More on the iCar, Passively Productive, and the Passion Economy – Business Psychology and Strategy #35

In two weeks I’m going to be starting a new job, so obviously I’m very interested in how to make the best possible start. I’ve been working through the pre-work that the company sent through (some reading, some finance, some excel), but I’m also very aware that success at work isn’t just about how well you perform your tasks. Success within any complex organization depends on how well you can navigate that organization. In any organization where you have a boss or manager, this organizational navigation will include some managing up.

Managing up has gained an unfortunate reputation for being a synonym for sucking up to your boss. Good managing up has nothing to do with sucking up, but is all about giving your manager clarity on things that they should have clarity on. This article (focused on tech work) talks about how to give your boss clarity on what people in your team are working on, what is slowing them down, and what your goals are.

But whenever I think about a relationship with a boss I always refer back to this article on how to run a one-on-one meeting as a direct report. As comforting as it is to talk about project status updates, time with a manager is best spent doing one of the following items

  1. Tell them what you are struggling with. Getting advice from someone more experienced will be useful, and your boss will be happy that they are able to help. Even if you don’t need help, sharing your struggles will make your boss empathize more, and will make sure that the achievements you worked hardest on are the ones that get celebrated the most. Show your boss where you are putting in the most time so that they know which areas you have grown the most.
  2. Talk with them about stretch tasks that you are either doing, or would like to do. Stretch tasks are jobs that lie outside your job description and are performed by people at the level above you (glue work doesn’t count). The way to show your manager that you are ready for a promotion is to show them that you are already doing some of the tasks that the job requires, and the step before that is to ask them for the responsibility to perform these tasks.
  3. Get feedback. Your manager probably has lots of things to think about, so won’t always remember to give you feedback. When you want feedback, ask for feedback on a specific presentation or piece of work delivered, rather than just asking for feedback generally.

Managing up isn’t about manipulating your boss into doing things for you, it is about letting your boss know how they can help you to do your job in the best way possible. Knowing how to properly manage this relationship can turbo-charge your learning, and your career.

Untitled (Skull), (1982) Jean-Michel Basquiat, sold in 2017 for $110 million, setting a record for the most expensive painting by an American Artist.


I hope you have something exciting planned this week! I’m feeling very optimistic about the next year at the moment. Some people predict this summer will be some kind of 21st century Summer of Love, others are predicting a massive market crash. Why not both?

Whatever happens, I’m feeling good. The weather is improving, days are getting longer, and there is an end in sight to lockdown. Paradoxically, the promise that things will improve in the future are helping me to enjoy the present even more.

Take time to sit in the sun without your phone this week. And call your grandparents, they’ll appreciate it.

Have a boss week,


Passion Economy

The last decade has seen the rise of streaming giants like Netflix and Spotify, as well as the spread of big players into the streaming market, like Amazon Prime and Apple Music. The streaming wars have not yet concluded, but people are already beginning to ask “What’s next?”

It is often really hard to define what counts as an industry, but recently it seems that lines are becoming even more blurry. One of the world’s hottest startups at the moment is Clubhouse, an audio only chat app where users can listen like an audience member, or converse like a panel member. What industry is Clubhouse in?

One way to answer this question is to think about who Clubhouse competes with. At first glance, Clubhouse seems to be competing for user time with both Spotify and Facebook. But Spotify and Facebook are in completely different industries, and certainly don’t compete with each other. How can one company compete with two other companies that are in completely different industries?

Clubhouse is combining the the social aspect of Facebook with the influencer aspect of Instagram, and the payments system of OnlyFans, a media website where fans pay to subscribe, or pay for access to individual items (OnlyFans is mostly adult content).

This fits into a rise in what Li Jin of Andreessen Horowitz calls the Passion Economy. This century started with businesses offering pure transactional relationships, like Uber, and the whole suite of companies promising to be “the Uber of X“, but new Passion Economy companies have started to understand the value in longer term relationships.

One of the issues with Uber is that it isn’t sticky. There are two sets of users for Uber, and it isn’t sticky for either of them. For riders, it is very easy to have Uber, Lyft, TaxiApp, and AddisonLee all installed, and to flip between quotes to find the cheapest ride – causing a race to the bottom on price. Additionally, divers can have multiple driving apps installed, on the same phone or on separate phones, and can choose only the best paying and most convenient rides – causing a race to the top on payments. The result is that both riders and drivers can change app any time, leaving no barrier to entry or incumbent advantage.

These new platforms, however, are very sticky. Creators on these platforms start to get locked in because they build an audience, and they build a relationship with that audience. This is only the beginning of the stickiness – the second part is the tools that the platform offers. Platforms like Substack and TikTok don’t just offer ways to share work, but can also help with creating the videos and timing them to music, or managing audiences and their subscriptions. This wombo-combo of the audience relationship and the software that helps creators to run their business is very sticky to creators.

For media consumers these apps are also sticky. They invest both time and money into media creators, as well as building personal relationships with them. These personal relationships, built at scale, are key to these platforms. Consumers don’t buy into a company or a brand, they buy into a human personality.

It is pretty hard to typify this category of application. Some people would put learning-sites like Skillshare into this category, though you don’t build up as much of a relationship with the creators making it into Netflix for learning. On the other hand, and clearly in the same industry, there is Masterclass, who sell individual classes from famous people, which results in a course based Cameo site.

But Skillshare and Masterclass don’t even scratch the skin of the growth that this pseudo-industy is experiencing. Twitter is both acquiring Revue (a paid newsletter service) and building a way for creators on Twitter charge for access to content or to premium Tweets. On the meta side of the business, Stir is an application that helps creators to manage their businesses across platforms, and has completed its Series A investment round at a valuation of $100 million.

And although more commodified than typical passion-economy companies, Fiverr (the freelance service marketplace) saw 75% revenue growth in 2020. LinkedIn is creating Marketplaces to jump on this bandwagon, to grow Microsoft even more.

The classic company in funding the passion economy is Patreon, who last year raised an additional $90 million to reach a staggering $1.2 billion valuation. Patreon is the home to some of the biggest YouTubers, and it allows creators to connect with their fans and charge a subscription for access to extra content (Patreon seems to understand the passion economy, the capital that they raised last year will be used to finance additional tools for creators, increasing stickiness).

The rise of the Passion Economy is real, but is it a good thing? On one hand, yes absolutely. These software tools are allowing individuals to compete with corporate powerhouses by automating things that previously required teams of experts, in areas as diverse as accounting, video editing, and website and app coding. The barriers to creating a business are rapidly shrinking

On the other hand, when you need to create content every day to earn a living, when your fans’ expectations are that you’ll update them every day, you don’t get any time off. No sick days, no national holidays, no time off for weddings or moving house. But maybe the freedom provided by working for yourself makes up for that.

Also, the passion economy relies on the platforms to be “good guys”. For creators to be happy to commit to a platform, they need to trust the platform fully. Substack shows that they are the good guys by letting writers export their mailing lists at any time. This is in direct contradiction to YouTube, who are known to allow unjust copyright strikes and to withhold revenue from creators.

Conclusion? Consumer media is in a state of flux. Watch this space.

Being Productive

Last week I talked about motivation and the importance of framing tasks in a way that makes them enticing. This week I came across a related article on how to be productive without forcing yourself to work. The first half of the article talks about the importance of framing work as something that is both interesting and meaningful, as well as ensuring that the work to be delivered is well defined.

But on top of framing, there are actions we can take to make work more interesting and meaningful. One way we can do this is by recalibrating how fun we expect everything to be. You can do this through a dopamine detox or by becoming bored more often. Time away from screens and stimulation allows our brains to recover and slip into the default mode network. It’s not a coincidence that the one time we are unable to use our phones is when we have the most shower thoughts.

Some more practical tips that the article provides on how to get more stuff done is to break down what you need to do with a mini-goal. The thought of sitting down to write a full article is very aversive, but the thought of sitting down to write five sentences in ten mins? Not quite as aversive. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get into a flow, you’ve still written five sentences more than none.

The final tip relates to early work: we are often scared of creating something new for fear of creating something bad. I can’t phrase this as well as Paul Graham can, so I encourage you to read his essay, Early Work.

I do want to finish with a thought – increasing your productivity is like tuning a car. It will go further and faster, but a fast car is useless if you aren’t using it to get anywhere. Working inefficiently on the right thing will beat working perfectly on the wrong thing.

Apple Car

In the past I have talked about the Apple Car (here I say why it is a good idea, here I say why it won’t work) but I’m returning to the topic again to explain why it probably won’t work.

First issue is the idea of profit sharing. Both Apple and car companies don’t make a huge amount of profit on the products that they sell – they make the greatest profit on tertiary services. In automobiles, much of the profit is made in selling after-care, like parts and diagnostics services.

Likewise in phones, when the cost of designing phones is integrated into the cost of making them, Apple doesn’t have a huge profit margin. (This is really hard to verify as Apple is understandably secretive about them.)

But Apple doesn’t need to make money selling iPhones. Their cut of everything spent on the AppStore is between 15-30%, which netted them $19bn last year, one third of their $57bn profit for the year. Both Apple and auto-manufacturers make revenue from the same source, so who gets to sell the aftercare?

The second issue is that almost every company tries to become a known brand, working their way down the supply chain to become a consumer facing company. It is almost unheard of for a company to release their brand value and to become a white-label manufacturer for another company, which is what Apple is expecting their automotive partner to do.

The exception to this generalization is in the Kirkland signature line, where Costco asks big known brands to produce products for the Costco own label brand. On the whole companies tend to accept because of the enormous volumes that Costco can promise through their distribution network. Apple doesn’t have the luxury of having a huge distribution network for cars, and they can’t promise huge volumes.

My final point is that it doesn’t make sense for a Apple to make a car, but it does make sense for them to talk about making an Apple car. We are likely currently experiencing a tech asset bubble, so Apple could create hype to drive stock prices higher. They could then issue stock at that higher price before the stock market crashes back down, putting more cash onto their balance sheet to cushion them from the resultant reluctance to invest.


First up is an article about the most dangerous cosmetic surgery in the world – the Brazilian Butt Lift. Next is a brilliant tale of how easy it is to infiltrate the most (supposedly) secure places in the world. Finally, is there a difference between using a slur and mentioning it?

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