Management Lessons from the Philadelphia Sixers

Pythons and PowerPoints: How the Sixers cracked the culture code [ESPN]


  • Exceptional team culture leads to productivity and success
  • Build an environment where diversity and distinct personality are encouraged and celebrated.
    • "The talks are far-reaching," Brown says. "Each of the topics, each of the presentations, each offers some level of entertainment, some funny, some sad, some humorous. It's another layer to developing and growing culture, and people. And it's been a wonderful experience, and I think I achieved the goal that I wanted when we implemented the program."
  • There is a market inefficiency in how NBA teams are run. Compare how the Sixers, Spurs, Warriors cultivate their talent and add key pieces compared to other teams (credit Geoff Hutchinson).
  • Understand the basics and frameworks that lead to success in a specific domain while also exploiting novel approaches to execute those basics. Ben Simmons is not your average point guard but the coaching staff of the Sixers found that his talents while usually suited to a small forward are also very effective in the point guard role. 
    • "It really, at times, isn't an NBA feel," says Brown, who coached internationally for 17 years. "It's got a high level of motion, and movement. I hope that we use Joel the way we should. We stumbled on something. In the light of day it sure seems smart making Ben Simmons a point guard. I think that we've changed his career when we've just given him the ball, and ultimately maybe the career of the Philadelphia 76ers. And so offensively, I love our style, the pass is king."

How a "genuine confidence that you belong" leads to wealth advantage for white families in the U.S.

How a "genuine confidence that you belong" leads to wealth advantage for white families in the U.S.

John Rice, the CEO of nonprofit Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and a former member of Obama's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, has a must-read opinion piece that defines the emotional underpinnings of the depressing wealth gap that exists between black and white families in this country. White people inherit something more valuable than money, he says. "They grow up never questioning whether they belong in the educational institutions, careers, and networks that are the breeding grounds for comfortable lives and wealth creation." What still needs to be discussed, however, is the violent backlash that occurs when some members of white society lose that bedrock confidence.


What Most People Get Wrong About Men and Women

A pair of business school professors from Georgetown and Harvard address three popular myths about how the sexes differ (think 'women are bad negotiators' or 'women can't tolerate risk') and explain how each of those false ideas are used to explain away issues like the gender pay gap and the paucity of women in top jobs. They also "offer alternative explanations for observed sex differences—explanations that point to ways that managers can level the playing field."

Matt Turck on AI: "Frontier AI: How far are we from artificial “general” intelligence, really?"

Matt Turck has a fascinating article on Artificial Intelligence with insights on the progress that has been made, and where we are right now. I found it a good read as it touched on various models being used to lead to "general" artificial intelligence.  It seems in the last year a lot of progress has been made in the hardware front that has led to gains but we may still be far off from the robots taking over.

Some highlights

GANs, or “generative adversarial networks” is a much more recent method, directly related to unsupervised deep learning, pioneered by Ian Goodfellow in 2014, then a PhD student at University of Montreal.  GANs work by creating a rivalry between two neural nets, trained on the same data. One network (the generator) creates outputs (like photos) that are as realistic as possible; the other network (the discriminator) compares the photos against the data set it was trained on and tries to determine whether whether each photo is real or fake; the first network then adjusts its parameters for creating new images, and so and so forth.  GANs have had their own evolution, with multiple versions of GAN appearing just in 2017 (WGAN, BEGAN, CycleGan, Progressive GAN).

How close is AlphaZero from AGI? Demis Hassabis, the CEO of DeepMind, called AlphaZero’s playstyle “alien”, because it would sometime win with completely counterintuitive moves like sacrifices.  Seeing a computer program teach itself the most complex human games to a world-class level in a mere few hours is an unnerving experience that would appear close to a form of intelligence. One key counter-argument in the AI community is that AlphaZero is an impressive exercise in brute force:  AlphaZero was trained via self-play using 5,000 first generation TPUs and 64 second generation TPUs; once trained it ran on a single machine with 4 TPUs. In reinforcement learning, AI researchers point out that the AI has no idea what it is actually doing (like playing a game) and is limited to the specific constraints that it was given (the rules of the game).  Here is an interesting blog post disputing whether AlphaZero is a true scientific breakthrough


Transfer learning has been mostly challenging to make work – it works well when the tasks are closely related, but becomes much more complex beyond that. But this is a key area of focus for AI research. DeepMind made significant progress with its PathNet project (see a good overview here)

Primary VCs Q1 2018 Seed Funding report: Optimism and seed-stage FOMO persist despite 2018’s lackluster start

If it was action you were hoping for from the seed market last quarter, you’d be better served watching the first two episodes of Silicon Valley, Season 2Pizza anyone? As for our own startup news, New York City saw a total of 25 seed deals completed in Q1 - just shy of last quarter’s 26 - and a total of $39.2 million in funding, which was down 26% from Q4. Compared to this time last year, Q1 saw 29% fewer deals and 32% less in total funding.



The Charlie Munger Checklists

The Charlie Munger Checklist…for Investing and Decision Making…
…Preparation. Discipline. Patience. Decisiveness…
Risk – All investment evaluations should begin by measuring risk, especially reputational
* Incorporate an appropriate margin of safety
* Avoid dealing with people of questionable character
* Insist upon proper compensation for risk assumed
* Always beware of inflation and interest rate exposures
* Avoid big mistakes; shun permanent capital loss
Independence – “Only in fairy tales are emperors told they are naked”
* Objectivity and rationality require independence of thought
* Remember that just because other people agree or disagree with you doesn’t make you right or wrong – the only thing that matters is the correctness of your analysis and judgment
* Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance)
Preparation – “The only way to win is to work, work, work, work, and hope to have a few insights”
* Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day
* More important than the will to win is the will to prepare
* Develop fluency in mental models from the major academic disciplines
* If you want to get smart, the question you have to keep asking is “why, why, why?”
Intellectual humility – Acknowledging what you don’t know is the dawning of wisdom
* Stay within a well-defined circle of competence
* Identify and reconcile disconfirming evidence
* Resist the craving for false precision, false certainties, etc.
* Above all, never fool yourself, and remember that you are the easiest person to fool
Analytic rigor – Use of the scientific method and effective checklists minimizes errors and omissions
* Determine value apart from price; progress apart from activity; wealth apart from size
* It is better to remember the obvious than to grasp the esoteric
* Be a business analyst, not a market, macroeconomic, or security analyst
* Consider totality of risk and effect; look always at potential second order and higher level impacts
* Think forwards and backwards – Invert, always invert
Allocation – Proper allocation of capital is an investor’s number one job
* Remember that highest and best use is always measured by the next best use (opportunity cost)
* Good ideas are rare – when the odds are greatly in your favor, bet (allocate) heavily
* Don’t “fall in love” with an investment – be situation-dependent and opportunity-driven
Patience – Resist the natural human bias to act
* “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world” (Einstein); never interrupt it unnecessarily
* Avoid unnecessary transactional taxes and frictional costs; never take action for its own sake
* Be alert for the arrival of luck
* Enjoy the process along with the proceeds, because the process is where you live
Decisiveness – When proper circumstances present themselves, act with decisiveness and conviction
* Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful
* Opportunity doesn’t come often, so seize it when it comes
* Opportunity meeting the prepared mind; that’s the game
Change – Live with change and accept unremovable complexity
* Recognize and adapt to the true nature of the world around you; don’t expect it to adapt to you
* Continually challenge and willingly amend your “best-loved ideas”
* Recognize reality even when you don’t like it – especially when you don’t like it
Focus – Keep things simple and remember what you set out to do
* Remember that reputation and integrity are your most valuable assets – and can be lost in a heartbeat
* Guard against the effects of hubris (arrogance) and boredom
* Don’t overlook the obvious by drowning in minutiae (the small details)
* Be careful to exclude unneeded information or slop: “A small leak can sink a great ship”
* Face your big troubles; don’t sweep them under the rug
…Preparation. Discipline. Patience. Decisiveness…


Read more here

Quote: The Real Purpose of Life according to Tim Cook

Tim Cook’s advice to his younger self: ‘The joy is in the journey’

And that the real purpose of life — everybody talks about “find your purpose, find your purpose, find your purpose” — the truth is we all have the same purpose. And we should all quit looking. Our purpose is to serve humanity.

Read This Before Joining as Employee 1 to 20 at a Startup

It’s week six in your new job at a bootstrapped startup, and the founder asks you: “Create a prototype of our software to share with investors. We don’t have a company name yet. And I need it in two days.” If this sounds familiar, chances are you’ve been an early employee at a startup. If this is your precise scenario, you’re Stacy LaClover Health’s Director of Design.


Deana Lawson’s Hyper-Staged Portraits of Black Love

Written by Doreen St. Felix 

Blood Orange’s album “Freetown Sound,” from 2016, is about the drama of returning home. For the artist Dev Hynes, who grew up in East London, this does not mean striving to be an authority on his father’s Sierra Leone but, instead, tracing the tentative shape of the mother nation in his consciousness. His is an eager, first-generation love, the insatiable kind that is based in estrangement. According to the photographer Deana Lawson, when Hynes came to visit her studio several years ago, the musician told her that the album had also been inspired by a photograph she had taken in 2009. She let him use it for the album cover.

What do I mean by Skin in the Game? My Own Version

When selecting a surgeon for your next brain procedure, should you pick a surgeon who looks like a butcher or one who looks like a surgeon? The logic of skin in the game implies you need to select the one who (while credentialed) looks the least like what you would expect from a surgeon, or, rather, the Hollywood version of a surgeon.


Lessons from Spotify

The two dominant business models for venture-backed startups are advertising for consumer-focused companies, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for business-focused ones. On one level, these business models are quite different: the former gives away software for free with the hope of convincing a third party to pay for access to users; the latter charges some portion of users directly. The underlying economics of both, though, are more similar than you might think — indeed, both are very much in line with venture-backed startups of the past.

Black Business Leaders Series: John Rogers and the Importance of Hiring Minority-Owned Services Firms

The African American CEO of a money management firm publicly criticizes the Fortune 500 for paying lip service to diversity. His board urges him to stop. What should he do? HBS Professor Steven Rogers and protagonist John Rogers discuss a new case study about the risks of speaking up, and the importance of black empowerment in the investment sector.