The Grey Swan Guild News Wrap — The Week That Was March 19, 2021
These are the series of stories and headlines we are tracking in the Grey Swan Guild’s Global League of Sensemakers’ Newsroom. “Spring has sprung the grass has riz, we wonder where the GDP is”?
Here is The Great, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of what we observed this week where the kids are on our minds. Using the lens of mashed-up words of Great Rock’ Roll here’s an old school, news summary -
“School’s Out Forever, Let The Good Times Roll. The Kids Are All Alright. We’re all alright. Give me shelter. You say you want a revolution Well, you know. We all want to change the world. You tell me that it’s evolution. Well, you know. We all want to change the world.”
With forgiveness to Alice Cooper, The Cars, The Who, Cleveland Rocks, Ohio, The Rolling Stones and their rivals the Beatles.
Spring arrives this weekend, and the world is ready for renewal and not ready for Daylight Savings time. Wait. What. Too soon? With vaccine rollouts gaining momentum, and warmer weather on its way, there is the promise of a return to normalcy. News this week looks at the value of grit; lightweight kicks; teenagers helping people find vaccines; workers finding human connection through the sound of each other’s voices and more freedom thanks to Zoom.
Not everything is tulips and kittens. People are reluctant to report mental health problems to their employers; sand shortages offer yet another environmental challenge; governments are playing vaccine diplomacy while people at risk hold their collective breath; and special purpose acquisition companies are raising large war chests — will they use their powers for good?
Meanwhile, drones are washing up on beaches. 2021 isn’t 2020, but it still has a lot of character. Keep an eye out and learn how to manage thechaos.
The Great 😇
1.“Running barefoot, he raced to a provincial 10,000m record of 28:24.93, silencing anyone who was still upset about his 5,000m result from a few weeks earlier.” Sometimes people are great because they have grit and train hard. Mbuleli Mathanga was faced with controversy after he ran a 5,000-meter race in Nike Vaporflys. He ran his next race barefoot and set a record. Sometimes people aren’t cheating and double down on grit to prove it. Be careful when you tell someone that their shoes helped them to cheat. Walk a mile in their shoes for good measure too.— Running Magazine
2.” Smaller cities and communities are turning into ‘Zoom towns’ and competing with coastal hubs as workers move to find more space and lower costs.” For years commuting to work has been the same — train, bus, car. Advances in technology made work more efficient. Productivity has seen geometric increases, but the means of getting to work stayed largely static — may be more comfortable. Instead of thinking about how to commute faster, the conversation is changing to be about how to get rid of commuting altogether. Cue George Jetson. — The Wall Street Journal
3.” It’s before sunrise–5:41 a.m. to be exact–and Highland Park High School student Avi Rubin is awake, waiting for the clock to strike 6. He has the Walgreen’s vaccine site up on his computer, ready to fill appointments.” Teenagers are often accused of selfishness. D’uh. Do you know many 12-year-olds that wake up before 6am? Brother and sister teens, can you get us on the list. Thank you in advance. Two teens are showing that it’s possible to help people with no promise of reward… and still use some awesome tech skills. — Chicago CBS
The Good 😀
1.….867-5309 - “One year into our all-remote existence, executives at white-collar companies are realizing things. One is that they’re pleased (stunned, even) by how productive employees have been.” Before the last few years, talking on the phone was how you connected with people if you weren’t together. Business got done face to face, or on conference calls. COVID isolated people in new ways and we all sought connection through new means. It turns out the familiarity of other people’s voices might have been the secret all along. Call the friends you love the best and park the Clubhouse meeting . Instead, listen, converse and bond in one on one telephone calls with good friends. Makes sense to us. So, call us maybe.— Wired.com
2.Fox News asks Gen X to battle cancel culture and hilarity ensues. “So as Boomer authority over the nation’s youth wanes by the day, Fox News made an appeal to Gen X to protect older, conservative people from the ravages of cancel culture. But according to reactions on Twitter, Gen X, aka ‘The Coolest Generation,’ couldn’t care less.” No matter where one falls in the culture debate, all can agree that Gen X wins when it comes to snarky comebacks and shrugs. The lesson here may be in the importance of thinking critically before supporting a cause… If not read some tweets and have a laugh. We don’t often get a chance to link to Fox News, but this is the way to do it and it is about time. Snarky and all. — Fox News & The Better News Organization.
3.Kids don’t appreciate silence. Some adults might consider losing a limb to find a quiet moment. “Long-term exposure to aircraft and road traffic noise increases the risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease, according to a 2008 study of 4,861 persons who had lived for at least five years near any of six major European airports, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal.” When mental health impacts from the pandemic are barely understood, finding new ways to de-stress is essential. Parents with little kids know the value of silence, and science is capitalizing on the need for micro relaxation. We may not be able to get away from it all for a long weekend. Now we can take a micro-break to reset. Get your silent moment on, and find a use at your desk for those noise-cancelling earphones you used to wear on your flights. Silence, apparently, is still golden. — PubMed
The Bad 😬
1.Just in case anyone thought the world had enough environmental challenges, here’s another: Sand Shortage. ⌛ #Sand is used in the manufacture of everything from roads to computers, and demand is so high that criminal enterprises are built to control it. Strangely enough, even though there is a lot of sand, and we mean a lot, this is still a massive supply-chain problem. Just because we have immense supply does not mean it gets to market. (See Salt too). Will James Bond have to save us from these villains? Hint: He won’t. World leaders need to figure it out. Uh-oh. If only there was a cement Tesla. “Our entire society is built on sand. It is the world’s most consumed raw material after water and an essential ingredient to our everyday lives.” — CNBC
2.The Gift of time. Working from home offers the freedom to many in the form of increased mobility and zero commute time. However, the stigma associated with mental health and lower interpersonal interaction comes with a cost for some. Employers put a premium on physical safety to protect people during the pandemic. The switch benefitted work-life balance, but also higher anxiety and blurred lines between work and home. “James Pomeroy, Director of Quality, Health, Environment and Safety at Lloyd’s Register, said: “The results concern businesses right around the world and show that more needs to be done to tackle this stigma in working environments. Managers should lead by example and talk about their own experiences inside and outside work. By talking and sharing their own concerns and worries, leaders open the door for others to speak about their day-to-day challenges. Creating a safe and inclusive environment will help alleviate concerns…” There are no quick fixes, but people can start by having honest conversations with each other. Now. — WorkPlaceInsight.Net
3.The world waits or hesitates. Vaccine Diplomacy is upon all the world as predicted by the World Health Organization who has long experience in the matter. It is not just a matter of contracts, chequebooks or outbreak management. AstraZeneca the producer who partnered with the UK’s Oxford University to bring the cheapest and most stable jab to the planet at scale. Unfortunately, a relatively small set of 30 cases of blood clots are halting distribution in several European countries, including Germany, Italy, France, Spain and The Netherlands (See 100 Years War for reflection). In Foreign Policy Magazine’s criticism, the unscientific response risks the success of all vaccine programs and the deaths, and severe sickness of too many.
We know other vaccines are coming from operations in India, China, Russia, United States, Israel, Denmark and others. Billions upon Billions of dollars and magnitudes of soft power are centered in the new weapons of mass inoculation diplomatic nation and political battles. It is kind of like a new game of Risk, The National Pharma Power Pandemic Edition. It’s dramatic, speedy and tailor-made for Aaron Sorkin. “Millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines currently sitting in United States warehouses are now destined for vaccination sites in Mexico and Canada, according to the White House. The donation marks one of the US’ first steps into the dawning — and deeply contentious — world of late-stage pandemic vaccine diplomacy…” — The Verve
The Ugly 😱
1.TGIF. This is ugly for all workers in business without unions and with little other protects. Let’s flip it on its head —Microsoft’s experiment in Japan returned some boffo results. 40% productivity increase when moving to a 4 day work week, and reducing meetings to 30 minutes, and constricting email usage. Lot’s to unpack here and thank goodness for Microsoft that the “Hawthorne Effect” has been debunked. In competition and the stresses that came out in the tough lockdowns and measures during the pandemic. Will this change stay or proliferate? In the world there was a time where the 6 day week was the norm and workers had to fight to get to the 40 hour, 5 day week, and business in its evolution has clawed back this time outrageously. “Microsoft, for its part, says it will conduct another experiment in Japan later this year. It plans to ask employees to come up with new measures to improve work-life balance and efficiency, and will also ask other companies to join the initiative” Let’s hope for the worker’s sake this goes positively. We could all use a little less ugliness in the world — CNN
2.Beached. From the Interesting AF Reddit File. Ugly to some, shocking to others, and beautiful to some. A mother and son found a US Drone washed up on the beach. We are reminded that this could be right from the opening scene of some Planet of the Apes Movie or maybe a James Bond flic. #DronesRUs
3.SPACs. The new bubble — we are tracking this carefully. The one-year expansionist changes in this market are concerning. “The SPAC market has been on fire during the pandemic. In fact, 219 special purpose acquisition companies raised a record $73 billion in 2020, representing a 462% year-over-year jump in proceeds raised by blank-check firms” . The “greater fool theory” predicts that there will always be greater fool across the seller and buyer continuum — It is too likely that the retail investor or the Robinhood speculators will get caught out in the market froth. Early looks at post-merger results do not look good. Some are downright ugly.
Time will tell but we are not predicting good things. The incentives to do good here are not in evidence and the moral hazard in founder compensation in these deals must be considered by all investors. Caveat Emptor. — Business Insider& The Institutional Investor.
Term of the Week: Negentropy
Heard of Entropy (chaos)? Negentropy is not quite an opposite but a force to reduce or manage entropy. The editors at Wikipedia define it thusly, “Negentropy is reverse entropy. It means things becoming more in order. By ‘order’ is meant organisation, structure and function: the opposite of randomness or chaos. One example of negentropy is a star system such as the Solar System. Another example is life.” Well now… Negentropy is a life. Let that sink in — order through structure and a physics concept. Who knew? Alison Carr Cellman, with a PhD in Learning and Performance Systems and a Professor of Education, has a simple approach to reduce entropy and thus chaos. We like it.
- Find the entropy. Be aware or self-aware of it.
- Prioritize your losses and cut them.
- Come up with a plan. A doable plan that is within your resources.
- Experiment, try out the new plan, pay attention and assess with clear feedback.
- Go beyond fixing and maintenance. Build a new system.
- Go back to step one because this is a cycle and energy always changes.
For more on applications of Systems Theory on Organization see the doctor’s paper on “Integrating Systems: the History of Systems from von Bertalanffy to Profound Learning”. — Springer
Meme and Viral Video of the Week —
They have let us express ourselves — our schadenfreude, pride, desire, disgust, joy and lust — when words just wouldn’t suffice.
Chart of the Week: Remembering Gen Z Unemployment 2020 compared to now.
Just in case you wanted to reflect how bad the economic hit was for Gen Z from March 2020 to May 2020. USA Youth unemployment stood at 10.9 percent in February 2021. Youths and young adults have had a different economic experience than everyone else in the U.S.. If you were 19 in 2010… and now 30… You’ve had a bad ride.
Data shows that periods of youth unemployment cause serious long-term damage. A study by the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research found that even one month of unemployment for those aged 18–20 knocked 2% of total lifetime income. — Reuters
The GSG Medium is The Message
Visit our Medium channel every Friday for a weekly wrap on the world’s biggest challenges and other fresh articles and points of view The Guild is sharing. Please drop by our Grey Swan Guild website (greyswanguild.org) for more publications and articles about how we make sense of the world ongoing and also the raft of possibilities to participate as a Sensemaker. Apply today.
Grey Swan Guild — Making Sense of What’s Next
On April 16th, Grey Swan Guild is hosting The Day of the Swan — an all-day event focused on: our 1st year anniversary, a springboard for launch events in our second year, a platform for our members to shine and a forum for the greater community to scan through what we have been working on, thinking about and making sense of. Join us for the day and participate in advance with our LinkedIn group.
#NEW — And stay tuned for a new weekly column on our Medium Channel. We are experimenting with on Wednesdays, Humpdays. We will be going back to the Grey Swan Library and History Archives to do some memory-making about what our points of view were like last year and how views were either predicted or changed with new information. The first issue of GSG Memory Making is next Wednesday, March 24th . — The GSG Sensemaking News Desk.