Horace Dediu Interview – Why Businesses are more Fragile than People

The best and brightest are usually put to work on optimisation, and asked to improve the way things work. ‘Can you make it better, faster, and stronger?’ They will then go forward and solve the inefficiencies, and that’s where 99% of most energy is spent on. But, at some point you run out of room to improve things, and that’s when you have step aside and ask, can we make it different?

via Horace Dediu: Asymco Interview – Why Businesses are more Fragile than People.

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  • vladiim

    Interesting that you used the word ‘fragile’. In his book Antifragile* Nassim Taleb posits that systems benefit from turmoil. He takes a similar position to Clay with disruption theory and concludes that taking lots of small risks allows for large upsides when you accidentally ‘get it right’.


    • Johnny

      Interesting paraphrase. I haven’t checked that book by Taleb but did read another.

      I agree that systems benefit from turmoil, regardless of financial, or other industries.

      But isn’t it the lack of foresight in all industries that cause turmoil? The management lack of foresight? Lack of preparation.

      It reminds me of college students getting a B+ on a paper that they could have earned an A if they started a week earlier?

    • Here’s an an EconTalk interview with Taleb on Antifragility:

  • Chris

    I like that you talk about Aristotle’s Rhetoric to explain leadership. I didn’t know anyone still read him.

  • poke

    Great comments on leadership and values. I’d say: The best way to codify values is through an exemplar and the best way to get people to follow you is to be exemplary.

  • joakim

    Wow, I completely agree with this quote. For all the talk of innovation nowadays, far too many people in tech only think about incremental optimization of existing tech, rather than how a completely new design opens up much better avenues. This is a big mistake, because computing and the internet open up so many new ways to completely rethink the old ways we’ve been doing things. I suppose most simply can’t open their mind or explore new terrain, so it’s understandable, but it’s amazing how many will refuse to even entertain the possibility of new designs, shooting them down with silly complaints. Oh well, easier for me to put them out of business. 🙂

  • Bill Esbenshade

    GREAT presentation Horace! Your comments made me think of the following 2004 quote from Steve Jobs (from a Newsweek article), which I think gets at the essence of Apple’s long-term strategy:

    “The Mac-user interface was a 10-year monopoly,” says Jobs. “Who ended up running the company? Sales guys. At the critical juncture in the late ’80s, when they should have gone for market share, they went for profits. They made obscene profits for several years. And their products became mediocre. And then their monopoly ended with Windows 95. They behaved like a monopoly, and it came back to bite them, which always happens.”

    So is Apple behaving like a complacent monopoly under Tim Cook? In 2012 it introduced the iPad Mini, giving up a little margin but driving market share. Apple also improved the Mac OS, iOS, the iMac, the MacBook Pro, the iPhone, and the iPad. All of these are well-reviewed, great products. And all this behavior is consistent with the quote above.

    Jony Ive’s video introduction for the iPad Mini really captures Apple’s commitment to never settling for a “mediocre” product, even with products that target the low-end — in the video Ive emphasizes how the iPad Mini is still a great product, able to do all the things a full-size iPad can.

    As long as Apple keeps: (1) releasing and improving great products (with the occasional new product category); and (2) engineering great products for the low-end, especially when existing products are functionally “good enough” (even if this means sacrificing margins for market share), then I’ll feel good about Tim Cook and Apple. These actions will show that Apple hasn’t developed the monopolistic complacency that Jobs was worried about.

    Some people worry about the unpredictable timing of Apple’s product releases and improvements, but to me that’s probably a good sign. It means Tim Cook and Apple are more concerned with releasing a great product than they are about the timing of the release. Great products don’t, and probably can’t, follow a predictable release schedule.