What we've been reading: Reid Hoffman, experts, offices and influencers

What we've been reading
Francois Badenhorst
Deputy editor
BusinessZone and UK Business Forums
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Every week, we collate some of our pieces of journalism and writing for you to enjoy. We call it - somewhat obviously - What we’ve been reading.

So, if you’ve got a moment to spare, check out the content that got us talking and thinking this week. Hopefully, it will inspire a similar reaction in you.

Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman

Podcasts are a thing billionaires do now, too. Masters of Scale is the new podcast by LinkedIn’s founder and VC Reid Hoffman. The podcast is Hoffman’s attempt to show “how companies grow from zero to a gazillion”.

Each episode of the podcast revolves around Hoffman testing a particular theory with another entrepreneur or founder. So in the episode featuring Mark Zuckerberg, Hoffman tests his theory that: “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released it too late.”

It’s a clever premise and Hoffman’s stature in the Valley means he can get the absolute cream on his show. Even the cameos are incredible: In the money episode -- “always raise more money than you think you need" -- the iconic, Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman pops up. And he’s not even the featured guest!

It’s time to reboot the relationship between experts and democracy

One of the standout moments of the entire Brexit referendum campaign was Michael Gove declaring: “People are tired of experts.”

It was a watershed moment for our relationship with experts. Gove’s tacit rejection of expertise speaks to a broader battle happening in our democracies. People tend to “rally to outspoken figures whose views carry a patina of expert assurance”. But at the same time, there’s a growing chorus questioning the role and validity of experts in our society.

So who’s right? Well according to Tom Nicholls in this Aeon essay, it’s a lot more complicated than just right or wrong.

The company behind WordPress is closing its gorgeous San Francisco office because its employees never show up

The office is a pop culture staple for a reason: we spend about one-third of our lives locked in a room with our colleagues. The weirdness and rituals of this shared space have inspired novels, tv shows, movies etc.

But will that always be the case? Take a look at Wordpress, the company that owns Wordpress has shuttered its gorgeous offices because they’re empty. The workers are exercising their right to work at home. And it's not just Wordpress, a few other companies are experiencing this, too.

The debate now is whether this is a good thing. The backlash now is over what gets lost. Do we lose something if we don’t work ‘shoulder to shoulder’?

EA’s press conference showed the danger of relying on influencers

It’s time to write one of my least favourite neologisms again: Influencers. Yes, the new social media immortals used by brands to peddle their wares to the kids.

With their large followings on SnapFace, Instabook and MySpace (or whatever) - even a hater like me can’t deny they have some influence. But as we’ve covered on BusinessZone previously, there’s a right way and a wrong way.

EA is the latest to do it the wrong way. The company is the biggest games publisher on Earth. At the most recent E3 - a no-expense-spared annual gaming extravaganza - EA parachuted a bunch of YouTube personalities into their presentation. It was an awkward disaster.

What EA did wrong was that it just looked at the follower count of the influencer, instead of looking at what their talents are. A famous prankster was used, weirdly, to do a scripted intro. Unsurprisingly, he bombed.

Small businesses cheer ‘new sheriff in town’ after climate pact exit

Alright, everyone, let’s get out of our little bubbles. Donald Trump’s recent rejection of the Paris Climate Accord drew a chorus of condemnation.

But instead of patting ourselves on the back for our righteous anger, it’s worth asking why Trump did what he did. Right or wrong, the decision was to appease or help a certain demographic in the American heartland.

That’s what this New York Times’ article uncovers: small businesses in places like Toledo, Ohio, loved Trump’s withdrawal. Why? I’ll let the article answer that question. But it’s worth remembering that there are two sides to every argument and just dismissing the other rarely has a positive impact.

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