As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Hat Trick: Three articles that were powerful enough to distract me from jumping in the lake on a hot holiday weekend

I did an enormous amount of lake-side book and magazine reading over the holiday weekend.  Below are the three articles that stood the “24-hours-later-and-I-still-remember-them” test of time.  All worth a read or a quick scan:

How social networking triggers the release of the generosity-trust chemical in our brains.

If you only read a tiny bit, read the “Experiment No. 3…In Which I Learn to Love by Tweeting Madly.”  The subject of the article is “Dr. Love”, Paul Zak, a Professor at Claremont Graduate University who popularized “neuroeconomics”.  Turns out Tweeting causes a spike in oxytocin levels (the love/trust chemical).  Two choice quotes from the article by Adam L. Penenberg:

“Your brain interpreted tweeting as if you were directly interacting with people you cared about or had empathy for,” Zak says. “E-connection is processed in the brain like an in-person connection.”


“One day, a company might be better off asking not what its margins are, but what its trust factor is,” says Brian Singh, founder of Zinc Research, a social media and marketing research firm in Calgary, Alberta. Singh has begun framing the formation of connections via social networking as a form of “digital oxytocin.” The idea is that if businesses wish to thrive in our interconnected world, where consumers’ opinions spread at the speed of light, they must act as a trusted friend: create quality products, market them honestly, emphasize customer care.

How to Make an American Job Before It’s Too Late, by Andy Grove of Intel.

Andy makes a compelling case that startups (in the current model of low capital investment)  don’t really create a meaningful number of jobs and that manufacturing companies do.  He builds his case carefully so I do him a disservice by quoting just a bit.  But I thought this was a great framing of his point of view:

The story comes to mind of an engineer who was to be executed by guillotine. The guillotine was stuck, and custom required that if the blade didn’t drop, the condemned man was set free. Before this could happen, the engineer pointed with excitement to a rusty pulley, and told the executioner to apply some oil there. Off went his head.

We got to our current state as a consequence of many of us taking actions focused on our own companies’ next milestones. An example: Five years ago, a friend joined a large VC firm as a partner. His responsibility was to make sure that all the startups they funded had a “China strategy,” meaning a plan to move what jobs they could to China. He was going around with an oil can, applying drops to the guillotine in case it was stuck. We should put away our oil cans. VCs should have a partner in charge of every startup’s “U.S. strategy.”

Growing up in Detroit, much of what Andy says resonates with me.  But I find my knowledge-worker and coastal-centric friends who didn’t grow up around people who make things undervalue the technology and invention advances that are created by those environments.  Andy does a better job explaining it than I could.

Finally, I liked:

Zilch:  Get What You Want for Nothing.  How to Profit by Behaving like a Not-for-Profit by Nancy Lublin in Fast Company.  Nancy is a great storyteller and I particularly like her  introductory and closing stories in this article.  The simple, powerful narratives transfer very easily to any company.

3 Responses to “Hat Trick: Three articles that were powerful enough to distract me from jumping in the lake on a hot holiday weekend”

  1. Dan Weinreb

    As you know, I love science, but science itself teaches us to be skeptical and careful.

    Regarding tweeting being like directly interacting with people, I’m not sure we learn a lot more from monitoring oxytocin levels than we already knew. I don’t expect tweeting is very different from email in these ways. Anyone who has done this for a while knows that it’s like direct interactions in some ways and not other ways, just from introspection.

    I do think these experiment are interesting. And I’m fascinated by this whole topic. Dan Airely, cited in the story, is great; I just finished reading his second book, “The Upside of Irrationality”, and recommend it.

    The Nancy Lubin article is fun. Airely’s book has a very interesting chapter about how people decide to donate to charity. It works a lot better to describe individual people with a more emotional appeal, for example.

  2. Liz Boksanski

    The psych major in me is loving these new physiological-psych connections being made about social media. People are short on time & growing increasingly skeptical of “business” — forcing the masses to turn horizontal for quick, reliable, trust-worthy information about products and services. Can’t fight human nature. Citizen Commerce is a tidal wave!

    • julespieri

      Liz, “Turn horizontal”….that is a new one on me. And I love the idea of being part of a tidal wave. Thanks for chiming in.


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