our management as allies, not enemies.

It’s sad that the French who oppose the current work reform have such a confrontational view of managers.

This is a summary of a keynote address given on June 1st by the CEO of Chain to central bankers and regulators from around the world at the Federal Reserve in Washington D.C., jointly hosted by the IMF and World Bank. The event, titled “Finance in Flux: The Technological Transformation of the Financial Sector.” It is long, but highly interesting, and provides a vision of how the blockchain could be embraced by global and national authorities. Like many blockchain pieces, it’s theoretical, with a lot of what-could-be, but it’s very insightful.

A long but highly interesting vision of how the blockchain could be embraced by authorities.

CNBC’s Bob Pisani discusses the evolution of the Fintech sector, in a way that is very refreshing because it’s more grounded on reality than many articles I happen to read. He basically says that Fintech is new competition for banks – who are not going to let it eat into their market shares – and that it will benefit consumers in the first place. “Fintech competition will drive down bank profitability regardless of whether they take business from banks. Free products from competitors will make it hard to charge for plain-vanilla products.” I believe that community-based engagement – call it attachement if you like – is another novelty that Fintech brings. I see it at WiSEED: members like, defend us, and many are advocates of alternative finance at large. You don’t have that attachement in today’s banking I believe.

Fintech is new competition for banks and it will benefit consumers in the first place.

Innocent is not just known for it’s smoothies, but also and maybe foremost for its brand tonality. Call it marketing or advertising if you want. Either way, they were among the first – like Michel & Augustin in France – to address consumers in a fresh, humorous, authentic way. In this post, Nick Parker explains that, after many brands have stolen this tone of voice, there is now a new trend that many brands will start to embrace: “No longer will brands fill the void in their own identity by stealing Innocent’s tone. There is a new go-to voice for the me-too brands. We have officially entered the Artisan Era.

After many brands have stolen Innocent’s tone of voice, there is now a new one that many brands will embrace: the Artisan-Era.

Everyone knows PayPal, but not everyone knows its story, its evolution and its pivots. This Fortune piece is an extensive story of the company’s history and level of innovativeness through time, including the “lost decade” that PayPal went through when owned by eBay. “eBay never took sufficient advantage of ­PayPal’s “first mover” status [and] lost valuable time while rivals established themselves. That delay cost PayPal a chance to dominate the digital [payment market] the way that Facebook dominates social media and Google dominates search. The eBay years [were] PayPal’s “lost decade.”

An extensive story of the company’s history, including the “lost decade” that PayPal went through when owned by eBay.

The blockchain has two major applications today: Bitcoin (a cryptocurrency) and Ethereum (a “smart contract” system). Many more applications will emerge in the coming years, but these two are the ones that have been widely discussed in the last years. Based on the recent story of a “hack” of a “smart contract” called the DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), this article has a great perspective on how “smart” a self-executed contract can be, and how much “smarter” the people who hack these contracts can be.

A great perspective on how “smart” a self-executed contract can be, and how much “smarter” hackers can be.

Tristan Harris, who was, “Product Philosopher” or “Design Ethicist” at Google until 2016, lists 10 ways web services are designed to be more sticky, addictive, enjoyable, personalized… whatever you want to call it. Not all of it is new, but I think it is important for the wide audience to know, for the sake of intellectual self-defense applied to the web. He concludes: “I’ve listed a few techniques but there are literally thousands. […] Our smartphones, notifications screens and web browsers [must] put our values, not our impulses, first. People’s time is valuable. And we should protect it with the same rigor as privacy and other digital rights.

It is important for the wide public to know, for the sake of intellectual self-defense applied to the web.

I like brands publicly sharing and discussing internal events, doubts, processes. That could sound boring but I believe it is part of a wider movement in which companies talk about themselves in a more transparent, less top-down, more horizontal way. This is very important to make brands more authentic (see 4th tweet above) while making managements and strategy accessible and less scary (see 1st tweet above). This post written by Deliveroo’s user research team is short and slightly superficial, but honest and interesting when it comes to integrating step-back-and-observe functions like research into all-hands-on-deck-for-fast-growth companies like sharing economy start-ups.

This post written by Deliveroo’s user research team is short and slightly superficial, but honest and interesting.

That’s it for June! Check what’s on my reading list any time on Twitter.com/yannigroth/likes or Medium.com/@yannig/has-recommended, and don’t hesitate to mention me if you feel like sharing. En route!

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