In talking to businesses about their models, talk often turns to the issue of “core competencies”. The standard wisdom is to figure out your core competencies, do them well, and outsource everything else.

As early as in the 1990s, though, people were thinking in more nuanced ways. One of them was Charles Handy, who – inspired by his own writing on “portfolio careers” – suggested a third relationship, between “full-time employee” and “outsourced”. The result was the shamrock organisation, and it’s a useful way of thinking about flexible organisations. That’s what this week’s article is about.

Happy Christmas, everyone! There’ll still be an email next week, on Monday 27th, but in the meantime I hope you have a wonderful – and safe – break wherever you are.

This week’s article

The shamrock organisation

Conventional wisdom encourages businesses to think about their core competencies, and then outsource everything else. But the organisational theorist Charles Handy saw things slightly differently, inspired by his thinking on “portfolio careers”.

Click here to read the article »

This week’s three interesting links

The mysterious figure stealing books before their release

For years, a mysterious figure has been using deception, hacking, and subterfuge to steal unpublished manuscripts from literary agents and publishers.

The puzzling things is: nobody really knows why:

“This was a setup Stieg Larsson would have admired: a clever thief adopting multiple aliases, targeting victims around the world, and acting with no clear motive. The manuscripts weren’t being pirated, as far as anyone could tell. Fake Francesca wasn’t demanding a ransom. ‘We assumed it was the Russians,’ Mörk said. ‘But we are the book industry. It’s not like we’re digging gold or researching vaccines.’ Perhaps someone in publishing, or a Hollywood producer, was desperate for early access to books they might buy. Was the thief simply an impatient reader? A strung-out writer in need of ideas?”

Reeves Wiedeman dug into the story, and found himself tied up in knots, as obsessed as the thief themselves. #

AR is where the real metaverse is going to happen

John Hanke, who founded the company that developed mobile gaming sensation Pokémon Go, advocates persuasively for a conception of the “metaverse” that involves making our current reality better, rather than escaping it into a fictional world:

“But now people are babbling and swooning about this thing called a metaverse. Companies like Facebook – well, mainly Facebook – are pitching a more immersive vision where people don hardware rigs that block out their senses and replace the input with digital artifacts, essentially discarding reality for alternate worlds created by the lords of Silicon Valley. ‘Our overarching goal… is to help bring the metaverse to life,’ Mark Zuckerberg told his workforce in June.

“Hanke hates this idea. He’s read all the science fiction books and seen all the films that first imagined the metaverse – all great fun, and all wrong. He believes that his vision, unlike virtual reality, will make the real world better without encouraging people to totally check out of it. This past summer, he felt compelled to explain why in a self-described manifesto whose title says it all: “The Metaverse Is a Dystopian Nightmare. Let’s Build a Better Reality.” (Facebook’s response: Change its name to Meta so it could focus on constructing Hanke’s nightmare.)”


Voice Above Water

A beautiful short film by Dana Frankoff:

“Voice Above Water is the story of a 90-year-old Balinese fisherman who can no longer fish because of the amount of plastic pollution in the ocean, instead he collects trash in hopes of being able to fish again. The story is a glimpse into how one human is using his resources to make a difference and a reminder that if we all play our part we can accomplish something much greater than ourselves.”