Price vs. cost

Price is a simple number. How much money do I need to hand you to get this thing? Cost is more relevant, more real and more complicated. Cost is what I had to give up to get this. Cost is how much to feed it, take care of it, maintain it and troubleshoot it. Cost…

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Look around

Proximity matters a great deal. Detroit car executives in the 1970s and 1980s consistently failed to respond to the threat from Japanese imports. They weren’t merely arrogant—they were blinded by proximity. Everyone in their neighborhood, everyone on their commute, everyone in their parking lot was driving an American car. How could there be a problem?…

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On speaking up

The status quo is not kind. It works overtime to stay the status quo, and that means that new ideas, urgent pleas and cries for justice are rarely easily voiced. We’re pleased that Annie Kenney stood up for a woman’s right to vote all those years ago, even if she got arrested for doing so….

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Seeking sonder

Sonder is defined as that moment when you realize that everyone around you has an internal life as rich and as conflicted as yours. That everyone has a noise in their head. That everyone thinks that they are right, and that they have suffered affronts and disrespect at the hands of others. That everyone is…

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Distance to the top

It’s tempting to enter a field where mastery is assured, where you have a very good shot of being as good at it as everyone else. It turns out, though, that the most exciting and productive fields are those where there’s a huge gap between those that are perceived to be the very best and…

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Oppositional

When someone is frequently naysaying a proposal or a situation, it’s tempting to figure out how to make them happy. What can you change to find a compromise, how can you listen to their objections and respond in a way to gain their approval? It might be, though, that being oppositional is making them happy….

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The problem with high expectations…

is that nothing will ever be good enough. But the alternative, low expectations, is sad indeed. The internet (like life) will always disappoint us. It will always be too flaky, too slow, too insulated. It will always have errors, hate and stupidity. And we had such high hopes, the promise was so big. This is true of…

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The engine of our discontent

When TV first was adopted, it was a magical gift. The shows united our culture and the ads fueled a seemingly endless consumer boom. Today, though, marketers have turned television into an instrument of dissatisfaction. The shows alienate many, because they bring an idealized, expensive world into the homes of people who increasingly can’t afford…

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Confusing signals

There are high-end products, like camera lenses, stereo speakers and cars where the conventional wisdom is that heavier is a signifier of better. It’s so widely held that in many cases, manufacturers will intentionally make their products heavier merely to send a signal that they expect will be understood as quality. And yet, in many…

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Technical skills, power and influence

When a new technology arrives, it’s often the nerds and the neophiliacs who embrace it. People who see themselves as busy and important often dismiss the new medium or tool as a bit of a gimmick and then “go back to work.” It’s only a few years later when the people who understand those tools…

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